My friend and I have thought about this business prospect as well and I will share our thoughts with you.
- Building is expensive. See if there are facilities in your area that are for sale or lease.
- Do you want to be low end, high end, or middle of the road? High end barns attract persnickety owners who obsess over their animals and their care. Low end will attract potential problem boarders like people who don't pay their board on time. Middle of the road can cater to a broader client base.
- Research local barns in your area, their prices, amenities, and services.
- are you located in a suburban area where horse owners are unable to keep their horses on their own land?
-How will you stand out from the competition? You HAVE to have a niche to compete with barns that are already established. This could be by undercutting the competition with lower rates, offering pasture boarding, offer extra services etc. Like, if other barns insist you be in a training/riding program, you could offer board for people who do not need these services but are in need of boarding.
- How will you make a profit? No one makes a profit from boarding fees alone. You are LUCKY if you can break even by boarding alone. The only way BOs make any profit is by the other services they offer, like training and riding lessons. If you are qualified to offer these services, GREAT! But if you are not, your only other option is to bring in either an instructor or trainer (or both!) and take a commission from their earnings.
- Don't forget your hidden expenses. Like machinery, taxes, insurance, manure removal, pasture management, fly spray, insurance, upkeep/repairs, gasoline for equipment, etc.
- Insurance!! You need property insurance in case the place burns down. You need commercial liability insurance in case someone hurts themselves on your property. And you need Care, Custody, and Control Insurance just in case Jimmy the Barn Hand accidentally leaves a gate unlatched and five of your boarder's horses run out in the highway and cause a multiple-car-crash. (and btw, waivers don't protect you from a lawsuit)
- Crunch numbers. Figure out what you need to break even. How many boarders would you need to pay the rent/mortgage, the utility bills (gas, electricity, water, sewer, trash removal, telephone), the insurance, the legal & accounting costs, the feed/salt/hay cost, the property and business taxes, salaries, and facility upkeep?
- Are you prepared to deal with lots of people all of the time? Are you prepared to deal with barn drama? BOs have to be good with people and very patient, if not they wouldn't be BOs.
- Will you be available 24/7? Boarders like someone around for several reasons. Will you be quitting your day job or do you plan to work a 9 to 5 still? If you can't be around during the day, it's a good idea to hire a barn manager.
The most important thing is lots of research and lots of number crunching. Once you crunch the numbers, crunch them again, and again. Each time you do, you'll discover some other expense that you didn't take into consideration.
And talk to other BOs in other areas. It's usually easy to get information from a BO in another state because you're not potential competition. Find some nice websites and contact the owners for a brief interview.
Good Luck! Here is a great worksheet for creating a simple boarding budget. http://extension.umd.edu/publications/pdfs/fs657.pdf