Pet market is booming with the dog grooming businesses spreading their roots in every which way. We're seeing more entrepreneurs than ever jumping on the opportunities in the pet industry searching for that big break. In the dog business market of 2015 you could do almost anything, from dog walking to poop scooping. Today, we'll discuss how to start a dog grooming business and what you need to know before you land in this arena.
If you've been following our previous columns in the Dog Business section, you know that starting any pet business of your own is challenging no matter what field you are in, and the dog grooming niche is especially competitive.
Many petpreneurs have already dipped their toes into the open market of dog grooming by figuring out what new or improved pet grooming services or dog grooming products they can bring into the marketplace. After reading through this quick guide on how to start a dog grooming business, you will better understand what it takes to become a successful dog business owner.
If you're interested in starting a pet related business that is related to canines, but you're not exactly sure what kind of area you would like to venture into, our column on How to Start a Pet Business with Dogs has some excellent general advice on the different types of dog business opportunities and how to get started in some specific fields.
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A career of a professional dog groomer can be very lucrative, even more so if you own your own dog grooming business. It's a fact that dog owners love to pamper their pets more than they do themselves. In 2015, this is true more than ever, with many pet owners sending their dogs to be groomed on a regular basis, some as often as once a week.
According to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey…
65% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 79.7 millions homes. About 54.4 million of those pets are canines.
Even back in 2014, market analysts have predicted a huge growth for pet business and specifically dog grooming business section. Apparently, the pet industry is a recession-proof market that simply continues to grow and expand no matter what, and so far, the numbers have been steadily confirming this “theory.”
Primarily in the western part of the world, pet ownership is now a big deal. We love to spoil our little companions, and there's no stopping this. Just a year ago dog owners have been spending more money than ever on their Fidos, according to Washington Post:
“Two decades ago, Americans spent $17 billion on their pets. That outlay has steadily marched upward, at an average of more than 12 percent a year, through good times and bad. This year, the amount is expected to approach $60 billion.” – Steve Hendrix, Washington Post [July 24, 2014].
With that being said, there should be no doubt that a pet grooming business is still a niche that has a lot of space to be filled, and those of your who know how to start a dog grooming business of your own can jump on this opportunity to finally say goodbye to your day jobs.
If a dog grooming business is not your cup of tea, there are other dog related businesses that you might want to try your hands on. Below are some of the more recent columns from TopDogTips on different types of pet businesses:
- How to Start a Dog Training Business
- How to Write a Dog Training Business Plan
- How to Start a Dog Walking Business
- How to Write a Dog Walking Business Plan
How to Start a Dog Grooming Business
Assessing the need for a new dog grooming service provider
Before you even begin looking into how to start a dog grooming business, you must first assess whether there is even a need for it in the area that you want to establish yourself.
First question to ask yourself is whether there are dog owners in your area, and how popular is dog ownership around you.
Do people pamper their pets, or do they usually keep them on the leash outside as guard dogs? For some, this research process may be very easy. If you live in an urban area with dog parks that are full of pets on a daily basis, chances are that there might be a need for a dog groomer in your town.
RELATED: How to become a dog groomer
However, if you're like me and you live in a fairly rural area, there may still be a need for a dog groomer, but you'll have to dig deeper into the market research part of your business plan to assess the situation more accurately.
A good place to start is always do as much online research as you possibly can. You can also reach out to your local city hall or town office, they will be able to tell you how many dogs are licensed in your town. Try to work on other possible sources to find out how many dogs are located in the area around you.
Assessing the need for your business is critical. If you don't have the clientele needed to maintain the business, how are you ever going to make it successful?
You certainly will have trouble attracting customers to your dog grooming business if there are several well established dog grooming businesses in your small town or area already.
People tend to stick with their dog groomers because they trust them. Having said that, you should not be discouraged from venturing into the market and trying to penetrate the clientele of existing businesses if you have something better to offer.
Top 5 books on how to start a dog grooming business:
- Dog Grooming For Dummies
- How to Start a Home-based Pet Grooming Business
- From Problems to Profits
- How to Start a Dog Grooming Business
- The Successful Pet Groomer: Shop, Home, Housecall, or Mobile
* The above top 5 picks for most popular books on dog grooming business are based on Amazon’s current Best Seller ranks [June, 2015].
Certificates and permits for pet grooming businesses
In certain parts of the country, a dog grooming business may require special permits and requirements, such as the one where you and/or your employees must be certified dog groomers.
There may also be zoning laws that would prohibit you from providing dog grooming services out of your home or special permits that are required for mobile pet grooming operations.
These are all things which must be researched and taken care of before your dog grooming business can get off the ground.
If you yourself specialize in grooming certain dog breeds, you will probably want to have some type of certification or credentials to show your potential customers as well. If you do not and you simply want to hire professional dog groomers, then make sure you go about this correctly and check all the permits and certificates of your employees.
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Most groomers learn their trade through training and an apprenticeship with an experienced pet groomer. At the time of this writing there are no federal regulations for dog grooming businesses, but your state and city may have some. There are also state-licensed pet grooming schools located around the country. To see if there is one in your area you will need to contact your State Labor Office.
The National Dog Groomers Association of America offers certification for aspiring dog groomers to earn their Master Groomer status. In order to achieve this, potential groomers must pass two exams and demonstrate their skills in practice. Earning this certification would definitely give your dog grooming business a leg up on the competition.
Location based grooming services vs. Mobile dog grooming
Some might argue that pet grooming is an art form, and only few would disagree:
There is a lot more that goes into dog grooming than just picking up a pair of scissors or dog clippers and starting to trim your pooch's hair. It's a craft that deserves respect and many hours of hard work to achieve near-perfection.
Aside from that, you also have to decide if you will do the business from home, be a mobile groomer, or rent or purchase a shop somewhere. The biggest difference between the three options are the costs associated with operating them, which is especially relevant when you're starting out.
If you decide to run a business out of your home, you won't have to spend any money up front on the cost of the building. However, there may be higher costs in renovating part of your home and turning it into a dog grooming salon.
If there is a space located in your area that already has the plumbing and possibly some of the fixtures that you would need, it might be cheaper in the long run to rent or buy a space for the business.
RELATED: Do you tip dog groomers?
For renting out or even purchasing a space, you will need a lot more capital upfront, but it also allows you for more room to grow and scale, which you probably wouldn't have with a home-based business.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you run your business out of your home, every customer knows where you live and your address will be widely advertised. You probably wouldn't have anything to worry about, but renting or purchasing a separate space may be a safer option (and more professional, too).
If you are going to run a mobile dog grooming business, you need to plan for such things as to how far you are willing to travel and what type of vehicle you will use to get there and do the grooming in.
You'll also have to factor your gas money and other related expenses into your service prices.
Usually, it's more expensive to purchase the vehicle at first, but remember that your vehicle payment will be much cheaper than paying rent every month. Mobile grooming also gives you the ability to go to your clients instead of having them come to you. This alone would certainly give your business a lift over your stationary competition.
Finally, there's nobody saying you can't start your venture with mobile grooming, scale into doing this at home for certain clients, and eventually expand by renting out or purchasing a building for your own dog grooming salon. Do the market research and work on your dog grooming business plan.
Top 5 most popular dog grooming supplies on Amazon:
- Wahl U-Clip Deluxe Pro Home Pet Grooming Kit
- FURminator Long Hair deShedding Tool for Dogs
- Wahl Blade Oil Professional Blade Maintenance
- Dremel Pet Grooming Kit
- Earthbath All Natural Dog Shampoo
* The above top 5 picks for most popular dog grooming supplies are based on Amazon’s current Best Seller ranks [June, 2015].
Financial side of running a dog grooming business
You must have all your finances in order before you launch your dog grooming business, and additional expenses will vary widely depending on which approach you pick. It may not take much to convert your garage into a dog grooming shop, but on the other hand, it could take a substantial amount of money to do a high end mobile dog grooming service.
You never want to have a business undertaking that is under-capitalized; this will put a great deal of undue mental stress on you, as well as financial pressure on the business from the very start.
It is common for businesses that are under-financed in the beginning to fail very quickly. If there is one thing to remember about how to start a dog grooming business, or any business for that matter, it is that it will most definitely be more expensive than you are anticipating it to be.
Quick tip: Always add an additional 20% on top of your final number of unexpected expenses. This will allow you a little wiggle room if things don't work out the way you plan (and they usually do not).
If you start a dog grooming business undertaking within your means, then you'll be able to concentrate on the business side itself instead of worrying about how you will pay your own salary and cover your entrepreneurial bills. If you're going to need help financing your business, don't worry too much – most people do.
Be smart about it and write a dog grooming business plan to show investors and banks that you are serious about your business venture and you have a well thought out plan to use the money they are providing and a way to pay it back in the near future.
Establish pricing for your pet grooming services
Before you can advertise your pet grooming business you will have to figure out which services you are going to offer and what you will charge.
Doing this will depend on several factors. The first is that you have to cover your overhead and then have enough leftover to make a profit.
You have to be careful here though because if you have competition in your area, your must be price competitive while at the same time you want an attractive margin to be able to invest into your business' growth.
The best way to come up with a list of prices when figuring out how to start a dog grooming business is to call around or stop by and visit your local competition. Do plenty of research online to see if you can pinpoint approximate numbers.
You don't want to drive potential clients away with prices that are too high, but you also don't want to cut yourself short. By staying in the range of your competition you know you will be somewhat safe.
Dog grooming services that specialize in certain breeds or offer a convenient mobile grooming service can charge more for their operations because dog owners will expect that.
Like with any other similar venture, the more unique your services are, the more you can charge for them. Consumers expect to pay higher prices for something that they may not be able to get anywhere else.
Advertising and marketing your dog grooming business
How you target potential customers can also vary when it comes to starting a dog grooming business. Most dog grooming operations will benefit from being present online and in all possible business directories, including phone books and yellow pages. This is especially true for those businesses that target high end clients, specialize, or offer a mobile grooming service.
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If you are on a limited budget, you can try networking with other dog related businesses such as pet stores and veterinarian offices. It never hurts to do things like spreading around flyers or business cards in places as supermarkets, dog parks or any other location which dog owners may frequent.
Don't underestimate the power of social media; it is possibly the simplest way to advertise your business for free and gain long-term clientele.
If you've got a little extra money to invest in advertising then it wouldn't hurt to place ads in your local newspaper, newsletters or advertise with grooming related websites online.
You could also spring for advertisements on local television or radio shows, online podcasts, specific social media channels and so forth, although some of those options will be much more expensive than others.
Keeping things real
What is the most important thing when trying to figure out how to start a dog grooming business? It's keeping things realistic.
Don’t plan on doing such things as starting a mobile grooming service out of a custom designed truck if you only have $4,000 dollars in the bank and will have trouble getting more financing.
At the same time do not jump over your head and start planning an empire of pet grooming services and products; take things slowly, one at a time and bring all of your focus to a single part of your business. Once you master one side, move onto the next one and continue to improve and scale.
Being realistic during the planning phase and when writing a business plan will give you the best chance at launching and building a truly successful dog grooming business.
There is a lot of thought and planning that needs to go into every aspect of starting a canine grooming service, and if that process is done well, then your petpreneurial venture will have a much higher chance of success.
Planning and researching will serve you very well in any business venture in general, so be sure to find reliable sources of information and be thorough with your planning.
More tips, advice and ideas on how to start a dog grooming business (or any other dog related business) will be coming to Top Dog Tips shortly.