So you’re thinking about starting a dog grooming business? Kudos! Pet grooming is an ideal career for anyone who loves animals and dreams of being self-employed.
Having your own business allows you to set your own hours and be your own boss, which are definitely cool things, but there are a lot of responsibilities and a lot to do before you can “hang out a shingle” offering your services as a dog and cat groomer.
It goes without saying that the first thing you should do is master the trade. Once you’ve studied grooming and earned your pet groomer certification, there are choices to make. Do you want to work for someone else for a while to see if this really is your dream career? Do you want to set up a shop in your home? Do you want to rent (or buy) a space for your business? Would a mobile groomer be a popular service where you live?
The biggest challenge for most groomers who want to be self-employed is financing the venture. High quality grooming tools and sturdy professional equipment like tables and bathtubs are necessary and expensive. Unless you’re going to groom pets out of your home, you will need to rent a storefront or purchase and equip a van or trailer for mobile grooming. You may want to consider doing some advertising. Insurance for your business is a definite must.
Do some research on what small business loans are available, but if going into debt to start a business scares you, then maybe you want to put the idea on the back burner for a bit and work for an established groomer for a while.
The Business End of Dog Grooming
So, you’ve decided that starting your own business is right for you, fantastic! While dog groomers do not have to be certified in any state in the U.S. at present, you will need a business license and there is still a lot to learn in order to run any small business.
You’ll need a business plan and a budget. Learning how to handle finances responsibly is a must. Open a separate bank account for your business and get used to keeping records. No more wadding receipts in your pocket and sending them through the washing machine! You’ll need proof of what you make and what you spend when it’s time to settle up with Uncle Sam.
It’s probably a good idea to start a limited liability company (LLC), which can protect your personal assets in case of a lawsuit. Also, setting up an LLC may save money on taxes, so it’s definitely worth it. This is an important decision so speak with experts on which business structure is best for you. Experts can include accountants (see below) and an attorney. While we’re on the subject, small business owners should have at least 3 experts they can go to. A good accountant, lawyer and insurance agent/broker.
Speaking of taxes, you may want to think about hiring an accountant to handle your payroll–even if the staff is just you–and tax liability. An accountant knows the tax codes and can help save you money as well as make sure all the complicated and intimidating IRS forms are filed correctly and on time, saving you a world of headache.
Marketing Your Grooming Business
There are lots of pet owners out there looking for groomers, but you have to work hard to let people know you’re open for business. You may not be able to afford advertising, but social media is free.
Approach businesses that cater to pet owners, such as kennels, doggy day cares, veterinarians, and pet boutiques to see if they will let you put up a flyer. Business cards can be created pretty cheaply, and some places will allow you to leave them on their counters for customers to pick up.
In addition to pet businesses, be aware of places that have community bulletin boards where you can pin flyers or business cards.
Some of you might wonder about our recommending the “old school” approach of physically reaching out and networking with fellow pet professionals. We suggest this approach because it can be highly effective and because in this digital internet driven world, fewer people use old school networking thus allowing those who do a greater chance to stand out.
In addition to having a social media presence, which could include a Facebook page, Pinterest and even TikTok, it’s vital to have a website. The easier you make it for people to find you online, the better. Plus, websites can be used to allow clients to book appointments, purchase products and much more. Finally, you can and should encourage your clients to post reviews!
A quick word on social media. Grooming can be a highly visual profession that lends itself to visual platforms like Pinterest. People might be very interested in seeing your finished grooms, which could help sell other potential clients on your service. While, social media has become a go to option for large and small businesses, be clear on what you wish to to accomplish. Are you going to use it to garner positive reviews, show off your service, or something else? The clearer you are regarding your goals, the easier it will be to see concise attainable goals.
If all goes well, once you build a clientele, word of mouth will help you grow your business to where you want it to be.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Only you know whether it’s worth the risk and effort to start a dog grooming business. If it helps, write it all down on paper. Make a list of what you see as the pros of being your own boss. Then write a list of what you don’t like about the idea of being self-employed.
Talk to some other small business owners to learn more about the challenges they face and what they like or don’t like about it. Even if they aren’t in the grooming business, you’ll still share some of the same concerns.
Dog grooming, whether you decide to work for someone else or start your own business, can be a rewarding career. If you have a passion for dogs–and cats–it’s great to know you can make a living taking care of them and helping them, be healthy and looking their best.