How to Start a Mobile Dog Grooming Salon

female dog groomer brushing a bichon frise dog
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People are spending money on their pets nowadays because they are an important part of our families. In fact, the pet product industry was worth roughly $69.5 billion in 2017. And that number is expected to grow, as demand for premium pet services increases.

Just like gourmet pet food, mobile dog grooming salons have become increasingly popular. So, if you've ever considered jumping into a business venture like the mobile pet grooming service, now might be the right time.

By following a few simple steps, you can successfully start and operate your own mobile dog grooming business.

Make Sure This is the Right Business For You

Just like any venture, you have to make sure this is the right fit for you. If you're a people person, keep in mind you'll be dealing with dogs all day, so your interaction with humans may be limited.

You will also need great communication skills. Because people have a special place in their lives for their pets, they may have certain expectations. You'll have to be able to clearly convey whether those expectations are too lofty or can actually be realized. For example, will someone's feisty chihuahua be able to sit long enough to have a dye-job?

If you are very passionate about working with animals, then you know this is the right fit. But if you're lacking in that department, you may want to consider another avenue.

Money

Before you do anything, you need to crunch some numbers to see where you're at financially and what you need to fill in any holes.

Like any other business, you'll need to come up with some capital. The good thing about running a mobile dog grooming business is that you won't have to pay rent or a lease on a storefront — so the costs won't be that high. Your major expense may be the vehicle itself. In some cases, you may be able to get a used one — one that's already outfitted with the equipment you need, therefore cutting down costs even more.

You may want to consider going to the bank, or approach friends or family for a loan. You can also try to partner up with another business or with a veterinary office to offset some of the costs.

Experience

Once all that is done, the next step to opening your own mobile dog grooming salon business is to gain experience grooming a variety of dogs, either through a professional training course or a hands-on internship with an experienced groomer. While certification is not required to become a dog groomer, some groomers choose to being certified as a National Master Groomer through the National Dog Groomer’s Association of America.

Working for an established grooming salon before starting your own will likely prove beneficial as this exposure will introduce you to the ins and outs of running this type of business.

Prior experience working with animals in other professional roles such as veterinary technician, pet sitter or dog trainer is an additional plus, as it familiarizes you with canine behavior and how to handle dogs effectively in a variety of situations.

While you should be a jack-of-all, it helps if there's a specific area of expertise you can promote. If there are certain procedures or treatments (like nail clipping or working with specific breeds) you are just not comfortable doing, you may consider taking on another staff member who can. It may be an added expense, but you can add this experience to your roster while writing it off at the end of the tax year.

Business Considerations

Before opening your mobile pet grooming business, you must consider various business and legal issues. It is important to consult an accountant or another experienced advisor regarding the advantages and disadvantages of forming your business as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company or other entity.

You should also be in touch with your local government about any permits needed to operate a mobile grooming salon in the area you select. Requirements for operation of a mobile business may vary from one town to another. You should also consider obtaining a business insurance policy in addition to the basic vehicle insurance policy.

Mobile Vehicle & Equipment

Most mobile groomers operate out of a large van or trailer. These are usually specially converted vehicles which have been outfitted with a generator, electrical outlets, lighting, grooming tables, running water and a bathtub. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets the standards for vehicle manufacturers and converters.

Mobile grooming salons must be equipped with all standard grooming tools such as clippers, scissors, shears, shampoos, brushes, blow dryers, nail clippers, ear cleaning products, bandanas and bows.

Define a Service Area and Schedule

The next step is to define a specific area within which you will travel to service clients with your mobile grooming business. You may be willing to travel throughout a small town, or perhaps just focus on one section of a large city or metropolitan area. Another option is to take appointments in different areas on specific days of the week.

Mobile dog groomers may benefit from planning visits to apartment complexes, condominium buildings, office complexes or assisted living centers to service several clients in one location on a particular day. It provides a great time and travel savings for the mobile groomer.

Some things you may want to consider when you're planning a service area:

  • Check if your client has a driveway you can use.
  • If they don't, make sure your vehicle can fit in the desired location. Some homes are on busy streets while others have no shoulder lanes. In some cases, you may need four-wheel drive to access the area.
  • Make sure you are allowed to park your vehicle when operating in a condo complex, parking lot or homeowners' association.

Price Your Services

When pricing the cost of an individual grooming visit, you must consider the breed of dog, type of service and the time it takes to complete the appointment. If there are other mobile grooming units in your area, you should be sure to price your services competitively.

Your prices will likely be higher than those found at traditional brick-and-mortar businesses because of the additional operating costs for gasoline, maintaining the vehicle and time spent traveling between appointments. This extra convenience charge is usually expected by clients who value the fact that the service comes to their doorstep and saves them time and travel.

A modest surcharge on top of a standard (non-mobile groomer) price seems to be acceptable to most mobile grooming customers. Early morning, evening or weekend appointments may command an additional convenience premium.

Advertise

The best place to start for your advertising is on the mobile grooming vehicle itself. You should prominently feature your business logo and contact information on the sides and rear of the vehicle, whether through a custom paint job or large magnets affixed to the doors.

Additional advertising can be posted on the bulletin boards of vet clinics, animal shelters, pet stores or other animal-related businesses. You may also be able to develop a reciprocal referral arrangement with local animal service providers such as dog walkers, pet sitters, doggie daycares and pet photographers.

You might also consider giving a special discount for first-time customers as well as customers who refer their friends to you. Creating a website or email newsletter can also create additional advertising exposure and keep your current clients up to date on your schedule and promotional offers.

And don't forget the internet and social media. Design your own website. Create buzz through a Facebook page, and an Instagram and Twitter profile. Use lots of photos with before and after shots of your grooming services, and videos with testimonials from happy clients. Don't forget to post about your promotions and where your mobile salon will be well in advance so clients can book and plan accordingly.