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How To Start A Pet Grooming Business

How To Start A Pet Grooming Business

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How To Start A Pet Grooming Business

How to Start A Dog Grooming Business

Are you the type of human that can’t walk by a dog without melting or you are a proud cat parent? If you love pets, have an eye for beauty, and work like a dog to make customers happy, a  grooming service could be a great small business for you! The Pet Grooming industry is a fast-growing field with low start-up costs that can allow you to do work you love while enjoying the autonomy of business ownership.

Business Overview

Pet grooming is a physically demanding job that requires you to be on your feet for several hours of the day. In addition to the back-breaking labor, groomers have to be in a loud environment with barking dogs and dryers running.  You must also be physically able to handle animals throughout the grooming session safely. This, of course, can range from a tiny teacup Yorkie to a large Great Dane. To turn a profit, you must be able to schedule your sessions, so you are generating the maximum amount of revenue during each business day.  As a result, if your business is healthy, you will consistently conduct a large volume of sessions each day.  It’s important to consider any health conditions you may have and if this work is best for you. If desired, you can find grooming station accessories that reduce physical stress, like padded foam standing mats.

It may sound like fun to be around pets all day; however, the daily pressures can be taxing.  Most new grooming businesses start with the owner not only providing the grooming services but also juggling all the business aspects like marketing, bookkeeping, etc.  Before making the leap, consider volunteering for a shop (preferably outside of your target area) or working for a groomer before making the leap to make sure this is something you want to do long-term.

The pet grooming industry is at an all-time high thanks to the health of the economy, increasing pet ownership rates, and a shift in consumer behavior regarding pet care.  The US Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook cites that over 60% of pet owners consider their pets to be family members.  The growth in industry revenue supports this finding as more pet owners are spending disposable income on premium pet services.  Industry revenue has posted consistent gains over the past decade and outpaced the economy average as of 2018.

While research shows that rural areas see a greater percentage of households with one or more pets as opposed to urban areas, you must also consider the per capita income and the total number of households.  For example, if you live in a rural area with a large percentage of pet ownership but a small population and a low per capita income, it may be difficult to find enough prospective clients who are willing and able to pay for pet services.

According to a Forbes article, almost 85 million U.S. households have a pet, and within the last 30 years, pet ownership has gone from 56% to 68% of all households. And according to the American Pet Products Association, $136.8 billion dollars are dedicated to pet expenditures in the United States.

Because of the increased demand for pet services and the low barrier to entry into the field, competition within the industry is also at an all-time high. Preparing a well-thought-out business plan that includes cost-effective marketing strategies is important for the long-term success of your business.

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Dog Breeding
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Dog Walking
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Pet Boarding
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Pet Treat Bakery

Steps To Start A Pet Grooming Business

If you’re thinking about starting your own pet grooming business, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to help you get started.

Step 1: Research the Need for Grooming Services

Before taking any steps to start their business, the first order of business would be to thoroughly understand the market and see how much demand there may be for grooming services.

To start, first identify your potential customer base within your specific area or region, paying attention to the types and numbers of pets that people own. This can be done informally, like watching the number of people taking their pets to local dog parks, but you can also check with local government agencies, such as the animal control department, which may have data on the number of licensed pets in the area. Another way is to consult national surveys and statistics, such as those provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Pet Products Association (APPA). These organizations provide data on pet ownership and demographics at the national level, which can be used to estimate the number of pets in a specific area.

Next, consider what your direct competitors are offering. This entails visiting their establishments, reviewing their service offerings, and noting their pricing. Try to identify their unique selling points as well as any gaps in their services that your business might fill. You could create a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to understand the competitive landscape better.

Additionally, try to gauge the demand for pet grooming services within your target area. Conduct surveys or interviews with pet owners. You could ask about their current grooming practices, their satisfaction levels with existing grooming services, and what additional services they might value. This could give you a real sense of the existing demand and unmet needs in your market.

Furthermore, consider broader market trends that might impact your business. Are there shifts in pet ownership rates or pet owner spending habits? Are there new technologies or business models that could change the industry? Understanding these larger trends can help you position your business for long-term success.

Last, consider your own skills and experience, and how they align with the needs of your target market. For example, if you have expertise in grooming specific breeds or types of pets, or in providing particular services, these might be areas where you can differentiate yourself.

Step 2: Create a Business Plan

Writing a business plan is an important step for anyone starting a dog grooming business as it serves as a roadmap for success and helps in securing funding

There are several sections, but a few that I think are especially important include:

Business Model: Describe the type of dog grooming business you want to start (at home, mobile, or brick-and-mortar) and the advantages and disadvantages of each model.

Supplies & Equipment: List the supplies and equipment you will need to run your dog grooming business.

Marketing and Sales Strategy: After defining your target audience and explaining how you will meet their needs, what are your plans for attracting and retaining customers?

Financial Funding: Determine the startup expenses and capital needed to start your dog grooming business.

Each section should be well-researched, concise, and focused on conveying a clear and compelling business case. It’s important to customize the business plan to reflect the specific goals and circumstances of the dog grooming business.

Step 3: Determine the Legal Structure of the Business

A legal structure (also referred to as a business structure) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business structures to choose from, which include sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a pet grooming business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.

A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay.
The corporation can be a good choice to minimize liability risk because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.

That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.

The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is that the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration.

An LLC is created through a state statute. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.

Related: Guide to forming your LLC.

Step 4: Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

steps to properly register and make your grooming business legal before operating. Keep in mind that each state may have specific requirements and processes, so it’s important to consult with local authorities and professionals for accurate information. Here are some general guidelines:

Register Your Business Name: After choosing your business structure, you many need to register the business name. Corporations and LLCs will choose their name when registering with the state, but if you plan to start as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, most states require registering for a “Doing Business As” (DBA) form if you choose a name that differs from the owner(s) name.

Related: Tips and ideas for naming a grooming business

Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): Some businesses will need to register for an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This identification number is used to identify your business entity. Learn more about the Employer Identification Number.

Business Licenses and Permits: While there is no business licensing exclusive to groomers, there are some general business registrations that may be needed, which include a business license, sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, and Occupancy Permit.

Even though there is no licensing required to provide grooming services, being certified may be worth looking into. Completing an accredited educational program provides not only proof that you have received professional training, but it will provide the necessary skills to conduct a professional service-based business. Customers will be very demanding of their pet’s care and appearance, and while you can learn how to groom on your own, a program will get you up to speed much faster.

There are several options for getting a pet grooming certification, with many organizations offering both online and in-person programs of study. While there is currently no industry oversight or legal requirement to be certified, you should consider completing a certification course prior to engaging in business for the sake of credibility and offering the highest quality services possible. And as with all skilled trades, continuing your education by periodically attending courses is a good way to stay on top of the industry trends and keep ahead of your local competition.

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Compliance with Health and Safety Regulations: Familiarize yourself with the health and safety regulations governing grooming businesses. Ensure compliance with sanitation standards, animal welfare guidelines, and any other relevant regulations in your area.

Insurance Coverage: In addition to licensing, also consider obtaining appropriate insurance coverage for your grooming business, such as general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance. Consult with an insurance professional to determine the specific coverage needed for your business.

Related: What insurance does a dog grooming business need?

Step 5: Secure Funding

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a grooming business is another.  Fortunately, the cost to start a new grooming business is relatively low; however, getting the funding to start can be difficult.  Banks are typically going to want the borrower to have good credit and personally invest 15-25% towards the total start-up costs.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 6: Set Up Operations

While most pet grooming shops don’t necessarily require a prime, high-traffic location storefront, it is usually important to be accessible – located close to where people traveling to and from work can easily get to your location.  Also, since you are working with animals that will sometimes be noisy, be sure to check zoning and covenants in case you have a not-so-friendly neighbor

The type of pet grooming business you start will probably be the biggest factor affecting your facility’s cost.  The most cost-effective option is to operate out of your own home, assuming local regulations permit.  While this saves the cost of renting or purchasing a building and is often a good choice when getting started, it may limit the scale and image of the business.  Hiring additional groomers to expand your business may not be an option if you are a home-based business as well.  Be sure to verify whether you can operate a business from your home if you plan to be home-based. This includes checking HOAs, city/town/village zoning, and local ordinances.

The second option is to rent or purchase a brick-and-mortar building to operate the business.  The cost per square foot varies depending on the area’s affluence, proximity to traffic, and demand for properties, among other factors.  You want to choose a location convenient for pet owners to drop off and pick up their pets while not spending too much on rent or mortgage payments.  The size of the building should be appropriate to allow for future plans for the business.

Pet grooming businesses have very distinct spatial needs, and the building must be able to accommodate those areas.  An effective floor plan design for a grooming business will typically contain four main spaces: a receiving lobby, a pet holding area, a bathing and drying room, and a styling and grooming room.

The third option is to take your pet grooming business on the road.  Mobile dog grooming has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to the convenience it provides pet owners and the freedom for the business owner.  Used and refurbished vans or trailers are fairly easy to find, making this option cost-effective compared to a building.  The most common issue mobile groomers face is failing equipment, like vehicles or power generators.  When going mobile, be sure to have one or more backup plans if this happens so that customers won’t be inconvenienced.  Another pitfall to a mobile pet grooming business is running the risk of wasting valuable time and fuel traveling between clients.  This can be avoided by keeping an efficient appointment schedule that limits travel distance each day.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 7: Purchase Grooming Equipment and Supplies

Now that funding has been secured, here is some advice for purchasing equipment and supplies for your grooming business:

Make a Detailed List: Create a comprehensive list of all the equipment and supplies you will need for your grooming business. This can include grooming tools (clippers, shears, brushes), bathing equipment (tubs, hoses, shampoo), drying equipment (dryers, towels), grooming tables, cages, cleaning supplies, and consumables (grooming products, pet treats).

Research Reliable Brands and Suppliers: Take the time to research reputable brands and suppliers known for their quality grooming equipment and supplies. Read reviews, seek recommendations from other groomers, and compare prices to ensure you’re investing in durable and reliable products.

Consider Ergonomics and Comfort: Look for equipment and tools that are ergonomically designed to reduce strain and fatigue during grooming sessions. Comfortable grooming tables, adjustable-height tubs, and lightweight grooming tools can make a significant difference in your efficiency and well-being.

Budget Wisely: While it’s important to invest in quality equipment, be mindful of your budget. Set a realistic budget and stick to it. Look for opportunities to take advantage of discounts, promotions, or bulk purchasing options that can help you save money.

Seek Professional Recommendations: Consult with experienced groomers or industry professionals who can provide insights on essential equipment and supplies for your specific grooming business. They can offer advice on specific brands, models, and features that align with your needs and budget.

Plan for Future Growth: Consider your long-term goals and anticipated growth of your grooming business. Invest in equipment and supplies that can accommodate expansion and increased demand. This can help avoid the need for frequent replacements or upgrades as your business expands.

Step 8: Develop a Pricing Structure

Determining the prices for your clients is one of the most important decisions you can make as a grooming salon owner. It can make the difference between breaking even, turning a modest profit, and achieving success. Unfortunately, there is no fixed formula for how to set your prices. However, there are several considerations that can help you arrive at the best prices for your grooming business.

One way to make sure you charge enough is to calculate all of your expenses. This will provide you with the baseline number from which to work. Start with overhead – rent/mortgage, electricity, water, phone, pet grooming software, etc. Next consider the expenses associated with each grooming – equipment (and the maintenance thereof), shampoo, conditioner, tools and implements needed by the groomers, bows, bandanas, and anything else that gets used per grooming. Add in labor costs if there are others working for you in the salon. If you have a retail area in the salon, add in the wholesale costs of the items.

Another way to determine pricing is to research what other dog grooming businesses in your area are charging for similar services. This will give you an idea of what customers are willing to pay and help you set competitive prices. You want to make sure that your prices are competitive so that customers will choose you over other businesses. However, don’t be afraid to set higher prices if you feel that your services are worth more than what others are offering.

Third, consider the value of time when setting prices for grooming services. If a particular job requires more time or skill than usual, then it may be worth charging extra for it. Additionally, if a customer is requesting additional services then those should also be factored into the price accordingly.

Step 9: Hire Employees

For entrepreneurs wanting to grow a pet grooming business larger than what they can do by themselves, hiring employees will be necessary.  As more competitors enter the market, finding and hiring skilled workers who will maintain the business’s quality of service and reputation is an important factor in ongoing success.  This results in needing to pay higher wages to skilled groomers.  The minimum wage will apply to the front-line employees working at the front desk and answering phones.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 10: Implement Your Marketing Plan

The first step in setting up an effective marketing strategy is knowing who your customer is.

According to American Pet Products, Millennials are the largest demographic owning pets, and this generation pays more for their pets for quality products and services than other demographics.

After millennials, the next largest demographic for a pet grooming business is pet owners between 30 and 64.  Pew Research Center found that 40% of 30 to 49-year-olds owned pets and had the second-highest annual pet expenditure, just shy of the 57% of 50 to 64-year-olds who own pets. Recently, The Zebra noted that Gen Z is on the rise with pet ownership and may quickly become the leader in most pets per household.

Another marketing tactic for pet groomers is to network with local pet stores, veterinarians, and dog trainers who do not offer grooming services.  Over time, those relationships could lead to your business being the professional recommendation of those established business owners.

You can also leverage the power of social media to gain brand name exposure.  Using Meta (Instagram and Facebook’s targeted advertisement platform) can allow you to create ads that reach pet owners within a certain distance of your business.  This is a great opportunity to run a limited-time offer and to promote it online, reaching even more pet owners who may not know of your service offerings.

Also, attending local pet-related events, sponsoring pet adoption drives, and offering promotions or discounts for first-time clients can also help draw in new customers.

Some great advice that is relevant in the discussion of investing in your business comes from Alice Hughes, owner of Paws & Tails. She said “Your biggest investment should be in your reputation.” – This advice underscores the importance of building a positive reputation through exceptional service, professionalism, and ethical business practices. Ultimately, providing excellent customer service and encouraging satisfied clients to leave positive reviews and refer others will likely be the biggest contribution to the long-term success of any grooming business’s marketing efforts.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 11: Set Up a System for Scheduling and Managing Appointments

To set up a system for scheduling and managing appointments for a dog grooming business, consider the following tips:

Use Appointment Scheduling Software: Invest in appointment scheduling software specifically designed for grooming businesses. These tools offer features such as online booking, calendar management, client database, automated reminders, and the ability to track and manage appointments efficiently.

Determine Booking Policies: Establish clear booking policies, including cancellation and rescheduling procedures, late arrival policies, and any necessary requirements or preparations for grooming appointments. Communicate these policies to clients upfront, either through your website, social media, or during the booking process.

Set Realistic Time Slots: Allocate appropriate time slots for different grooming services based on the size, breed, and specific needs of the dogs. Consider factors like bathing, drying, haircutting, and additional services required. Ensure you have sufficient time between appointments to clean and sanitize the workspace.

This is especially important for mobile groomers the drive time to the client’s home will need to be accounted for.

Allow for Flexibility: Provide flexibility in your scheduling system to accommodate last-minute appointments, walk-ins, or urgent grooming needs. Keep a buffer in your schedule to handle unexpected situations or additional time required for certain dogs.

Prioritize Regular Clients: Reserve specific time slots or offer priority booking options for regular clients who schedule recurring appointments. This helps build loyalty and ensures consistent business.

Streamline Communication: Implement a system for clear and prompt communication with clients. This can include automated appointment reminders, confirmation emails or texts, and follow-up messages for post-grooming care or feedback.

Maintain a Centralized Calendar: Use a shared or centralized calendar accessible to all staff members to track and manage appointments. This ensures everyone is aware of the schedule, avoids double bookings, and facilitates coordination between groomers and clients.

Step 12: Launch

The path to launching your business will likely include several other steps that haven’t been mentioned, but should be a good start. A few other tips include:

Wrapping up our advice, there are some essential aspects you must take into account before setting up your grooming business. As an experienced business owner, I would emphasize the following points:

Business Insurance: This is crucial for any business, and it is especially important for a grooming business because you will be handling animals, which can be unpredictable. You should look into liability insurance that covers any incidents that might occur while an animal is under your care. Additionally, consider property insurance to protect your equipment and premises, and workers’ compensation if you plan on having employees.

Related: What insurance do dog groomers need?

Bookkeeping: Accurate bookkeeping is critical to understand your business’s financial health. You’ll need to keep track of your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. It’s beneficial to hire an accountant or use reliable accounting software. Keep in mind, accurate bookkeeping also helps you during tax season.

Contracts: For a grooming business, you may need contracts like the service agreement (outlining what services you will provide and their cost), liability waivers (to protect your business from any damages or injuries that may occur during the grooming process), and employment contracts (if you’re hiring staff). Always consult with a lawyer to ensure these contracts are legally sound and protect your interests.

RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful.

Credit Card Processing: To provide your customers with convenient payment options, consider setting up a credit card processing system. There are many providers available, so research to find one that offers the best rates and services for your needs. Square or Stripe are commonly used by small businesses, but your specific needs may vary.

Greg’s Tip: Prior to starting your own grooming business, it’s crucial to gain practical experience and knowledge. Consider working as an apprentice or gaining employment at an established grooming salon to learn grooming techniques, handling different breeds, and managing the overall grooming process.

Greg's Business Tip

Grooming Business FAQs

How much does it cost to start a pet grooming business?

The cost of starting a pet grooming business depends on your business model. Whether you choose a brick-and-mortar business, an at-home grooming salon, or a mobile business will affect your start-up costs.

Equipment and Supplies: Every grooming business needs basic equipment and supplies.  Basic supplies include clippers, shears, combs, scissors, sprays, shampoo, conditioner, brushes, dryers, nail clippers, bandanas, bows, and cleaning supplies. Equipment needs include a professional grooming table, tubs, tables, crates, washing machine, and dryer. Depending on the quality and extent of equipment needed, expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 or more.

Facility Setup: Whether running a mobile grooming business or operating out of a shop, the cost of setting up a space can vary based on factors like location, size, lease terms, and the renovations required. Expenses may include lease or rent deposits, interior design, remodeling, signage, and initial utilities. Depending on the area and scope of the business, costs can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands.

Operational Expenses: Money will also be needed for operational expenses such as licensing and permits, marketing, insurance, utilities, fuel, salaries, etc. A good number to shoot for is to have six months’ worth of operational expenses available before starting.

If you are struggling with the cost to get started, be sure to check out the video from The Girl With Dogs and her advice on starting small and making the most of what you have.

How much can a pet grooming business owner make?

“You are offering a specialty service…you should actually be charging more for that, not less.” – Vanessa De Prophetis

The earning potential for a grooming business depends on a multitude of factors, including the location of the business, the average per capita income of your market, the population density of your area, competition, and overhead costs.  SBDCNet found that on average, brick-and-mortar grooming services charged $36 per session whereas mobile services charged the premium fee of $51 per session.

You can limit your overhead to increase your profit margins but must be cognizant of the impact that your financial decisions will have on the quality of your services.  For example, understaffing to cut labor costs may cause poor customer service experiences for your clients.  You can maximize your revenue potential by either selling retail, offering a wider variety of services that require little additional overhead, or even offering mobile grooming services.  Offering a dog walking service would increase your revenue while not requiring additional real estate space or inventory costs.  The only additional cost for this service would be the compensation for the employee who walks the dogs.

If the only revenue source is grooming, you may miss out on additional profits.  Customers will be interested in purchasing shampoos, perfumes, and flea & tick prevention to use in between appointments.  Treats, supplements, ear cleaning solutions, and other grooming supplies to improve the pet’s coats and health will be in demand as well, and they will look to you as the expert.

What experience is needed to run a dog grooming business?

There is no industry oversight requiring certification or education, but as pets are considered family, completing an accredited certification program before starting your business may help establish credibility. It can also be beneficial to have experience in the safe handling of pets in a grooming setting before accepting clients.  Getting your pet first aid and CPR certification through organizations like the American Red Cross can protect you and the pets your service in case of an emergency.

What is the NAICS code for a pet grooming business?

The NAICS code for a pet grooming business is 812910.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code?


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How To Start A Pet Grooming Business

How To Start A Pet Grooming Business

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