Only 15 months into her dog grooming career, Annelli Burke is excited to learn as much as she can about both grooming and running a profitable grooming business.
Her unconventional path to dog groomer and salon owner is a winding one. Originally from Norway, she worked various retail and service industry jobs before working for Google as a Norwegian fact-checker.
When she was laid off from her role at Google, she started exploring her options and thought about what else she could do.
“I’d gotten a Min Pin by then and was spending a lot of time with my dog. At first, I thought, ‘I’ll open a doggie daycare.’ But then I realized that every daycare in my area has a groomer, and it’d be easier to get grooming training,” Burke shares.
She looked around and found a big-box retailer looking for a groomer-in-training, and there she signed a one-year contract.
“My first day in the salon, the girl who trained me showed me how to trim nails, and I felt so at home,” she continues. “I felt like something ‘fit.’”
Burke obtained her grooming training through Paragon via her corporate grooming role and was one of the first in her region to go through this training.
She thought she’d stay corporate for two or three years; however, eight months into the year-long contract, she was chomping at the bit to get out of there. Some of her challenges in corporate included getting people on a schedule, it was hard to practice styles, she wanted to groom at a higher level and have more control, as well as use better tools and products, and the pay was low.
Burke started researching her options. Should she open a mobile grooming salon or a physical space? What was involved? How much money would she need?
“I wanted a low monthly rent since it would be just me. A lot of realtors didn’t want to work with me because I was too small. But I did find a nice commercial space in a combined commercial and residential space. The landlord wanted to open a dog cafe. I signed a three-year lease and got the permits,” she shares.
But, from there, things didn’t go so smoothly. While Burke was at PetQuest in Ohio learning about the business of running a dog grooming salon and meeting the grooming community, her newly-leased space flooded. Then, just as she had a tub and table delivered and she’d turned in her job resignation, the borough pulled the permit.
“I spent two days wallowing in despair. Then, I realized this is a terrible attitude to have as a business owner. I got up and hired an attorney to get out of the lease,” Burke continues. “My boyfriend helped me install the tub at my house. He has plumbing experience, and we set up a temporary groom room in a shed at my house.”
Meanwhile, Burke kept looking for other spaces.
“I found a small and cozy space on a lovely cobblestone street close to my house. Perfect for one groomer. My landlord lowered the rent and included the water. The new borough held my hand through the entire process,” she says.
It took a little more than two months for her to find and open the new location. But, the grand opening of “Pawsitive Transfurmations” took place on October 1st, 2021, in the Dormont section of Pittsburgh.
While waiting on the new permits, Burke decided to invest in continuing education.
“I flew to Minnesota to do a one-day seminar with Anna Stowell of Zoom Groom (@zoomgroom_anna on Instagram). Then I realized that another one of my idols, Sophie Rebehn (@thek9stylist on Instagram) whom I’d met at PetQuest, was also located in Minneapolis, so I reached out and asked if she’d give me a private lesson, and she said yes!” Burke shares excitedly.
From there, she headed to Chicago for Barkleigh’s All American Show where she also met up with and shadowed Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins in her salon, Love Fur Dogs, for two days.
After Burke’s crash course in dog grooming and the business side of the salon life, she returned to Pittsburgh to finalize her salon. And, to stay on budget, she made some trades.
“I traded a monthly bath for a German Shepherd Puppy for a discount on flooring. It’s nice to have something to bargain with,” she shares.
When asked what she loves most about the profession, Burke said, “It’s instant gratification. It’s also really hard work, but I’m creatively-minded and I like the variations combined with the immediate gratification. It’s incredible. The dog’s entire demeanor changes. Though, the best part is when the pet parent squeals, ‘You look so great!’ Plus, I’m grateful for this community. I think the grooming community is the most amazing community. I found my people.”
With opening day just three weeks prior to the interview for this article, Burke’s business hasn’t been open long. Yet, she’s pleased with the reception.
“I’ve only gotten positive feedback. On Oct. 9th, there was an annual street festival. I paid for a booth and did five-dollar nail trims. I gave out dog stickers and the kids ran around wearing them. Everyone who lives in the neighborhood has a dog,” she continues. “They say, ‘It’s so convenient. I live around the corner.’ My appointment book is gradually filling.
“My unusual name helps me get found online, too. People can Google me and it’s easy to turn up,” she adds.
When asked what the future holds, Burke replied, “I’ve only been grooming a short amount of time, but in that time I’ve set myself apart with my talent and passion. I attended PetQuest in June and was IMMEDIATELY addicted. I also went to All American and Groom Expo in Hershey, and next year I hope to hit them all! I want to get into competing next.”
Burke is absorbing all she can about the dog grooming industry. She says the grooming shows are an incredible value: “There are so many classes to take. I appreciate having business concepts explained to me in a way I can understand, specifically related to grooming; real-life examples, like Teri DiMarino’s class on building the perfect salon.”
Passionate about education, it’s not surprising that she’s also planning a schedule of classes for prospective dog owners. How to get a dog, How to avoid puppy scams, Correct brushing, and Grooming tools for different coat types for at-home care are topics she’s considering.
The future looks bright for Annelli Burke and Pawsitive Transfurmations! ✂️