Pictures by TB Photography
Dog groomer and salon owner Colleen Voegtli was nervous about opening Bark and Bath Pet Salon. Yet, seven months later, she has three employees and over 1,000 clients.
“I don’t want to say it’s simpler than I thought it would be, but if you’re passionate about it, it’s possible. I wish I’d done it sooner,” she shares about her journey to becoming a salon owner.
In the summer of 2021, Voegtli started looking for the right location, and she found it! Bark and Bath Pet Salon is located in Lusby, Maryland, about 20 minutes away from the salon in Prince Frederick where she’d gotten her start and worked for fourteen years.
“I wanted to be respectful of my mentor. Plus, I thought there was a demand in Lusby. There was no other pet groomer there,” she continues. “I started looking at shopping centers. Some landlords don’t want dogs in their space, but Town Square in Lusby worked out. The landlord was very accommodating and fine with dogs.”
With a positive landlord on board, Voegtli felt good about the space, but there was an obstacle…It was big! “It was over 2,500 sq. ft. It was intimidating. But my husband was optimistic. He helped me see that it was a space I could grow into it,” she shares.
The location had other things going for it besides the positive landlord, including being a former hair salon, which worked in Voegtli’s favor: “This saved me money on the build-out because the plumbing, electricity, lighting, and layout were already in place.”
The licensing and paperwork for the dog grooming salon went smoothly, too. “Calvert County supports small-business growth within the county,” she continues. “They also have support staff in place to encourage businesses to start, grow, and flourish.”
Voegtli shared that her biggest obstacle was leaving her old job: “I started at Rita’s Grooming in Prince Frederick, MD as a bather when I was 14 years old. I started out prepping the dogs for the owner, Rita. She then taught me how to perform shave-downs on the dogs, and later she taught me breed standard haircuts along with scissoring skills. I couldn’t have done any of this without her. I’d like to thank Rita for being my mentor and introducing me to the world of grooming.”
However, after 14 years of working for Rita, Voegtli was ready to branch out.
“She was happy for me and wished me well,” she added.
Though Voegtli initially planned to operate as a one-woman salon, she expanded before she even opened: “A friend and fellow groomer wanted to come and work with me. We opened on October 5, 2021; myself and Victoria, the other groomer.”
At her previous salon, people tended to drop off their dogs in the mornings and pick them up later. That allowed the groomers to work on them throughout the day, but Voegtli noticed that not everyone liked that, and some wanted to pick up their dogs sooner. At Bark and Bath, she is able to accommodate that.
“We work straight through on our clients. Of course, if customers need to drop off their dog before work and pick it up later, we can accommodate that too, but 90% of my clients prefer to pick up their dog as soon as possible,” she shares.
For the pups who’ll stay longer, Voegtli came up with a creative way to offer a safe, yet kennel-free experience: “I created Doggie Suites. They’re around 6 ft. x 8 ft. for dogs with anxiety and owners who prefer a cage-free experience. It’s an upsell for $10.”
She’s added two more team members, too. Now a team of four, each groomer works one on one with their dog.
“We don’t have a separate bather or dryer. Each of us works on one dog at a time. I like having the one on one with the dog, and many of our clients appreciate that too. They like knowing who’s working on their dog from start to finish,” Voegtli says.
In addition, the one-on-one approach allows each groomer to do what they think is best for their client. “Every groomer is particular about their dogs,” she continues. “We can take our time and use the products we feel are the best for our client on that day.”
With things falling in place for the Bark and Bath Pet Salon, Voegtli is excited. And in order to provide the best-quality grooming experience, the close-knit team continues to learn together: “We’re doing monthly continuing education training streaming webinars. We will also be attending expos annually. This ensures we are providing the best services and products to our clients,” she says.
To conclude, Voegtli shares this parting advice to groomers considering going out on their own:
“Do it. I was really scared and nervous at first. I was wondering if I was making the right decision not only for my career, but my family as well. It has all paid off. It’s an astounding feeling to run your own salon and offer customers and pets the experience you want to provide.” ✂️