By Daryl Conner
It all started out with one innocent comment made by a customer. She owns a popular restaurant, and she, my employee/daughter and I were discussing another prominent local eatery. Our customer quipped that the chef at the place we were discussing, “Wears pearls and heels to cook. It’s a bit much.”
My daughter and I made eye contact, and you could almost see the cartoon bubble over our heads, featuring strands of pearls. We never entertained the thought of heels—we’re not that crazy.
Over the years we have worked together, we have created a uniform that we both find to be comfortable, flattering and professional looking. It is part of our brand. Our uniform is black, simple and kind to our curvaceous figures. The idea of wearing pearls seemed like frosting on the cake for our small, upscale studio.
To our surprise and delight, many customers noticed the change right away. We were amused to discover that if we are slacking and forget to put the pearls on now, they comment on it. They have come to expect pearls as part of our service.
This unique little add–on to our look got me to thinking about how groomers can and should create their own personal brand. All over the country, groomers are working at various outlets, and not really focusing on their careers. Most work at a salon for a few years, then hop to another, or maybe open their own place, but not really move upwards in a meaningful way. What if you want to make a name for yourself, and pursue the kind of grooming you enjoy the most?
I invented a fictional groomer to illustrate some ways you might do just that. I named her Annie. Let me introduce you…
Annie attended grooming school and was hired by a local grooming salon when she graduated. She loved grooming, especially sporting breeds, and began to read everything she could about them. She went to dog shows, asked questions of handlers and breeders, and bought herself an English Cocker puppy so she could practice to her heart’s content. She took some private lessons, attended some seminars, and instead of watching TV at night, took online classes with some professionals she respected. She sought out sporting breed certification and was proud to hang her certificate on the wall. Then she and her cocker competed at a grooming show and were in the ribbons.
Annie was loving her work and was building a modest following of sporting breed owners, but she was also shaving a lot of once–a–year dogs and struggling with giant breeds that weighed more than she did. She was making enough money to pay her bills, but there wasn’t a lot extra. She didn’t know what to do to take charge of her career.
Then Annie realized that no matter if she worked for someone else or was self–employed, this was her grooming career. It was up to her to decide what to do with it. She could keep on as she was, and in five years, be basically in the same position. Or, she could take charge, set herself apart from the competition, and put herself in the position to earn more and have a better time doing it.
Annie branded herself. She changed from being a proud dog groomer and became a “Sporting Breed Specialist.” She chose a logo and a color scheme, and ordered stylish grooming jackets with her name, her new title and logo clearly embroidered on them. She ordered upscale business cards in complimentary colors, with the same eye–catching logo and title.
Annie started online galleries on Facebook and Instagram featuring beautiful images of the pets she groomed, and posted helpful hints on sporting breed coat care for pet owners. The jacket she wore when she was not working had her logo and title embroidered boldly on it, as did the cute ball cap she wore when she was walking her dog at the park. Her car had classy silhouettes of sporting breeds decorating the rear windshield and people often asked her about them, giving her a chance to explain her passion and hand them a card.
Annie contacted every sporting dog breeder in her area and let them know that she could groom their breed correctly. Then, every veterinarian, dog walker, pet shop, pet photographer, dog trainer, doggy daycare, boarding kennel and pet sitter in town got a visit from Annie and was left with something to remember her by. Maybe a jar full of quality dog cookies for them to hand out to their clients, or human treats for them to enjoy—but they also got a stack of her cards and a chance to put her friendly face with her name. She asked for their cards in return so she could refer their services to her customers.
Meanwhile, she continued to expand her skills. If she wasn’t up on how to groom rare Clumber Spaniels, she did some research on the breed and contacted a breeder to see if she could come help him or her get some dogs ready for an upcoming show. Who is that breeder going to recommend to puppy buyers? Annie, of course.
Soon Annie’s grooming days are filled with setters, spaniels and retrievers. She is much too busy grooming breeds she is passionate about to fit matted, once–a–year dogs in. And, her expertise is sought after by sporting breed owners who keep their pets well maintained.
By pursuing her passion and designing her own personal brand, Annie took her career to a whole new level by achieving these steps:
- She defined her grooming specialty and gained a target market; sporting breed enthusiasts.
- She gave herself a title to support her brand.
- She worked to learn everything she could about grooming sporting breed dogs so she could exceed her clients’ expectations.
- She developed her brand’s image by choosing an eye–catching logo and color theme and displaying them proudly.
- She maintained consistency by wearing professional uniforms when working and advertising her work in public during off hours.
- She established an online presence as a Sporting Breed Specialist groomer by contributing regularly to social media.
Annie became who she wanted to be—a Sporting Breed Specialist groomer. There was no longer a need to shop hop, because she was in demand by both shop owners and pet owners for her specific skill set. She was so popular that people would drive a long distance to have her groom their pet, and she could charge appropriately for her mad skills.
What is your brand?
For us, it’s upscale, have a cup of coffee and a homemade cookie while we groom your pet (in pearls!) For Annie, it’s everything sporting breed.
Can you think of ways to create a brand that elevates your grooming career into one you love even more than you do already? ✂️