Grooming Business Models: One Size Does Not Fit All

Grooming Business Basics

By Khris Berry

All groomers are not created equal. Well…in some cases they are, and some they are not. 

All groomers possess a unique capacity to love an infinite number of dogs as if they were their own. All groomers possess the ability to remember clients who leave special tips, as well as those who complain about unimportant issues time and again. All groomers have a passion for their work and are fearless when confronting a mercy groom in need. All groomers have an iron constitution when eating lunch while deshedding a Husky, and an endless amount of opinions when asked about the existence of the Doodle. 

Beyond those unifying commandments, there are unique differences that creep into the picture of grooming and groomers. There are many different ways to accomplish professional pet grooming, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to examine these as well as the different aspects of each individual business style.

Grooming services can be offered in several different styles, but for the purpose of this article, I will focus on where the services are offered, as well as who is offering them. There are four basic styles of grooming businesses—and the needs of each as well as the clients they serve are unique. The categories of grooming businesses are brick and mortar, mobile, at–home and house–call. Let’s examine what makes each of these unique, the nuances that set them apart, as well as some of the specific needs for each style of grooming business.

Brick and Mortar

These grooming businesses represent the largest sector of the grooming industry, as well as the largest percentage of working professional groomers. While they can be further divided into corporate or private, as well as small and large salon settings, the needs of brick and mortar salons and the groomers who occupy them are basically the same. 

A brick and mortar salon is contained in a building which is not a residence. Whether a unit in a shopping center, a stand–alone structure or part of another business (such as a veterinarian office or a pet retail business), these grooming businesses typically employ several groomers (three on average) and the clients become accustomed to bringing their dogs to the groomer for services. 

Pros: great return on investment when comparing floor space to income revenue, can service a larger clientele with more working groomers, creates a “fun” environment with fellow pet lovers, storefront visibility/signage is a great source of constant advertising.

Cons: requires organized processes and management, more customers increase possibility of issues or complaints, maintenance required on facility.

Mobile

Mobile grooming businesses are pretty self–explanatory. Typically one groomer works out of a single mobile unit in which they travel to client homes and groom their pets from the comfort of their own driveway. There are a number of mobile businesses which own multiple units and employ several groomers, but the concept remains the same. This model appeals to older clients (humans and dogs alike) who are unable to travel to have grooming services performed, as well as those who simply want the convenience of not having to leave their house. 

Pros: offers solitude for the independent groomer, most units are self–contained and easy to use with state–of–the–art equipment, suits a broad range of clients and pets of all ages, most mobile groomers can charge a premium for the convenience of the service.

Cons: added cost of business including fuel, wear and tear on vehicle, expensive return on investment due to time and distance limitations, does not allow for teamwork when working on challenging pets, a portion of your time is used to drive between clients rather than groom dogs.

At–Home

At–home grooming refers to the groomers who have a salon or business inside (or attached to) their residence. Whether in a dedicated area of your home, a garage or a stand–alone area on your residence premises, at–home grooming can be a viable alternative for the groomer who is looking for more control over their day–to–day, client base, expenses and workplace.

Pros: your commute is short, ongoing cost of business is less without third party rent, utilities, etc., more personal experience for clients and pets, niche market of pets who will thrive with one–on–one services, less stimulation.

Cons: difficulty creating separation between personal life and work life, risk of having clients/strange dogs enter your home, lack of privacy, difficult to expand your services or business, less opportunity for growth, more distraction from home life, needs effective attention to marketing, some insurers look at home–based businesses less favorably when issuing rates.

House–call

House–call grooming is growing in popularity. This type of grooming business has a low cost of entry—typically just yourself and equipment to get started. There is a definite niche of clients who will appreciate having your service performed in the comfort of their pet’s home. While where and how you complete the service will be an ever–changing landscape, you will enjoy a closer bond with pets, enhancing your enjoyment of your career.

Pros: one–on–one experience with the pets in a more relaxed setting, less stimulation and distraction, low cost of entry to get business started, ability to offer individualized service options for pets, can charge a premium for private services.

Cons: difficult to market, less likely to scale or grow, does not provide an option for absentee ownership of the business, time spent driving between appointments limits earning capacity.

As you can see, not all grooming businesses are created equal—and there is a perfect scenario for every groomer. From financials to freedom, examining the good and bad side of each grooming business style and consulting with your business advisers will allow you to determine your best match. Finding the business model that makes sense for you is an important part of continuing to love what you do. ✂️