With close contact with other people being an obvious issue of the times, I decided the time to go mobile was upon me.
To say that 2020 has been one for the books would definitely be an understatement. Like so many other businesses, countless grooming salons have suffered great losses due to the pandemic. As a result, many groomers have decided to roll with the punches and adapt to this changed world by taking the plunge to going mobile.
The prospect of a completely different business model can be a scary venture, but fear not mighty groomer—technology is on your side! Today we have smartphones, apps and the power of social media to help make your dream a reality.
Mobile grooming is a completely different ball game, but why is it so different from a salon?
Living through a pandemic and dealing with the changes necessary to survive have certainly been quite a lesson. And one lesson I’ve learned first–hand is an old adage that we’ve all heard one time or another, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”
COVID–19 hit south Florida particularly hard in the early onset of the pandemic and the landscape of retail completely changed as a result. My business was only one third reliant on the grooming salon and the rest of the equation was a retail boutique. Even with government- sponsored loans and grants, not all businesses were able to survive the shut down and resulting changes, and mine was no exception.
In June of 2020, I had to make the difficult decision to close my salon that I spent the last 11 years of my life building. As difficult of a decision as it was, it was a necessary one to avoid going deep into a rabbit hole of mounting expenses with no light at the end of the tunnel.
My instincts were correct; the pandemic raged on and many other retail businesses in the area struggled to stay afloat and some closed. I quickly had to make some changes to not only survive, but to keep servicing the clients that I had grown to love and cherish. With close contact with other people being an obvious issue of the times, I decided the time to go mobile was upon me. It was time to “make lemonade” so to speak and take the show on the road.
My situation was a little bit easier than completely starting from scratch. Fortunately, I had already purchased a mobile grooming van at the end of the prior year with the intention of expanding my salon business. So, I took the plunge into a new venture. This time though, it wasn’t Jesus taking the wheel—it was me!
I had to completely rethink how I was going to rebrand myself as a mobile groomer. I had to learn a new set of rules and new ways to operate. There were some mistakes along the way, but luckily there are some amazing tools at our disposal to make that transition so much easier and to help us achieve our goals.
The first thing I had to learn is that scheduling mobile appointments is nothing like taking appointments in the salon. In the salon, people come to you and you can be working through several grooms at the same time. While with mobile, you go to them, and it’s typically one pet at a time, unless you have an assistant.
I also had to learn about routing. For me, that’s the worst part of mobile grooming. Wrapping my head around how to make my travel time less and schedule clients near one another around the same time coupled with their preferences of day or time was and is a daunting task, but it gets easier. There are several apps that can help you with the task of scheduling and routing, and once you get the hang of it, you can tighten up your route and make it more efficient.
When you are mobile, you also have to have different policies in place to deal with situations like cancellations, no-shows—or rather nobody home when you arrive—and these policies need to be more stringent than usual salon policies. In my salon, if we had a last minute cancellation, we almost always had a wait list to fill the space. With mobile grooming, once you build clientele, everyone is on a standing, rotating schedule and you don’t typically have single, random appointments on a wait list so having a clear cancellation or no–show fee is standard.
Scheduling clients’ times was a tricky thing for me to sort out. I had to learn how long each service was really taking me in the mobile versus the salon. It’s a different setup and there was a learning curve for sure. Since many of my clients have multiple dogs, I decided that having an assistant was beneficial to making the most out of my day. Doing it this way allows us to work on two dogs at once and cut time. I will dry one while the second is being washed. And as I’m cutting and finishing the first, the second or third is ready or on its way to being ready for the trim. That way we can knock out two or three cuts in the time it might normally take to do one or two. I also decided to eliminate very large dogs or more difficult dogs from my schedule, saving time and maximizing my income. This is a personal choice for me and not everyone has to make that choice.
Since I already started to build my mobile client list prior to COVID–19, the rest of my schedule was quickly filled with my salon clients who were now mobile clients. But to get the foundation, social media was a big part of that. Having a presence online today is as important as having a phone number. It allows people to find you, but it also gives you an opportunity to display your talents and show potential customers what you have to offer.
You can use platforms like Facebook or Instagram to post pictures of your grooming. And, you can use Snapchat or TikTok to make videos and cute advertisements to expand your exposure or reach your clients and keep them engaged, or to notify them of new products, services or changes to your business. I highly recommend creating accounts that are separate from your personal ones just for your business and dog-related posts. I take every opportunity to snap pictures of cute pets I groom or capture cute things they do with my phone to post and share on social media for the enjoyment of the pet owners, other groomers and sometimes just for myself.
My point is that using social media as a tool and a way to engage customers, the public and potential clients is a great way to help build your brand and make yourself more visible. Now that I’m mobile, I have more personal interaction directly with clients—mostly via text messaging—but one-on-one nonetheless.
Sometimes difficult situations are blessings in disguise. For me, this change was one that I had thought about in the past but hadn’t really seriously thought about putting into action. It was a change that came about by circumstance, but it was the change that I absolutely needed.
There are some aspects of having the salon that I did enjoy, but it was extremely time (and energy) consuming. I have found a new passion for grooming that I started to lose from being stuck in a routine that had become too repetitive. Being out on the open road, constant changes in scenery and the ability to rearrange my schedule have been a relief for me, and I’m excited for this new chapter in my life. The flexibility is a plus, and the fact that mobile pricing is higher than salon pricing due to the convenience factor is another wonderful perk.
The long and short of it is that, if you’re thinking about going mobile, now is one of the best times to do it. Mobile services have never been more in demand in so many industries, and striking while the iron is hot is always a key to success. Maybe it’s time to consider taking your business to the roads and taking the plunge. Happy grooming, and drive safely! ✂️