Taking the Plunge: Home-Based to Storefront

Ask the Grooming Tutor

By Michell Evans

“Hello Michell. I have been grooming since I was 15. I went to grooming school in NYC out of high school and have been doing it ever since (I’m now 30). I worked for two storefronts and a vet’s office but have been working out of my home for six years now. I am thinking of making the leap to my own storefront.

I get so many mixed reviews on Facebook on how you should stick to home–based because overhead is low. Last Christmas I burnt myself out and I recently hired a bather. I know you worked out of your home and went to a storefront. What is your advice? Should I stay small and stay grooming at home or should I make the leap to storefront? I feel like I am getting so much anxiety from deciding on what I want to do. I think if I have a storefront I can take off and still make money with hired groomers. What were your reasons for leaving your home–based shop and into a storefront?” 
—Danielle 

Hi Danielle. There are so many things to consider when trying to decide between a home–based salon and a storefront salon; your physical abilities, financial abilities, employee management skills, business management skills and personal demands on your time, just to name a few. And please know whether your local laws allow to groom from your home. 

I am still very physically capable as a 47–year–old groomer. I have only typical 47–year–old ailments—nothing specifically caused by grooming. When I decided to relocate to Portland, Oregon six years ago, I decided that opening a grooming salon with a storefront would be my best way forward. As you mentioned, I had an in–home studio in New Mexico. That served me well while I was off competing in grooming contests. I had no business–related concerns while away. I too have worked in storefronts and for a veterinarian. 

I have been grooming for over 30 years now and consider myself lucky that I am physically capable of grooming dogs full time with no bather. I do not say this to brag. I know that I am fortunate. I suspect that I will cut back more and more as I get older. So many groomers are forced to reduce their grooming or quit grooming entirely because their bodies just can’t do it. 

I will be 50 years old soon and I know that making an income in the profession of dog grooming is going to come more from my ability to teach, manage and encourage my staff and followers than it will from me actually grooming dogs. My body was certainly better able to cope with the physical demands of grooming when I was your age. If you are like me, you will probably be able to do an extraordinary amount of physical work without much consequence until you hit 40. Something about 40, it is just different. Trust me. 

It takes a lot of money to develop or purchase a pet grooming salon. You need to be sure that you are financially able to carry the business for a few years with relatively low income. Typically, the lion’s share of the profit goes right back into the business for the first several years. While it is true that grooming salons can be put together with a small amount of equipment, business growth requires more and more new equipment, equipment repairs, supplies and support–staff. You can pretty much plan on five years of building with minimal income—and if it takes less than that, great! 

You are at a good age to start a long–term plan. If you can have your salon up and running and making a decent living for you by the time you are 40 years old, then you can do less physical labor and more employee managing. Slow down and create a budget. Include your salary (which covers all of your personal bills, spending, vacation days, retirement and savings), all business loan payments, all expenses, utilities, rent, taxes, insurances, supplies, savings for an emergency fund and everything else you can think of. Do the math. How many pets and employees will it take? How long do you expect it to take to get there? Compare that to your current income/spending ratio. This may help you decide. 

If you decide to employ groomers, bathers, receptionists, managers etc., the way you make a living will change from being a groomer to being a manager. While you may be able to do some grooming, your new job is to keep all of your employees happily making money for your business. I find that it takes way more energy and is way more disruptive to my personal life to manage people than it is to simply do haircuts. 

Salon culture is something that you need to cultivate and nurture at all times. Your job is to keep morale and productivity high. You can never complain in front of your employees. You are the leader. You are the one they look to for information about how to get the most job satisfaction. Sure, there are plenty of salon owners who do not take it quite so seriously. 

I believe that you will make better income if you dedicate yourself to your new management roll. There are millions of educational programs on how to be the best employer or manager you can be. This is because happy, healthy employees are productive employees. Productive employees make money, not only for you, but for themselves, too. 

When you own a business, you are on–call. You may have an excellent staff who can handle really tough challenges without you, but you are ultimately the only person responsible for the things going on in your salon. While you are away, they may be able to handle things, but when you get back, you have to take it upon yourself to manage each situation that occurred in your absence. 

Customer service depends on your procedures, staff and ultimately yourself. Many people rely on you to make good decisions and be a positive role model every day; the pets, pet owners and employees all rely on you.

If you want to be a dog groomer, stay in your home. If you want to make a living managing other people and situations, open a storefront. Often this decision is made for us by financial demands, physical limitations or lifestyle changes. Both options offer many rewards—albeit different rewards. At home, your income relies mostly on your own physical labor. In a storefront salon, your income relies on your ability to run a good, clean business with happy employees, pets and customers.

Good luck with your decision!
—Michell ✂️

Have a question you want Michell to answer? Please send questions to [email protected]