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How to Start a Dog Grooming Business

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A small dog being groomed in a shop in Tokyo
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Dog grooming salons can be a profitable option for those looking to start a business in the animal service industry.

Training

To be a successful dog groomer you must acquire the necessary skills, either by completing a formal grooming program, shadowing an established professional, or through experience gained in the world of dog showing. Professional courses usually include approximately 300 hours of study.

Business Considerations

The first step is to form your business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation. There are tax and liability considerations for each type of business entity, so it is wise to consult with an accountant or attorney to evaluate which options will best suit a grooming business.

Next, you have to determine whether you will operate out of a retail space or a mobile grooming salon. Most dog groomers rent a storefront from a commercial real estate company or convert a building on their property to accommodate grooming activities. Mobile grooming is an increasingly popular trend but requires a significant investment to upgrade a van with the necessary equipment.

You may decide to rent a space in an established salon, open your own salon and operate as a solo practitioner, or open your own salon and invite other groomers to rent space in your location.

Purchasing Equipment

One of the most substantial start-up costs for a grooming salon is the purchase of equipment. Necessary basic equipment for grooming businesses includes clippers, shears, scissors, brushes, shampoos, conditioners, sprays, dryers, nail clippers, ear cleaning products, bandanas, and bows. Salons also are usually equipped with washing machines, dryers, bathtubs, professional grooming tables, and cages.

Marketing

Once of the most important factors in making your dog grooming business successful is to distinguish it from the competition. You need to develop a memorable name and logo that customers will remember.

There are many advertising options to generate buzz for a new dog grooming business. You can send out flyers, catalogs, or post cards to potential clients in your area (the post office has a variety of local direct mailing options). You can also leave advertising items and business cards at dog parks, pet boutiques, or veterinary clinics.

A web site with a weekly newsletter is also a great way to advertise and keep clients informed. Be sure to include special offers and coupons to give potential clients an incentive to try out your services. Consider putting print ads with coupons on Craigslist, in local magazines, and in local newspapers.

Dog groomers may choose to network with veterinarians, dog trainers, dog walkers, and doggie daycare owners to gain and give referrals. You might also consider giving away gift certificates to your salon as a part of animal rescue charity fundraisers or other community events.

Word of mouth will be a major factor in advertising your business as it becomes established. Satisfied customers tend to refer their friends to your business, and eventually this will become a major source of revenue.

Pricing Services

When determining the prices for grooming services it is wise to research the current rates in your area. Your prices should fall into a similar range so your business will be competitive, and it is smart to price slightly lower when first establishing a clientele to encourage customers to give you a chance. Offering a special discount rate to first time visitors is another sure way to get new clients in the door.

It is also important to consider the breed of dog, the type of cut required, and the time it takes to complete the grooming service when establishing your rate.

Industry Growth

The U.S. pet industry is expected to command $50.84 billion dollars in 2011, according to the American Pet Product Association. The category of “other pet services” (which includes grooming) commanded 3.79 billion of that revenue in 2011, and is projected to increase to $4.11 billion for 2012.

Pet services are the fastest growing sector of the pet industry; the APPA survey projects that pet services will grow at a rate of 8.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. Other categories in the APPA survey are also projected to show overall growth albeit at slower rates: supplies/medication revenue growing at a rate of 6.7 percent, food revenue growing at a rate of 3.1 percent, and veterinary revenue increasing at a rate of 1.3 percent.

Dog grooming businesses should show continued profitability as owners continue to increase their spending across the board on care and services for their pets.

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