How to start a dog grooming business in 11 steps
Love spending time with dogs big and small? Then owning your own dog grooming business may be the right pet business idea for you. Not only do you get to enjoy the company of pups all day, but you get to earn a living helping them to look their best.
If you’ve been contemplating starting a business in the pet industry and think a dog grooming business may be the right choice, read through this guide. We’ll cover the steps you need to take to get started and give you some ideas to help you grow your business once it’s open.
Let’s jump right in!
How profitable is a dog grooming business?
Dog groomers running their own business earn a median hourly salary of about $15, or $30,000 per year. However, you may stand to earn far more than that. In fact, depending on the number of dogs you book and the consistency of your bookings, you could make anywhere from $45,000 up to $100,000 or more. Celebrity dog groomers can even earn over $200,000 per year.
Your exact income may vary from these numbers, but you can see from the range that dog grooming has the potential to be a very profitable business to run.
How many dogs can I groom in a day?
Professional groomers can generally handle between 6 and 8 dogs per day, depending on the complexity of each grooming job. If you plan to hire additional help, you may be able to take on many more dogs than that per day. However, if you are a new dog groomer and plan to work alone, you may also consider booking fewer dogs per day to start.
What are the benefits of starting a dog grooming business?
You get to spend time with dogs all day, every day
If you are an animal lover with a big love of dogs, dog grooming is a happy and natural fit for you.
You get to set your own schedule and rules
If you open your own pet business, you’ll get to set your own hours. This is a great choice for those balancing busy lives filled with kids, caretaking responsibilities, and even another job.
You also get to determine how you will run your shop. This includes choosing the services you offer, setting shop protocols, and selecting the types of dog breeds you serve or specialize in.
You can build a strong client base
People love their pups; they want to take care of them and ensure they look and feel their best. Your potential client base is excited about finding a top-notch dog groomer. Once they find you and love you, they’re likely to return to you again and again.
How many people does it take to start a pet grooming business?
You can start your pet care business all on your own! You may choose to hire employees in the future as your business grows, but dog grooming is an excellent choice for you if you are interested in opening and running your business solo.
How much does it cost to start a dog grooming business?
Typical dog grooming businesses can get started for around $20,000. This amount will vary up or down depending on the dog grooming training you choose, the quality of equipment you buy, and the type of dog grooming business you run. For example, a mobile business (meaning you go to the client’s own home to perform your pet grooming services) may cost you less in overhead than opening a storefront.
Can I start a dog grooming business with no experience?
Dog grooming may be more complex than it looks on the surface. Before you open your business, you’ll want to know how to trim nails, care for different types of dog hair, perform breed-specific haircuts, clean ears, and work with temperamental or timid dogs. This means you’ll need training.
You can get this training in a trade school setting or working as an apprentice. A trade school may cost you up to $3,000. On the other hand, an apprenticeship may allow you to earn an income with on-the-job training.
However you choose to train, you must learn all the skills you need to provide high-quality services to your customers. While it may mean delaying your opening date until you have this kind of training, it can also mean a more successful business long term.
Steps to starting a successful dog grooming business
1) Business plan
Writing a business plan helps you stay on track while developing your business. It can also help you secure financing from banks and other investors, should you need it.
The following sections are essential to include in your business plan.
- Executive summary: A high-level overview of your entire business plan. Explain your vision for the business and your proposed business model.
- Industry analysis: This is the place to detail any market research findings you’ve uncovered. Where are the trends and gaps? What opportunity do you think you can capitalize on to make your business a success?
- Competitive analysis: Who are your competitors? Share their strengths and weaknesses and how you will differentiate yourself.
- Marketing plan: Detail your ideal customer base and how you intend to market to them. What channels will you use? What is your brand identity? How will you drive traffic into your shop?
- Management: How do you intend to manage your business? As a sole proprietor? An LLC? Will you hire employees, and what roles and responsibilities will they have?
- Operations: How will the day-to-day run? What services will you offer, and how will you offer them? How do you plan to maintain the equipment, books, and other aspects of the business to ensure a successful and consistent customer experience?
- Financial plan: How will the business make money? How will it scale over time? What are your startup costs? How will you maintain cash flow? Share your projected revenue for your first 5 years in business to show an upward trajectory that can get investors excited about partnering with you.
2) Business structure
You will need to register as a business entity. You will need to choose one of the 4 main business structures for your dog grooming business. These are:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability Company (LLC)
Examine each of these options as well as their sub-categories. Select the best one for you based on your unique business goals and objectives.
3) Business name
Your business name will appear on all your marketing materials. It will identify you to your potential customers. This means that a dog-specific grooming business like yours should not include misleading words like the names of other animals or other types of work. Instead, your dog grooming business name should be:
- Easy to say and spell
- Simple to remember
- Indicative of your type of business (Including the words “dog” and “grooming” or their synonyms is a great idea)
- Aligned with your brand
You can use a business name generator if you need it to help you brainstorm. When you think you’ve found the right name, be sure that the matching website domain and social media handles are available.
4) Ideal clients
As a dog groomer, you serve dogs and their pet parents. That already cuts your market down considerably. However, there’s still more work to do to determine the type of clients you really want to have. After all, there are many types of dogs and many types of pet owners, and perhaps only a certain segment of those is a fit for your business.
To clarify your ideal client, ask yourself a few questions.
- What dog breeds do I want to specialize in?
- Are there any dog breeds I know I don’t want to work with?
- What are the top 3 services I want to offer?
- Do I have a specialty service no one else offers? What type of dog needs that service?
- Do I wish to offer luxury services?
- What is the lifestyle of the client I most want to serve?
- How does their dog fit into that lifestyle?
From your answers to these and other questions, you can see that there may be a specific type of clientele that your grooming business speaks to more than others. This does not mean that you can’t attract clients of all kinds to your business, but knowing your target audience will help you hone your marketing to magnetize that ideal client the most.
5) Niche, unique value proposition, and branding
A niche relates to your positioning in the marketplace. Do you cater to high-end clientele? Do you specialize in very large dog breeds? Are you the only mobile dog groomer in town?
Your niche helps customers understand why they would choose you over another business. Look at your ideal client, your market research, and your competitive research to determine the right niche for you.
Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
A UVP is the benefit customers get when they work with you that they may not find elsewhere. This can be an additional free service you offer to every dog that other businesses charge for. It could be that you guarantee their dog will be groomed and ready to go within a certain amount of time.
Whatever it is, you will want to lead with your UVP on your marketing materials. Just like with your niche, look at your business research to determine what you can offer that will set you apart from your competition.
Your branding is another way for you to speak to your ideal clients. It can help clarify who you are in the marketplace and should be consistent across all your marketing channels, including your website, business cards, and how you decorate your shop.
A solid brand includes deciding on your:
- Color palette
- Messaging style and tone
- Mission statement
- Ideal clients
A brand takes time to build, and consistency is key. For example, if your customers come to know you as “the hot pink dog groomer” because your brand’s main color is hot pink, you do not want to change your marketing materials to feature green instead.
Branding is one of the most important and potentially influential parts of your business, so take your time to develop a brand that excites you and speaks to your target client base.
6) Grooming services
There are many different services you can offer in a dog grooming business. Your specific set of services will be partially determined by all the work you’ve done up to this point to learn about your clients, your competition, and gaps in your market.
Here is a list of services you could provide to give you some inspiration as you build your list of service offerings:
- Eye and ear cleaning
- Tooth cleaning
- Nail trimming
- Hair trimming
- Deep conditioning
- Skin therapy
- Specialty cuts (Poodle cut, Westie cut, etc.)
- Flea treatment
- Mobile dog grooming
7) Grooming equipment
You will need some basic equipment to open up your grooming salon. Here are some items to think about as you build your list of equipment needs.
For the grooming:
- Grooming tables
- Fur dryers
- Bathing tubs
- Grooming hose
- Shower attachments
- Dog brushes
- Combs, shears, and grooming clippers
- Nail clippers
- Nail grinders
- Various shampoo and conditioning products
- Ear cleaning products and tools
- Bandanas and bows (to make Fido feel fancy!)
For shop management and maintenance:
- Washing machines and dryers
- Face masks
- Hand sanitizer
- Cleaning products
- Point of Sale system (POS)
- Bookkeeping software
- Brooms, mops, vacuum cleaner
You will need to finance your operation somehow. This can be by using personal savings, raising money from family and friends, getting a bank loan (note that you may need certain types of insurance coverage to qualify for a bank loan), or securing investment from outside investors. Review your business plan to see which method of financing makes the most sense for you.
Insurance is a vital part of any business, including a dog grooming business. You will need several industry-specific policies to ensure you’re properly covered. This is in addition to standard insurance policies such as workers’ compensation (if you have employees) that may be required by law.
In general, you may find you need to following forms of coverage:
- General Liability Insurance: This policy protects your business if you are sued for injury or property damage.
- Business Property Insurance: This form of insurance specifically covers your business equipment.
- Business Interruption: If you must cease operations for a covered reason, business interruption will supplement your lost income.
- Business Owner's Policy: A Business Owner’s Policy bundles several policies. It may include general liability, business property insurance, and business interruption coverage.
- Workers' Compensation: If you choose to have employees in your business, worker’s comp will cover you if one of them gets sick or injured while on the job. Workers’ comp is easier to get than ever; you can even purchase workers’ comp online. If you want a quick estimate of your workers’ comp premium, try Huckleberry’s 60-second workers' compensation calculator.
10) Paperwork, licenses, permits, and accounts
Before you’re ready to open your dog grooming business, you’ll need to do a couple more things.
- Register your business name: Head to the Small Business Administration (SBA) website to register your business name.
- Get your Employer Identification Number (EIN): Your EIN is like a Social Security Number (SSN) for your grooming business. It grants you several benefits, so don’t wait to get yours.
- File for your business license: Check with your state for instructions to get your business license.
- Employee paperwork: If you want to hire an employee or a contractor, you’ll need to download necessary hiring forms such as a W-4 and W-9.
- Open a business credit card and business bank account: A business bank account and credit card separate your personal and professional finances. This makes tax time much easier. A credit card can also provide you with additional financing should you need it.
- Be sure to check with your state government for any other licensing requirements you must fulfill to open your business legally.
11) Marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy will help you attract business and keep your clients coming back to you time and again. Here are a few ways you can market to your ideal clients.
Your website is an essential marketing asset for your business. It should be well-designed, user-friendly, quick to load, branded, and optimized for mobile and desktop.
You may have a multi-page site or a simple one-page website. It all depends on what your customers need to gain the necessary information to feel confident to choose you to groom their dog.
Some vital pieces of information you want on your website include:
- Your business name
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- A clear way to contact you
- A short description of your business, what you do, and who you serve
- A way for people to sign up to receive emails from you (a subscription form will do the trick)
Email is still one of the best ways to stay in touch with your customers and earn new business. Regularly send promotions, important updates, and helpful doggie grooming maintenance tips to your list. This keeps you in the mind of your clients and develops a relationship with them over time.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is one of the best ways to grow and clarify your brand and develop your community. Choose a social media platform that aligns with your brand and is loved by your ideal clients.
A visual platform like Instagram is a great choice for a dog grooming business. Leverage stories, posts, and reels to share your work, show before and after pictures, and inspire joy through dog grooming content.
Some other main social media platforms you can use in your business include:
Google My Business helps customers find you when searching locally for a dog grooming business. When people in your area need a dog groomer, they’re far more likely to find you if you’re on Google My Business than if you are not.
You will need a physical address to register, so if you are a mobile grooming business, make sure you still have an appropriate business address you can use. It’s also very important to keep your contact information consistent across all platforms on which it appears.
If you refer to your address as “176th Street” on your website, you don’t want to submit “176th St.” to Google My Business. Keep it the same everywhere and make the Google algorithm happy.
Word-of-mouth and referrals
As a dog groomer, you run a local business, which means you can leverage the local community to grow. Offer a referral program to your clients to drive new business to your shop. You can also encourage clients to tag you on social media when they share pictures or posts of their dog after a trip to your grooming business.
Other ways to market
Feel free to get creative and resourceful with your marketing. For example, you can leave flyers and business cards at places like dog parks or connect with complementary businesses like dog walking businesses and cross-promote with them on social media. Whatever it takes to spread the word about your business and attract the attention of your ideal pet owners.
You’ve done it! You know the first few steps you need to take to get your dog grooming business up and running. Congratulations on your choice to go into business for yourself, and best of luck as you build, open, and grow your new dog grooming business.
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