Should You Make the Switch to Mobile Grooming?
If there’s one thing that can be almost universally agreed upon, it’s that consumers will seek out whatever services offer them the most convenience. So, it should come as no surprise that the grooming salons that withstand the test of time are are those that are best able to cater to their clients. While brick-and-mortar is certainly one way to go in that pursuit, mobile grooming presents an entirely different, and potentially more lucrative, opportunity. You see, the convenience of mobile grooming extends beyond being convenient just for clients—it’s easier for the groomer, as well.
“There is less to clean, you are not confined to one location and owners are available as soon as you are finished with your work, so the animal is not stuck in a kennel in a noisy salon,” says Chavez-Rey. “Also, the noise and energy levels are significantly less.”
Additionally, there’s no worrying about rent or even paying other stylists in a brick-and-mortar salon, as mobile groomers are their own bosses.
“You can work however much you want to, schedule the days you want to work, make your own hours, take off when you want to,” explains Cindy Oliver, owner/groomer of The Rollin’ Doghouse Mobile Pet Grooming in Cleveland, Tenn. and an Andis small animal educator. “You also make 100 percent on your grooming.”
Of course, getting a mobile grooming operation isn’t as easy as purchasing a van, liquidating the storefront and calling it a day. It’s an upfront investment, whether the groomer is buying a new unit or creating their own.
“If buying a new unit, you will need a minimum of a 10 percent down for payment,” explains Dana Chavez-Rey, co-founder of A Purrfect Groom Mobile Pet Salon in West Sacramento, Calif. and an Andis small animal educator. “If you are not an established groomer and you are starting out fresh, there is more expense as you will need your own equipment.”
She explains that the equipment includes, but is not limited to, blades, clippers, nail trimmer, scissors, combs and brushes, in addition to general supplies, such as shampoo and towels. After considering all these factors and getting insurance, the average start-up cost for a new mobile business is $10,000 to $15,000. And, of course, there’s always the little things that pop up sometimes unexpectedly.
“The No. 1 aspect I did not anticipate was making sure to find good vehicle support services,” says Chavez-Rey. “Too many times our business had to be taken off the road due to mechanical difficulties that could’ve been easily avoided by having a prepared service shop.”
When that occasion inevitably occurs—and it will—Oliver suggests having a “rainy day” fund already in place to cover the expenses and minimizes losses.
A Moving Billboard
The biggest factor is success and profitability is securing a client base that will help pay the expenses. The advantage to mobile grooming is that not a lot of money has to be continually invested into marketing as, “the van is a mobile business card,” says Chavez-Rey.
“The graphics on the van are enough to keep us busy, as we have our website and phone number listed there,” she continues. “We do have a dedicated website for our business where customers can register and to request to be put on our client list. We also use Facebook and Instagram to promote our finished work, posting photos of our client’s groomed dogs to draw in new customers.”
That said, maintaining a website is a luxury, not a necessity. As Oliver hit the ground running before the social media era, she explains that all her advertising was relatively organic.
“I still believe the best advertisement is word of mouth,” she explains. “In 2009, I started using Facebook, but at that point I was already booked up. I have never had a website.”
While marketing may not be a necessary venture, promotions are still an important part of keeping business running and customers happy.
“One of the best promotions to build your clientele is a referral program,” explains Oliver. “$5-10 off grooming for each referral. Offer grooming packages, de-shedding programs and other promotions to hook them in.”
For those interested but wary, Chavez-Rey recommends networking with your peers to get a feel for your area and see if you can get a ride-along in a mobile salon.
“I would tell them to ask questions to other mobile groomers,” she continues. “See if you can shadow and ride with a mobile groomer in your area for a day and see how it works and see if you like it. Mobile is not for everybody. If it's for you, then take the plunge and do it!”