Road to Success

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Opening up a full-scale, brick-and-mortar pet grooming salon can be daunting. The challenges involved range from having to secure a location to buying equipment and supplies to finding reliable employees. Yet, while a groomer can evade some of these challenges by going the mobile route, launching a mobile grooming business can be just as intimidating.

With this in mind, Grooming Business magazine recently spoke with John Stockman, national sales manager for Wag'n Tails Mobile Conversions, a Granger, Ind.-based company that outfits and supplies grooming vans, to find out what potential mobile groomers fear the most about the prospect. Read on to find out what spooks people on the outset of such a venture, and why, if they do their homework, they should fear not.




Wag 'N Tails client Kimberly Wiles operates Groomer Girl Mobile Pet Grooming, in Draper, Utah.



Gromming Business: When people are thinking about going into mobile grooming, what is the single biggest worry or concern that they grapple with before taking the plunge or deciding against it?

John Stockman:
"Am I going to be able to get clients?" That's what they worry about most—which is probably the easiest the part. There is just so much demand for the service. If they look around, they are going to see lawn-care companies, maid services, grocery services, laundry services—all types of things people can do themselves, but don't. People can clean their own pool, cut their own grass and clean their own house, but they don't. The reason they don't is because their time is more valuable to them than their money.

It's basically just a function of convenience, but what drives that convenience is that people don't have time. The kids have activities, both parents work, and so any time they can get some family time, they are happy to write a check for it. Time is so valuable to people, since everybody is going in 70 million directions at once.

Still, targeting the right people is key. Something that goes hand-in-hand with that is pricing—it determines the type of people you attract. If you are trying to go out there and be a discount groomer, you are going to attract the wrong customer. It is a premium, at-home service, so you need to charge a premium price. When you do that, you'll attract the right kind of clientele—people who need time.


GB: Any thoughts on marketing or advertising to build up that clientele?

Stockman: You don't need to do a lot of marketing or advertising in the traditional sense. Basically, it comes down to having eye-catching graphics on the side of your van and networking. By networking I mean making sure that the pet shops in town know about you, that the veterinarians know about you, and that you work that network. You don't just call them once to say, 'Here, I am.' You go by, you show them the van and you stop in once a month as your building your business.

What we see—and we are selling 12 to 15 of these vans a month—is that somewhere in the neighborhood of six to nine months these mobile groomers are filling up, if they are doing it right. So, with 150 pets, you have fully booked a mobile. It's not like a shop, where you have to have thousands of clients, because your groom cycle is so much shorter in a mobile unit—simply because the client doesn't have to do anything. Most people will be on a four to six week groom cycle. If you figure, six dogs a day, five days a week, that comes out to about 150 to 180 pets. And I emphasize pets, because a lot of our clientele is going to have more than one pet. Mobile really lends itself well to multiple pet households. They aren't loading up two dogs in the car, or taking one and then another on different days of the week.