2020 was a crazy year to say the least.
I had spent the last 8 years grooming out of salons and shops, but in mid-2020 I was suddenly moving my business into my home.
It was challenging, but also quite liberating.
I’m now the only one in charge. There’s no bosses or traffic. Just me, my dog, and my little grooming room (which was a laundry room just a few months ago).
There were some growing pains and some things I didn’t expect.
Despite the initial difficulties my little business is doing better than ever.
If you want to groom your own dogs at home, or you’re thinking of starting your own business, I want to share my experience doing just that.
Build a Basic Grooming Room
Before you can start grooming you need to get a few basic things in order:
- A bath tub
- Warm running water
- Grooming table (with arm)
- Electricity (with safety features in case it gets wet)
- Temperature controlled room (you don’t want you and your dogs getting too cold / hot)
- Grooming tools and products (clippers, shears, shampoo etc..)
- A way to safely dispose of waste water (drain or pump)
- Good lighting
You can start by using your bathroom tub. Check my full guide on how to bathe your dog properly.
I would recommend you get a table specific for grooming. They’re designed with safety in mind. Just make sure to get the right size and weight capacity for your breed.
You’ll need some good lighting, or you can groom right next to a window.
If you’re grooming in a shed or garage you’ll need to make sure the temperature is controlled and comfortable.
Your space is going to get wet and hairy, so be prepared for that. A shop vac that can vacuum water is a life saver. You might even want plastic wrap or tarp your walls / floors (if they need protecting.)
Of course our clippers need to be powered and ready to go. So we’ll need some electricity and probably an extension cord.
Finally you’ll need all your equipment nearby: Shears, clippers, brushes, etc…
Check With Your Local Laws When Running a Business
Bathing and grooming your own dog at home is no big deal. But what if you’re running a business? You might have clients and dogs coming in and out of your home which could cause some problems.
- Every city / county / state has different rules on running a business from home. Some require special licensing.
- You will need insurance.
- While you’re at it: ask about rules regarding noise, and how to properly dispose of your bath water.
Call your local registry or city services for guidance. Failure to comply with your city bylaws could lead to some hefty fines.
Find The Right Space In Your Home
I was fortunate enough to have a small space right next to the laundry machines. There was a small drain located on the floor. I then used a garden hose adapter on a nearby sink so I could have warm running water to my portable bathtub.
You don’t need a big space, you just need enough room for a grooming table.
Spaces that many home groomers have converted into a grooming salon:
- Small outdoor shed
- Shop or storage space
- One corner of the garage
- An unfinished basement or cellar space with a drain
- A spare bedroom or sun room
- Converted R.V. or trailer
I’m certainly not a handy-woman, but I was able to pick up a few things from the hardware store to turn my laundry room a functioning salon.
Remember, your space is going to get wet, hairy, and humid.
Getting The Right Tools For The Job
Okay we have a space to work in, now we need some tools.
The bare minimum I would recommend is:
- Dog specific hair clippers (such as the Andis AGC 2 or Wahl KM5)
- Clippers Blades (#10 and #5 are good starting lengths)
- Guard comb set
- Brushes (will vary based on your breed)
- A slicker brush
- A greyhound comb
- A pin brush
- Nail clippers (and some Styptic Powder)
- Thinning Shears
- Curved Shears
- Dog shampoo and conditioner
- Some towels for drying
You may not need every single item listed depending on your breed.
For example: grooming a Pitbull doesn’t require shears or brushing. However a Doodle breed will likely need everything.
Of course, we can add items to the list to make our lives much easier. But for now we’ll stick with these basics.
More Helpful Items
- Some poop bags
- A roll of paper towels
- A garbage bin or bucket
- Shop vac (that can vacuum water)
- Shoes (don’t work in socks or barefoot)
- Ceramic Tile (for cooling off your blades/clippers if they get too hot)
The Cost of Getting Started
Starting costs can be a huge hurdle for anyone starting a home business. Even if you’re just trying to groom your own dogs from home there’s some initial setup fee’s.
There’s likely to be some hidden expenses you never thought of.
First, here’s a quick breakdown of your first grooming set:
- Clippers: $100
- Shears: $60
- 3 Clipper Blade Lengths: $60
- Guard Comb Set for Clippers: $30
- Combs/Brushes: $100
- Nail Clippers: $20
- Shampoo/Conditioner: $20
- Table with Arm: $75*
*Grooming tables vary in size, weight restrictions, and features. Which means they vary greatly in cost. Always ensure you’re not exceeding the maximum weight.
Approx. Total Cost = $465
Okay that’s pricey but not terrible. But there’s other things to watch out for.
Blades get dull and need replacement, clippers may die after a few years, and if you drop your shears (even once) you can kiss them goodbye. Taking good care of your tools will save you a lot of money and grief.
If you’re planning on taking in clients then there’s a few other things to consider:
- Water and electricity bills
- Business insurance
- Scheduling software and phone bills
Working during a Pandemic
We have to keep you and your potential clients safe for the foreseeable future. That means taking extra precaution.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with the current situation. Here’s my routine:
- I ask clients to wait in their car when they arrive and to phone/text me.
- I’ll wear a mask and retrieve the dog in the driveway.
- I’ll do a very quick inspection of the dog right there, and ask the client what they would like done.
- I then let my client know approximately how long it will take, and that I’ll phone/text them when they’re ready for pick up.
- I’ll continue to wear a mask until the dog has gotten their bath.
- After the dog is picked-up I wipe everything down (tools, table, floor, etc…) and do a very thorough cleanup.
- At the end of the day I clean the clothes, mask, and smock I wore.
Starting A Grooming Business At Home
Once you’re feeling proud of your grooms and you know all your breed trims, it’s time to start pulling in some clients.
I can say from my own experience that word travels fast when your dogs look good.
Great looking grooms = Word of mouth = More clients and bigger tips
Sending dogs home happy and looking beautiful tends to catch the eyes of friends, family, and even the neighbors.
Posting pictures of happy groomed dogs on social media always grabs attention as well.
Your First Clients
Getting your very first clients may be a bit of a hassle in 2020. Thankfully, we can still socially distance while we garner some interest.
Here’s how I was able to fully book my schedule in short notice:
Without a doubt the best way to get new clients in 2021 is to reach out to your local vet clinic and pet stores. Anything within a 1-mile distance of you. I contacted my own vet and told them I was grooming from home, and within a week I had 5 new clients.
Make business card magnets. Walk around your neighborhood and stick them to light posts, public mailboxes, or wherever people are out walking their dogs.
Get a logo and phone number decal for your car. Park in front your house so it’s easy for people to find you.
Apps and Technology
Make sure you have a good looking website, check out Squarespace or Wix for easy website building. Your business name (and website address) should be easy to remember and spell.
Get on Facebook and Instagram and check out groups or hashtags for your local neighborhoods or cities. Leave comments, engage, and make friends. Careful not to just spam your business everywhere, that tends to get you banned.
People love cute pictures, and potential customers will want to see pictures of your finished dogs. Keep a Facebook and Instagram up to date with your latest and greatest.
Keeping Organized With Technology
Since you won’t have your own receptionist, it’s important to stay organized and up-to-date with the latest apps.
Get a scheduling system – I personally use MoeGo. It’s a fantastic pet grooming app that keeps your clients and appointments organized. I’m not affiliated, I just really love their app.
Finally, you need a convenient way for people to pay you. In that case you can use Cashapp, Paypal, or Clover. Personally I use Square so I can process credit cards in-person. Of course you can just accept money the old fashioned way.
Learning To Groom in 2023
Of course we can’t use any of these tools unless we have the proper training.
In normal times I would recommend you find an entry job, internship, or a mentor to teach you everything you need to know. Unfortunately, 2020/2021 hasn’t been ‘normal’ by any means.
You may feel disheartened by today’s climate.
That’s the main reason I created the Primpaws Grooming Academy
I was incredibly lucky to have mentors in my life that taught me everything I know.
In 2020 we have to change the way we learn. I didn’t just want to make a course, but create a community where myself and other groomers could give you the same level of mentorship I received.
Let me tell you – there’s a lot of frustration when you’re just starting out.
The grooming academy is designed to help you avoid common mistakes when starting, build a rock solid foundation, and then grow with the advice of award winning groomers.
- Find a space in your home that’s suitable for grooming. Be warned: that room will very likely get wet and hairy.
- If you plan to take in clients make sure you follow the rules: get insurance, and check your state laws.
- Assemble all your tools and grooming supplies. Go through my checklist. There’s some upfront costs but it’s a long term investment.
- Even during the pandemic you can still engage and find new clients through online groups or having nearby pet businesses refer to you.
- We launched an Online Grooming School, with hours of video training and a community of students.