How to Start Your Own Mobile Pet Grooming Business

Before you get started, our industry insider shares some must-know info.
Mobile pet grooming
When starting your own mobile pet grooming business, a good grooming van is the place to start. (Photo: Titanas/Flickr)

U.S. pet owners spent more than $60 billion on their furry loved ones in 2015, allocating more than $5 billion to grooming and boarding. One of the emerging trends in this segment of pet services is mobile pet grooming – and if you are thinking of starting a pet­-centric business, it might be a great bet.

John Stockman is the national sales manager of Wag’n Tails, the industry leader in the mobile pet grooming industry. He lays out how you can get your business off the ground and offers a few tips on how to make sure it’s a profitable enterprise.

Go to grooming school

While you don’t need to be an expert in the business aspects of running a mobile grooming service to succeed, you do need experience handling and servicing pets, and grooming school will give you a solid foundation.

“Every month we take people right out of grooming school who’ve never run a business in their life and just learned how to groom,” Stockman said. “We put them in a van and they’re successful, but you can’t cut corners in this business [by skipping grooming school].”

Choose the right van for you

There are several options for grooming vans. Wag’n Tails, which Stockman estimates produces 80­90 percent of the world’s mobile grooming vans, says the key is understanding what you need and what you don’t need in your van.

“Everything you need to make this business work is standard to the base model,” Stockman said. “We don’t want to sell you something you don’t need as that does nobody any good.”

The Wag’n Tails base model’s all­-in price is around $80,000, but Stockman said good credit and $10,000 down gets you what you need to start the business through financing packages. There are also plenty of options for used vans.

The most expensive van is around $100,000, but “they tend to be bought by veterans in mobile grooming or by those who’ve run shops and don’t want to deal with the brick and mortar stores anymore,” Stockman said.

Don’t forget about insurance

A recent article in Groomer to Groomer magazine quoted Jeff Reynolds, executive director of National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc. saying he estimates up to 60 percent of groomers aren’t properly insured. Don’t be part of the majority.

Insurance isn’t as expensive as you might think, and it can save your business should things go wrong. “Insurance isn’t a very big expense,” Stockman said. “For mobile it normally runs about $200 per month for vehicle, contents, accident liability and pet liability, which is generally a $1 million umbrella.”

Understand what your clientele wants

Mobile pet grooming has been around for more than 40 years, but the clientele hasn’t changed as much as you’d think. Your targets should be people who view pets as members of the family. These clients are focused on convenience, and mobile pet grooming plays perfectly into both of those areas.

“This business is completely convenience­-driven,” Stockman said.

“Loading up animals in a car, taking them to a groomer and then going back to pick them up is too time consuming. Mobile groomers give their clients something no one else can give them and that’s the gift of time.”

Don’t price yourself too low

Mobile pet grooming is a premium, at-­home service. It’s only profitable when you price it correctly. Mobile groomers can’t price themselves in line with brick and mortar shops because of logistics and what is being offered. Instead of a $45 service, the price should be closer to $75, Stockman says. That means grooming six pets each day as opposed to 12­14. The clientele is affluent, and the concept is based around pampering one’s pet, which is what this market demands.

“The whole idea is to provide one­-on­-one service to the pet and to pamper it,” Stockman said. “The biggest misconception of mobile groomers is they don’t understand the concept of providing a premium, at-­home service and charging premium prices for it. You can’t price yourself on brick and mortar grooming shops because you’ll wind up working yourself to death trying to make a living.”

Know how (and where) to market your van

Marketing your mobile dog grooming business isn’t as expensive as you might think since it’s done in two main areas, both of which are affordable.

“You need to get eye­-catching graphics on the outside of the van because that’s going to be 90 percent of your advertising,” Stockman said. “You also must network with veterinarians, pet-­friendly apartment complexes and any area that caters to pets or those who have them. You don’t need to advertise in the traditional sense to make your mobile pet grooming business work, and I wouldn’t deal with Groupon deals as once you start at that price point, it’s very hard to raise it.”

Define your territory and stick with it

Mobile groomers must understand the logistics involved in scheduling clients as well as their own territorial limitations. Outside of pricing your service too low, Stockman said the other key mistake groomers often make is overextending their territory. As a general rule, you only need a five-­mile radius to fully book your van.

“It’s really tempting when you start out to go to a part of town that you don’t plan on servicing because you want to generate some income, but zigzagging all over the city is going to burn gas and time,” Stockman said. “People will call and ask about your base price, and 70­80 percent of the people aren’t going to pay that kind of money. You have to learn to stick to your guns.”

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