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New Grooming Business-Help Appreciated

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  • New Grooming Business-Help Appreciated

    Hello all,

    My partner and I (26 & 27) recently finished an 8 month long grooming program and are currently trying to start our grooming business from home in Upstate NY. We would like to advance to mobile in the future, but for now are trying to get our feet on the ground and cover all our bases. We've spent some time browsing the forum, but many opinions are conflicting. We have a couple questions and would sincerely appreciate any help/tips:

    -Who is responsible for the vet costs if there's an accident with someone's dog? My partner and I are inclined to feel as if we should cover the costs, but so many example forms from other groomers have stated they are not liable for the vet services, the pet owner is.

    -Best liability insurance? A Governor's plan was mentioned in another post, but we are fuzzy on all the details and were wondering if there were other insurances anyone could recommend as well, so that we may get a few quotes.

    -How much do you charge overtime if someone doesn't get their dog on time? We would like to work with pet owners as we know that life can be chaotic sometimes, and sometimes you just run behind. However, since we DO have appointments booked back to back, we don't want some clients getting in the habit of leaving their dogs with us for half an hour or more like we are a doggy day care service as it will cut into other appointments :/

    -Do you charge extra if you find fleas? How much?

    -Any general tips on pricing would also be greatly appreciated as we are struggling a little with that. We thank you all so much for your time and look forward to speaking with you! .

  • #2
    Vet costs: If you injure a dog you are going to be responsible. So many forms won't hold up in court. You cannot ask people to sign away their consumer rights, period. Make sure you have professional liability insurance aka malpractice but in grooming I notice when I got Governors Insurance my policy says professional liability. That is different than liability for fire with a landlord or your house people falling down. If you are working at home make sure you are compatible with operating a business in your home, be clear with your insurance people. Finally said here many times many insurance companies don't cover professional liability, talk to grooming insurance specialists.

    You cannot bill vet costs to employees even if it was their error.

    Personally I don't bill my customers for coming back late. I do tell them when to come back and we expect them by that time. Rarely is anyone back later than 30 minutes to an hour. That's me and I have a 4 groomer business by not being so rigid. But I understand what you are saying and some people if they don't wait at your place need at least 30 minutes grace. We are flexible with our clientele within reason. When they do go over we remind them of our policies and usually it stops. Threatening with fines can lose you some customers who just needed a warning.

    My opinion again, why would I charge extra for fleas? The defleaing product is no more expensive really.

    You are going to have to survey what you think other shops are charging and don't mix mobile prices with shop or home groomers. You want to at least be in the middle or higher, competitive but what you need. Did you write a business plan? You input prices and expenses and see what works. Every business should have some sort of financials and forecasts specific to their business and its costs.

    Wish you the best. Good info at and ask more questions here as you go along. Lots of good business groomers here.


    • #3
      Forgot look at national surveys here that admin does of this board.
      Prices can go all over the map depending upon where you are but this helps.


      • #4
        Hello. I would write a plan too, I did. It takes time to grow a business so it may not give you enough money for awhile to live in. Have you plotted that and have savings or something? Here is a warning, many people that become your customers you may lose them. Mobile grooming costs more. So you will build up the home business only to lose many of them not willing to pay for $20 to $30 more per groom when you go mobile. Why not start mobile early on. Buy starter vans. Link I think is and look at used mobile. Maybe one of you can groom at home, and one other expand with mobile?

        At the top of the page there is a link to Choice Plus insurance and somewhere there is on the net Pet Biz Insurance. True very few places specialize in grooming liability insurance.

        I have no late charges for customers returning late but then most come back in the time we ask. If they are an hour late that's ok as long as it is not past closing time.

        No extra charge for fleas ever. Really doesn't add time to the groom.


        • #5
          Most groomers don't open a business right away. I got 3 plus years experience first. In most education programs you really don't get all the kinds of dogs and situations galore that you will face as a business owner. Did you consider that? Welcome by the way!!


          • #6
            Biggest and most important question is it legal to work at home? More and more and more if you are not rural it is getting harder. In gated communities forget it most of the time. Even if not, they often go by traffic. In my area if I work at home, I cannot create more than 3 traffic trips to my house. That means less than 2 customers unless they stay at my house while I groom. One trip to drop off, one trip to pickup, that is 2. So 2nd customer must stay. Make noise and even just a neighbor or two and shut you down if they complain.


            • #7
              I really agree with Tootsie. I would strongly suggest you work for other shops before opening your own. You’ll get lots of experience, and a paycheck, by working for others and experience how grooming shops really operate.

              I also agree with Absolutebichon. Really REALLY double check what the stipulations are in your neighborhood for having a business in your home.

              And then, pricing. I’m a firm believer in the fact that you need to Do The Math and figure out what YOU need to charge to be profitable. You shouldn’t base your prices on someone else’s. There are too many variables. You’ll need to calculate everything from your square footage, electric, taxes, supplies, and don’t forget to include Your Salary!
              Add it all up, divide it, and come up with what you need to make per hour to stay in business. You can back stalk me for more in-depth on this subject.

              I welcome you both to the board and look forward to hearing about your successes.


              • #8
                Welcome MiniSchnauzerLover!
                I see from your questions that you spent some time looking through the forum, noting questions, and hopefully picking up a lot of knowledge. There are as many ways to accomplish a given groom as there are ways to cook chicken, and business models vary quite a bit from type to type.
                On the question of vet bills, I think where the client is responsible is more in cases like stripping matted dogs, where we may uncover all kinds of nasties. When it comes to inadvertently cutting the dog during a ‘normal’ groom, most if not all groomers will offer to pay the vet bill if needed.
                I am hb, no employees. I do not tell my clients how I base their fee, but it is an hourly based system. So anything that takes longer costs them more, so if the dog needs to soak in a special shampoo for 5 or 10 minutes, it is just a part of the total time.
                One of the reasons people come to me rather than the other salons in my area is that I am one dog at a time. I tell them if I have another client scheduled shortly after their dog will be finished and request that they pick up promptly as I am not set up to have more than one dog at a time. One of the interesting aspects of being hb is that it feels very personal. My clients are very respectful of my time.
                Yankeedoodlepoodle touched on the mobile vs hb aspect. I have a lovely clientele list, but I believe few, if any, of them would continue to use my services if I went mobile and had to charge more. I would have to start from scratch for sure.


                • #9
                  And I have to say, that is the cutest schnauzer on your avatar!


                  • #10
                    Hello Everyone,

                    Thank you so much for the responses, we really appreciate it. My partner and I both graduated with a B.S. in Biology, but we love dogs and turned to grooming with the lack of available biology based jobs in our area. As such, we aren't as experienced with the business aspects. However, let us address a few things:

                    -We've been speaking with our town office for weeks and the paperwork for zoning is already processing, there will be a town meeting in roughly two weeks. We seem to have a handle on that end, so we did not feel the need to mention it here, or at least a handle on as much of it as we can control. The rest is up to the town. If they say we can't, then we go straight to mobile, but for this week we are concerned with liability, general policies, etc. We want our butts covered before we start charging. We apologize for the confusion.

                    -We've been dog grooming through the program since last May, with some experience before that. We've been doing free grooms from home for over 6 months just to get the experience of all the different breed types in our area, on top of our day jobs.

                    -We did try to intern at a few local places, one even run by a Groom Team USA member who's been in the business for over 20 years. I appreciate the concerns about experience, but a lot of our local facilities are poorly run or they kept us on phones for several months doing nothing grooming related. We originally bought clippers before grooming was even a career thought to groom our own schnauzer because of our concerns of the groomers in the area. The groom team USA owner? Her groomers were chewing tobacco while grooming (had tobacco in their hand as well while clipping), wearing sandals/crocks/open toed shoes. The owner herself quicked a dog my first ten minutes there, as well as nicking the mouth. Accidents happen, yes, but the cleanliness of the facility left much to be desired, as well as a few other concerning issues. That's only one facility :/ we've been to about five, if I'm remembering them all. Another one was recently in the news this past year being shredded by the locals for harming peoples' pets.

                    -As far as pricing goes, most owners have been hesitant to share their business details and financials with us when we will soon be the competition. We've looked at commercial chains and what they charge, but many of the local groomers don't have their prices publicly listed and say "call for pricing", so we came here. A link was shared above that was very helpful, thank you so much!

                    -Some groomers in our area charge for fleas and charge for late times. We thought that a little harsh, never even heard of it, but did have the time limit concerns so we figured we'd ask other business owners to get a better sample size of data. I know for us, we've had to flea bomb our house in the past because the owners lied about flea and tick treatment, or didn't know their dog is somehow being exposed to some.

                    We sincerely appreciate everyone's input and thank you so much for the links as well.


                    • #11
                      Hi and welcome. I too am in Upstate NY (Capital region). I would encourage you to find and work in a salon for a couple of years before venturing out on your own. I know that is probably not what you want to hear but I know a lot of groomers that have come out of the local Golden Paws Academy (not saying that is where you went) that still need a lot of guidance after graduation.They are great groomers and some have a lot of natural talent, but none of that makes up for real world experience in a salon. A lot of salons will consider you a jr groomer so you won't necessarily be getting all the fancy hand scissored grooms till they are sure of your skills.

                      If you do decide to continue to try a start up business, I would highly recommend getting business in a box and the book from Problems to profits to help you get started right. Unfortunately a lot of start up businesses don't make it in in their first year and if they do, they usually do not start to turn a profit till after 5 years. Business in a box will help you run numbers to see if it is something that you are financially ready for.

                      What ever you decide I wish you all the best and good luck!
                      It's not what you look at that matters; it's what you see.
                      Henry David Thoreau


                      • #12
                        It's not what you look at that matters; it's what you see.
                        Henry David Thoreau


                        • #13
                          My mother was quite a businessperson in the grooming industry and wrote her management book that became a bestseller in the industry. She was amazing at accommodating pet owners, many stayed with her almost 30 years.. When she sold the business we were actually grooming the pets of the children's children of some original customers. They wouldn't go anywhere else, faith and trust in your groomer means peace of mind to many millions of pet owners and she ensured that. As she says in her book it was not only fine, safe, humane pet care services that make the business, but "client relations that bring them back again and again." Every day people lined up to talk with her if she wasn't grooming. To work on her business' front counter she was the first in the industry to develop a list of effective vocabulary that bonded customers vs ordinary terms and she published it. We were never afraid every customer every visit what did you think of our services today (grooming and customer service) and in fact we HAD to do that to work on the counter. We left her a list of every day of what was said when someone mentioned improvement, or you forgot a nail last time, whatever it was, and she personally phoned them to resolve even a missing a single nail grind. We only had a sign and yellow pages to start, it was person to person basis with every customer and with over 5,000 scheduling program customers in the later years after starting out in just 300 square feet, it all referrals and over 40 vets across the Silicon Valley and SF Bay Area sending referrals every week. Mom would say it's not just the grooming services, but your relationship with the customers. We, like me, knew by heart the name of all 5,000 customers, their dogs' names as if it was just a small business as it once way. They won't go anywhere else unless they move for the most part. It doesn't take long for a new business to the talk of the town when the customer services shine, shine, shine without comparison. Word travels and they appreciate it and send you growing referrals, the lifeblood of building your customer base. Then, you learn as she states in her book how to maximize the return frequency. We have wonderfully helpful people here as you can see. You can grow the business to whatever comforts and serves you. One of the most important things in her training to customer service desk is this. She would ask trainees today we have 3 new customers coming today. What are each of those customer's worth to the business. Most would look perplexed, I understand the feeling. Most would quote the estimated grooming price. LOL a full groom was $6 in those early days of the Sixties. She would say it is about 60 to 90 times higher than the price of the groom. We published her actual studies. Our average dog would be groomed by about 8 times a year for 11 years, that's 88 grooms. She would explain that new customer today is potentially worth 88 times today's grooming price, every customer is then a VIP. Never treat a customer as being worth a single groom, but 88 times or more, and she said it could be double or triple that actually. Why? Because we average 2 to 3 referrals from our loyal customers, that means 2 or 3 more customers each worth 88 grooms on average. See? So customer service way beyond a minimum is critical to growing a business 2, 3 or 10 times faster than without it. What you financially project in the 5th year of a business plan may happen easily by the 3rd year how? By remarkable grooming and customer service which creates a local phenomenon. Others have followed in her footsteps and duplicated this amazing growth to whatever level they wanted with no employees or a large staff. I hope you will come around and share how your startup goes.
                          Most questions regarding GroomerTALK are answered in the Board Help Talk Forum. Thanks for coming to our community a part of


                          • #14
                            Omg you have to have a town meeting to be approved? Sounds like Parks and Rec! But we mention it because in the excitement of starting a new venture sometimes the ‘boring’ stuff can get overlooked. Sounds like you’ve got it covered.
                            Mentoring will always be the best way to start, but there are some fine groomers here who didn’t go that route for various reasons.
                            Pricing is highly individual to your specific needs. I did the calculations ( all based on guesses) to come up with a number, then was able to web search others in my area to make sure I wasn’t too low, nor too high. But if they aren’t posting prices you can’t do the comparison thing and just have to make sure you are paying your bills and buying groceries.
                            I went through governor for my insurance, and just went along with what the agent recommended. One of my goals this year is to take a better look at it and understand exactly what I am getting. Not smart of me, I know.


                            • #15
                              I had to get a city meeting to open a business. Anything with animals must be noticed to the public and comments taken. I got zero and it was approved.