No announcement yet.

Going mobile on a budget

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Going mobile on a budget

    It certainly is possible to enter into the world of mobile grooming without having to spend a ton. It's not always easy of course, but it can be done for those looking at mobile and feeling that it is out of your reach, it's really closer than you might think.
    I came home one day, sat on the couch and declared to my husband "I've decided to go mobile." He gave me an odd look and just said "ok". Of course, I had to explain to him what "going mobile" meant LOL. At the time I had no idea how I would accomplish this. I had $500 to start my business. That's it, all the money I could spare. Not much to say the least. After mentioning this to my father and his, at the time, girlfriend, I was surprised when a few days later I got a call telling me they wanted to help me by giving me a $5K loan. So I now had $5500 to start my mobile!
    I had been looking at used mobile rigs online. Came here a lot searching and found my old gal in the listings. She was close enough and exactly $5K. I called the owner and had her take it to an independant mechanic before I made the drive down there to make sure it was worth the 5 hour trip. You may all be surprised, but she passed the mechanics inspection with flying colors! LOL. After I bought her I drove her back, now she is a 1989 Ford E350 diesel private conversion van, I had my own mechanic check her out and again she passed with flying colors.
    When buying an older used vehicle you have to be prepared for things to break or need replacing. I don't think I was quite as prepared as I needed to be, LOL, since in the beginning the first few trips to the garage were caused by my own ignorance. I'd never owned a diesel before, and there is a bit to learn.
    I took the $500 I had, got the van registered and insured and paid for a website. I listed my business on all the free sites like, superpages, etc. Put ads on Craigslist, sent introduction letters to local vets and then followed up with personal visits. I used vista print to get free business cards. After I had a few clients under my belt I bought some do it yourself vinyl on ebay, magentic signs on ebay as well as logo design. I built my own recirc for about $50 and found a Hanvey Gold Hi-V on ebay for half of what a new one cost. Also waited a few months to buy that. In the beginning I made due with the equipment the van came with. It was enough to get me started. The dryer stunk and the lighting was horrid, so I did add lighting within the first week. The dryer I was stuck using for a while. I had ordered samples of Show Seasons shampoo (as well as other samples but this was the line I chose) and in the beginning the samples got me started. I opened a month before Intergroom and then bought a bunch of shampoo at the show.
    I needed to have a business where I could set whatever hours I needed to. With two small children I was at home with during the day mobile was perfect for me. People seem to really like evening and Sunday appointments, it fits a lot of people's schedules. I did it part time and in the very beginning was doing maybe 3-4 dogs a week. My goal was 10. By keeping my costs so low and going mobile for so little I was able to start paying myself after about 4 months. It wasn't a lot, but it was something!
    During this time I had a husband who was employed and I was still working my one day a week at the grooming salon so we weren't any different financially. The business was able to pay for itself from the beginning.
    So this is how I started in mobile. It was really scary in the beginning, but now here I am almost 2 years later with a large and loyal client list, a groomer working for me, and a new mobile unit being converted for me. It can be done without having to spend $50K- $100K. Not for everyone and I can't say it was the easiest way to do it, but I made it through and I'm glad I took the plunge.
    I found out early my clients just didn't care that I didn't have the fanciest rig around. In fact, most had never heard of mobile and were utterly impressed I had a van with a TUB in it LOL. They didn't care about the dings in the old girl since the inside was always clean and neat and nice looking. She has spent her fare share of time with my mechanic. New tires, new batts, new power steering lines and reservoir, new glow plug and relays, new muffler.... But she still starts everyday and the grooming area section has never had any problems, except I did have to replace an outlet once. That was easy.
    So you can do it if you really want to! I think mobile is within just about anyones reach since there are so many options.
    What a caterpillar considers the end of his world, we call a butterfly.

  • #2
    Couldn't agree more. I too am doing exactly what you did, except my hours are 8:30 to 2:00 during the week while my girls are in school, Saturday, some evenings and sometimes Sunday. Every once in a while when my schedule is full I will just have my girls ride the bus to an after school sitter. I too bought a used trailer and worked with some of my tools I purchased while in grooming school and have slowly reinvested my earning to do upgrades. I spent far less than I would have starting a salon.

    My five year plan is to eventually open a salon and boarding facility and hire a person to run the mobile business. Not because I don't like mobile I love it, but by then I will be quite a bit older and figure it will be easier on me to be in a salon and hire a younger person to run the mobile side of my business.


    • #3
      Thank You mylady!! I've printed this out to show my daughter,sometimes she gets SO discouraged and thinks that she'll be stuck where she's at forever! She isn't the least bit afraid of hard work or of saving for her dream but most banks just giggle when she goes in with her business plan and loan app. since she's so young.


      • #4
        Most of you know our story. Our biggest expense was a new to us van to put all of the salvaged stuff into and the salvaged top onto. Since we started operations in May 2008, we have paid nearly sixty percent of the debt we went into to get started. Using our stimulus checks, tax refunds, selling some assets we no longer needed, and getting rid of our house since our kids were grown helped.

        I must say that a van payment under $300 a month is a blessing. I don't know how we would have made it with a new van payment of over $1000 a month. In that regard, the banks and Ford Credit turning us down was the biggest favor they could have done for us.
        We finance improvements and repairs on a cash basis, and aside from the normal operating expenses and the van loan, we do not owe a dime.

        If I don't groom a single dog in a month, there's enough personal money to pay the van payment and the insurance.

        Thankfully, we don't have to do that as much as we used to.

        "With God's help, all things are possible!"
        Laura Lee Ray
        I am kats_melody on eGroomer. Follow my Twitter tweets - @ZOOMGROOM on


        • #5
          I built my own out of a old truck camper that fits in the bed of a truck. Found on Craigslist for $500. The camper had the dining area as you first step in. Then driving around we found sitting in a yard with a free sign a plastic/fiberglass full size tub. Since the dining area was right at the door it worked out perfect & the tub fit perfect. We bought 4 marine batteries, an inverter & battery charger for extra power but mostly plugged in. Then a hotwater tank & a home made bathing beauty. A little bit of pex pipe for the water pipes & I was good to go. Sure we lived & learned, like don't use pvc pipe & don't put it on the outside of the rig or it will crack in the freeze all the way around (it was cool see but stressful to get it done before the next client in a few days). We put in a little lighting. Built a table to come down over the tub. Worked great for the first 2.5yrs. Sure it was big & gas mileage sucked big time (4 mpg) but it got me off the ground.

          Now last yr we found a high top camper van for $500. Owner said it had a tranny problem but so far it just needed fluid. It is a Ford E250 1988. Sure it did have a title issue that was a pain in the neck to deal with, learned on that one but its fixed. It was rotten inside so we took pictures of how it was set up & basicly copied how it was layed out & just put grooming stuff back in its place. I do like it, we went with whitish walls so its alot brighter & cleaner looking. I already know I want a bigger rig like a shuttle bus but I'll make this work for now. I want more room to move around. We kept the bench seat/bed behind the driver's seat. Its great to eat lunch, bring my daughter with me all the time (school next yr). Cost us a little over $5k to buy & build the van. We already had the inverter & charger & 4 batteries so we just bought 4 more for total 8 batteries. I can easily do 4-5 dogs with no power issues, I plug in for AC. When we build the shuttle bus we will have an RV couch that has buckles too so my daughter can come with & have a place to ride buckled or play/sleep. If a client wants to sit & watch they can too. This is what I like about building our own.

          The Soapy Puppy
          Last edited by Starshan; 01-22-10, 09:26 AM.


          • #6
            There are SO many ways to get started in mobile. Buying used, building your own, getting a trailer or van etc. Every once in a while I'll hear someone say that you have to spend a lot to go mobile, and if you can't you shouldn't be doing it. I say pish-posh to that! You don't have to have the latest and greatest to have a booming mobile business as long as you provide great service and keep your space neat and clean. My "van payment" is $100 a month! That's what I pay each month to pay back the $5K that was loaned and they didn't want my first payment until my business had been up and running for 6 months. I was so fortunate to get this offer and never expected it, but I am a true believe that if you want something badly enough and are willing to work for it, you'll accomplish it! Don't ever let anyone tell you "you can't..." just go ahead and do it and prove them wrong!
            What a caterpillar considers the end of his world, we call a butterfly.


            • #7
              Mylady you are makin me cry

              You dune hit a nerve when you did this post.

              You and I started about the same time. I remeber the van you bought because we looked at her too.

              I ended up buying a van off craigslist for $2,000 and hour from my house. All I can remeber is feeling like "what have I done" blue was in bad shape and we hardly had any money to do anything with her. In fact, we had borrowed the money from my mother-in-law to buy her.

              As you know those first few months were nail biters. I remeber always telling my clients that she wasn't pretty but your dog will never be happier. And you know what, they did not care what blue looked like.

              We've had our van troubels as you, mylady, can attest to but I'm proud of old blue nonetheless. Fast forward 2 years today and we are having our second van put together and i am coming off the road to run phase two of the ultimate Dog and someone else will run blue.

              But as I think back to the start of the business, the fears, doubts all that stuff and to where we are today. It makes me cry to think how blessed I was and am.

              Thank you for writing that post. I needed that today!

              And if anyone out there is in that special place where so many of us successful mobilers were, let me tell you one thing. By any means necessary go for your dreams IT WILL WORK! Believe in yourself,even when it looks impossible. Reach out to the amazing groomers on this board for help. They will supply it!

              Thanks mylady you trully are a wonderful person



              • #8

                Mylady, damien...thanks!! You know the timing is... well it must be a god-thing for me. Yep, just for ME. LOL. Uh huh..thats right...its allll about ME! ha ha ha..

                but anyway... the timing is just impeccable. Here all these months, after my knee injury and subsequently stopping my brand new home biz grooming d.t the injury.. i waited and waited and hoped and hoped and now, a year later I'm getting much closer to having the settlment (my knee is still bad..but... it makes small improvements over time, much time!).. and when I get it I plan to use it to launch mobile. I have my LLC lined up, my 800 number reserved and working, my biz cards are ordered and match my website, which will match my billboards IF I can afford them... (1000 month aint cheap chickens!)... I have my other coupon books lined up and planned... and plans and plans... I got my Jodi Murphy set to order (the whole set!! ha) tools planned to buy (I feel that if ya skimp on the educational stuff and the tools... ya skimp on your overall quality of output).. and then it was like... the settlement wont be as much as hoped for in fact, maybe not that much more than what you started with ML. So, I sat here wonderin' can I do this? do i find a cheapie trailer? I live where we get some BAD snow sometimes (oftentimes in winter) - maybe a van?? but they are so UGLY..those used ones... image counts.. what will they think? and moreover ... how soon till it breaks down!! cuz... most of the vehicles I see have like 150K miles on em ..for this price range. I've been considerig an old RV (like a '79 with "69K miles" thats ugly inside ... or, a '99 astro AWD van (work van) with almost 200K miles on it..or an older one (still an AWD), thats like a '93 maintained by a GM tech all its life but its the wrong color and has 160K miles on IT and...I have to find a bubble top and pay someone and then --- I dont really know anybody to build on bottom up... so ... back to square one LOL.

                I can handle bldg the website, ordering cards, goin' LLC, biz license, insurance, contracts, etc...but build ground up? hmmm. So then the worry of a high mile older rig or a trailer and ... I began to wonder. I believe that advertising will be key for me so wondered how to get movin w/out expensive ads...

                welp. then your posts came out. Ya know what? I have talent. Natural talent. I know it and so does everyone else. I'm not being egotistical..I'm shocked. But I do. I have the talent. I can d it... and with more practice and learning from CMG's etc.. I feel over time I just may be one heck of a groomer. There is always much to learn but i get excited about it. for the first time in my life, i found work that, although dirty... lets face it its a hairy, dirty job ... I love the creativity. and i love animals and I love the idea of being my own boss, setting my own hours etc.. I'm a single mom too. I love the idea that when you are your own biz owner, your potential is much less limited financially if you are good and you continue to learn and improve sure, why not...

                anyway... so I'm enthused about it and its good to hear someone else did it and even tht maybe ppl dont care as much as I thought about the ugly rig I will probably start out with.

                And, I may end up with a little more than I thought so who knows maybe I'm blessed and will actually be able to afford that billboard I wanted to try. If it works, I'll move around each month for maybe six months..and do a billboard each time, see how they do. I told someone I was so excited because my cards, appt cards, postcards, website, billboards etc and hopefully -- graphic for my 'rig' will all match.. and he was like..." so?
                Never try to explain that type of stuff to a man particularly not your ex spouse LOL.

                I guess my biggest fear in the older ones is the engine breakdown thing.. or inverter break down, or gene break down etc...

                but I'm so glad to see your posts. I dont know what caused you to put it down ..but I'm glad you did! Hey its not for grooming, grooming in general or even owning ones own biz but i have been so excited about it for so long.. I sit and watch grooming dvd's and am so interested... and I bore everone else in the room with it LOL

                Animals, and working with them is what brings me joy... I was created that way 'and' to have my own biz.. I am glad to hear that after 2 years you two have done well!


                • #9
                  I really feel that location is huge on what will work for you.


                  • #10
                    1. If it's mobile, it will break down. From the engine, transmission, A/C, generator, batteries, whatever. If it rolls, it breaks.
                    2. Just because an older RV has less miles on it does not make it a better deal. If a vehicle sits most of its life, that can be worse than adding miles. Little forest creatures like to make meals of the wiring in vehicles that don't move about a lot. Engines and transmissions need to have their oil circulating on a regular basis. Anti-freeze doesn't protect against corrosion unless it circulates. A well maintained vehicle with high miles would be a better bet.
                    3. Worry about color later. Unless it looks like it was painted with spray cans from Walmart, no one will care if your van is the "wrong" shade of green, blue, or red.
                    4. Start with what you can and build on from there. A van may be "ugly", but it may be more practical. Do you want to have a piece of equipment that works or do you want to win at the mobile groomer's convention "Show and Shine"? In other words, what is your priority?

                    You can do it. You may not be able to do it EXACTLY how you want to start, but it is very rare for EVERYTHING to fall into place at once. Go with what you got or can get and work on making things nice and up to your ideas later.
                    "With God's help, all things are possible!"
                    Laura Lee Ray
                    I am kats_melody on eGroomer. Follow my Twitter tweets - @ZOOMGROOM on


                    • #11
                      I'm glad this post has been helpful! I just think sometimes people need to hear "You CAN do it, it IS possible!". If it hadn't been for my mom I would never have gone mobile. There I was in the hotel room after looking at the van panicking, talking myself out of buying her, thinking "What if I fail? I can't do this." I remember so clearly. My mom stood me up, placed her hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said "I believe in you. The one thing I know is you CANNOT fail at this, you're too good at what you do." With her support I handed over that cashiers check and drove Lola home. So I'm trying to pass that encouragement on, what my mom was able to give to me, to those who may need it. Damien is exactly right! Believe in your dreams and you can make them come true!
                      What a caterpillar considers the end of his world, we call a butterfly.


                      • #12
                        You had a great mom to encourage you that way MyLady! And you are payin it forward

                        Kats - good points!! LOL -- canned paint from walmart know I had this pic pop into my head it was like ... Hmmm...but couldnt I just call it a new style? Like uhm.... the creative styling of vans? LOL. Nah...I wouldnt do that... hee hee.

                        I am still excited .. just awaitin the funds!

                        Yep...if it rolls it'll break. Guess thats just gotta be part of the budget. Thats my biggest fear - will I have it in there when it does!

                        I'm thinkin of going inverter, but am still learning about that stuff. It almost seems to me like over time, its a cheaper way to run.


                        • #13
                          going mobile

                          I was in a job that i was very unhappy with (not grooming) so i decided to go mobile. i went to school to become a groomer when i was 18 at this time i was 48. i had not groomed for a living but worked for this company for 20 plus years and was very unhappy. I decided to build a used van and do this part time untill i could quit this job. then i got sick after grooming for only about 4 months. the doctor put me on disabilty. i sold my van after i relized i could not work. i could not work for 2 years. luckyly i had disabilty from the company i worked for . my husband had died a few years earlyer and i am the sole income . i am now a lot better the doctor says i can work part time. my mother bought me a van for $3500. a friend putt a tub and plumbed it and a hot water heater for grooming. i still had my clippers and grooming equipment. and bought a cheap table off ebay. i dont have any graphics yet. i started grooming in may of this year. i have found out how to advertise on the internet for free. i do 4 or 5 dogs a week. not enough to make a living but it is a start. besides i have to do this part time. i am now 53. and i love what i do.


                          • #14
                            Other Suggestions!

                            Hi Mylady,
                            After I read your post, I listed my business on Superpages and find a groomer. How long did it take for your business to show up on

                            Any other free sites that you can suggest for me to list my business on?


                            • #15
                              There are quite a few. I have a page on,, and of course now I can't think of the rest of them!
                              What a caterpillar considers the end of his world, we call a butterfly.