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Thinking about Transitioning from Salon to Mobile?

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  • Thinking about Transitioning from Salon to Mobile?

    I have owned my salon for 8 years now. It's just not quite getting off the ground as well as I had hoped it would. And what's really not helping is our $4000 a month lease fee for my shop. I'd love to just get a smaller shop, but there is virtually nothing around my area that is any smaller.
    Can anyone tell me the good and the bad about mobile (especially those that live in areas with cold (-20*C) and snowy/icy winters)?
    What a day looks like (Filling the water tanks, how many dogs, how far you drive between appt, emptying water tanks, etc.)?
    Costs involved per month (gas, maintenance/repairs, water)?
    How much you charge compared to salon prices?
    Do you do big hairy dogs?
    Did you buy an already made grooming van or did you redo your own van? What was the costs on that?
    Any other info you think could be helpful?

  • #2
    Do you like driving? Will you feel comfortable driving mobile van/trailer? On snowy roads? I hate driving and I know, I would be terrified driving anything bigger than my Toyota Tacoma, so I have never even considered going mobile.

    OK, now wait for actually helpful comments


    • #3
      I don't mind driving, I used to have horses and pulled a horse trailer around so I'm used to a big big vehicle/trailer.


      • #4
        I did my own van, cost for conversion was around 8K including the inverter and batteries (which I've had to replace twice now) Van cost 21K.

        I live in a cold and sometimes snowy climate. I heat the grooming part of the van overnight with an infrared heater if it drops below 35 F. The thing about the infrared vs ceramic portable heaters is all the 'stuff' gets warm too, the tub is warm, the walls the table, the shampoos and ear cleaner stay warm as well. Where the ceramic just seems to heat the air. If it is below 20F for days on end or our overnight lows are in the teens I throw a ceramic heater in the back of the van as much for the batteries as the water. I drain my fresh water tank every night when it's below freezing and I fill with hot water in the morning. The tank is insulated and stays warm all day. As it warms up or cools down my hot to cold ratio goes up or down. Having a water heater would negate that part, so someone who uses one could pipe in on that.

        As for prices, I'm close to double our local shop and many of the shops in the biggest town from me.

        I do a couple of big hairy dogs. I've actually gotten away from doing as many as I could, and haven't taken on any new ones since a few months after I started. That is just a physical thing nothing to do with being mobile.

        I live in a fairly rural area, so my drive time can be as much as a half hour in the town I live in or as little as a few minutes.I like the drive time between dogs though. It's a nice break.

        Including my van payment my fixed expenses are between 600-1000 per month depending on whether or not I've purchased shampoo or something else major for the month.Even with a super expensive wagn tails van I can't imagine your overhead being anywhere near what your shop is.

        Negatives on mobile? For me, only one. No bathroom.


        • #5
          Do a ride along BEFORE committing to anything. Where you live, mobile grooming is sorta seasonal, unlike where I am, sunny and mild year-round. You will have many days where you will not go out due to weather, so factor that into it.

          Mobile prices are usually 25 dollars more per dog than shop, but you do less per day than a shop. Fuel is a killer and insurance on these commercial rigs can be high. You need a place to park, get water and keep it plugged in, in the winter especially. I would look for indoor parking.

          If you are on the fence, and you like the shop for grooming, give it thought. Many groomers do not like working in a van with no room and a small table top and having to watch the clock because of scheduled appointments which can be very nerve racking when you are running late and you have 3 or 4 more ahead of you, plus driving.


          • #6
            I worked in a van for a little while. Personally, I felt claustrophobic and lonely, so it wasn't for me. I've lived in places with lots of snow. What makes a difference for a van is how quickly the roads are cleared and how hilly the area is. When I lived in the midwest, roads were cleared so quickly, and the ground was flat, so I never felt bothered by snow. In the northeast, I felt much more uncomfortable driving in snow. I was driving regular cars in the midwest, not a van, but even with near-blizzards I could be out on the road.


            • #7
              When you're used to driving in the snow you're used to driving in the snow. Clients would be much happier with you coming to them IMO.

              I am normally claustrophobic, but have no issues at all being in my tiny van and my work area is much smaller than say a wagn tails.

              I obviously am a huge fan of mobile. I don't think I could ever go back to a shop. Since I had time constraints in my last shop, I guess I'm used to the pressure of getting dogs done on time. I allow myself a half hour to check out the client, chat and get to my next stops. I have it down to a science now and my customers are the same ones over and over (haven't taken anyone new since March) and I know who takes longer who like to talk more etc. So I book accordingly. I rarely get no shows anymore, it was admittedly frustrating when I started, but the few repeat offenders were promptly fired. People know if they miss they are likely waiting until their next scheduled appointment, so it just doesn't happen but in rare instances. I have an AMAZING group of clientele. Just amazing.

              Fuel for one van isn't that expensive IMO. Depending on gas prices I've paid anywhere from 40-80 dollars a week to fill up.

              As for finding a spot to park indoors. 'I' wouldn't do it unless it was on my own property. Having to go somewhere to get the van ready seems like a pain to me.


              • #8
                Your overhead - even with a brand new diesel will be markedly less than a shop but so will your throughput.

                You can now get 4x4 vans from some manufacturers - that and a good set of snow tires would go a long way toward being secure in winter driving.

                A has been said - you need to keep it plugged in continuously and heated on freezing nights. Even when not freezing if any inverter is in the van it will need to be charged nightly.
                You also have to think about how you will heat the inside of the van while you are working inside it in the winter -many rigs use propane and that adds a separate fill schedule and expense.

                How hot and humid does it get in the summer? If you want to run an air conditioner - you have to run a generator.
                Need to run two high powered devices at once ?- genset.
                That will add to your fuel consumption and maintenance schedule dramatically.



                • #9
                  Living in central OH, the last two years has been a little too much "wintery" for me, one day -20 and two days later -10. Each day, the water pipe that leads from the intake valve to the 50 gal tank froze. I just hooked up the garden hose to my hot water tank and melted the ice. Most roads are travelable with the snow plows out thru out the just have to drive a little slower and more careful, just as you do with cars. My van is in a garage, plugged in overnight. I always allow 1/2 hr in between appointments for drive time, and getting/delivering the dog from the house.

                  I fill my tanks with water, (usually takes 5-10 min) when I come home, while I'm gathering my dirty towels, and cleaning bathing system filter, and filling up on shampoo, etc. I leave my dirty water tank valve open all day, so I'm dumping on the street. I use so little water (using a bathing system) that it easily runs into the drains.

                  If you purchase a van that is already set up for grooming, you can start the very next day, vs people trying for months to "reinvent" the wheel. I usually drive 30 min to my first groom and then do a cluster of appointments in the area. I service 8-9 different towns/locations........leave around 7:15 am for my 8:00 appointment (fighting the morning rush hour and road detours) and coming home anywhere between 2:30 - 4:30, grooming an average of 5 dogs (small and multi dog households vs large breeds all at separate homes). All dogs are given a return appointment (I'm booked out thru Dec 2016).

                  My van is paid for so I only spend $15K for the total amount of expenses of 2014. Gas/propane and material for bandannas were my highest expenses.

                  Happy going mobile

                  Dolly's Barking Bubbles, LLC



                  • #10
                    Dolly my husband built my van in three weeks start to finish. All by himself.


                    • #11
                      Thanks everyone for your replies. It gives me a lot to think about.
                      It seems it would be much harder for me to buy a grooming van up in Canada, they seem a lot more available in the states.