The Best (and Worst) Parts of Starting a Pet-Grooming Business

dog grooming
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Grooming is a common luxury service animal owners seek for their pets. Many pet owners simply don't have the time, ability, or desire to groom their pets themselves, so they seek out professionals with the training to do so.

This creates an excellent opportunity for the experienced pet groomer who loves animals and wants to create a small business polishing fellow pet owners' animals.

Earnings for such a career can vary based on location and demand, but pay mostly is on the lower end of the scale. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics folds groomers into a broader category that includes other animal care workers. The median salary for animal care workers in the retail industry, which includes groomers, was between $23,000 and $24,000 as of May 2017. The top 10 percent of earners in this category can be estimated to make more than $36,000 annually while the lowest 10 percent earn less than about $18,000.

There also is a demand for professionals in the industry. According to BLS, the number of jobs for animal care workers is expected to grow about 20 percent during the decade from 2016 through 2026. This compares favorably to the average of 7 percent growth for all industries as a whole.

The Pros

While the money might not be the greatest, there still are many benefits to owning and operating a pet-grooming business.

  • You can turn your love of animals into a business. If dogs, cats, and other household pets are a passion for you, and you have the proper training or are willing to invest in getting it, this is a great way to earn money doing what you love. Pets are viewed as family members by many of their owners, so those pet owners are looking for fellow pet lovers who will handle four-legged friends with the care you can provide.
  • Pet grooming affords multiple options for where and how to run your business. You can operate out of your own home if you have the space or out of a storefront. You can run a mobile business using a van or trailer equipped with grooming supplies and equipment. You also can partner with other pet-oriented businesses or nonprofits such as stores, kennels, rescue operations, veterinarians, or more, by renting space from them at their locations. Multiple combinations of these options also are available.
  • The many options that exist for operating a pet-grooming business also are present for marketing and building a client base. By establishing a cooperative relationship with other pet-oriented businesses in your community, you can fill a niche in the community, find potential clients, and make it easy for potential clients to find you. For example, a kennel in your community might not offer grooming services, affording you the opportunity reach that kennels clients. To reciprocate, you can refer clients to that kennel.
  • These multiple options also provide you with an opportunity to expand your business. Because you have the training necessary to work with various breeds and temperaments, you can translate that into additional services such as pet sitting, dog walking, or even opening your own kennel if you have the space.

The Cons

Being an animal lover is not enough to be successful as a pet groomer. The career comes with its share of challenges.

  • Startup costs can be expensive. To be successful as a professional pet groomer, high-quality supplies sufficient for breeds of all sizes need to be purchased and maintained. Some items, such as tables and bathtubs, can run well into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. High-end tubs large enough to handle most breeds are likely to cost close to $2,000 or more when adding accessories. If your plan is to run a mobile business out of van, the cost of the vehicle, plus the conversion, can cost more than $100,000 depending on the amenities included. Trailers can be outfitted for less than half of that, and used vans are available as well.
  • More than just a love of animals is needed. You have to have enough knowledge and experience to handle multiple pets, breeds, and animal temperaments, not to mention the requisite grooming skills. While some dogs are highly trained and will do well with grooming, others will resist, meaning you are the one who has to be highly trained to deal with them. While not required, certification through groups like the National Dog Groomers Association of America can help you with training and marketing your knowledge and experience.
  • You will need insurance to protect yourself from liability. If a pet is injured while in your care, or if it somehow manages to escape your business location and runs off, you can be sued for negligence. Insurance costs can vary widely depending on location, the extent of services you provide and the coverage and deductible options you select. As of 2019, Pet Care Insurance quotes $168 annually for a basic policy that covers groomers. This is the minimum you should expect to pay.