Pet ownership spiked in the U.S. over the past few years. According to the ASPCA, 23 million Americans got new pets in 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Most of these pets were dogs, creating an equally expanding market for dog groomers.
According to Grand Review Search, the global pet grooming market has an estimated CAGR of 7.09% from now until 2030. That’s a lot of steadily increasing dog grooming income for pet care businesses worldwide.
Here, we’ll talk more about ways to start a dog grooming business, including the tools you’ll need, costs to get started, and even building your brand.
1. Conduct Dog Grooming Business Market Research
Before you start a dog grooming business, you need to do some research. You need to know things like:
- Target customers
- Pet owner statistics in your city
- Top competitors
- Popular dog groomer services
You can find this information through primary and secondary research. Primary research involves personally gathering information through customer polls, visits to competitor grooming salons, and talking to local dog owners.
Secondary research is information gathered by others, but available to you. Online competitor reviews and government statistics on the dog grooming industry are good examples.
Some things to ask dog owners as you conduct research include:
- How often do you groom your dog?
- Do you prefer to groom your dog yourself or take them to a professional?
- Are there any specific tools or products you prefer to be used on your dog?
- How does your dog react to being groomed?
You should also look at things like the most common dog breeds requiring grooming. Poodles, for example, don’t shed. Their fur grows more like human hair and needs to be trimmed or it becomes overgrown. Other dogs requiring consistent trims are:
- Shih Tzu
- Afghan Hound
- Golden Doodle
- Bichon Frisé
- Giant Schnauzer
- Chinese Crested
- Irish Water Spaniel
Any non-shedding, hypoallergenic dog will need constant trimming. These are the dogs you’ll see most frequently (depending on ownership demographics).
Choosing the Right Services for Your Grooming Business
Running a successful dog grooming business means knowing what services your clients want for their pets. Grooming services encompass a wide range of services, including:
- Hair Clipping/Styling
- Nail Clipping
- Teeth Brushing
- Hygienic Trimming
- Ear Cleaning
Some groomers also include specialty services like pet photography, or provide pet accessories.
Use your market research to determine what local dog owners want in a grooming parlor, and what other groomers offer.
2. Analyze the Competition
Dog groomer competition is local. It’s helpful to know how saturated your city’s grooming industry is, so you know where you stand. Some ways to check out other groomers are:
- Visiting grooming salons in person
- Checking competitor websites
- Looking at other grooming stalls at pet events and trade shows
- Reading online reviews
- Talking to locals about their experiences
A simple Google search tells you a lot about the dog grooming businesses in your area. You can see how many salons there are, what they charge, hours of operation, and more.
There are plenty of successful small local dog groomers to compete with, but here are some of the top groomers in the U.S.
Pet Smart is a full-service pet retail location where pet owners can purchase supplies, use pet grooming services, and even adopt certain types of pets. They offer a variety of packages for baths, brushing, trims, and more. There are currently more than 1,513 Pet Smart locations across the United States.
Wag N Wash is a dog grooming franchise. It began in 1999 but didn’t branch out into franchising until 2006. There are 16 franchises in the U.S. so far, and requires a franchise fee of $49,500 to get started. Wag N Wash offers full grooming, self-wash, and nail trim only options.
Zoomin Groomin is a mobile pet groomer business model. It began in 2003 and offers dog groomer services on the go. The company franchises to entrepreneurs with a franchising fee of $35,000. They offer standard bath and grooming services, along with a “Glow Up” service for glam pets.
3. Understand the Costs of Starting a Dog Grooming Business
Starting any business takes startup capital and ongoing costs to maintain your brand. It’s important to develop a realistic business plan, including cost analysis and budget before investing in a dog grooming business. Here are some things to think about as you get started.
What Does It Cost to Start a Dog Grooming Business?
To make money, we first need to spend money. The costs associated with a dog grooming business are diverse. Some of the main areas you’ll spend include:
- Building unit rental
- Business insurance
- Commercial vehicle costs
- Business licenses
- Business permits
- Cash register/POS system
- Legal expenses
- Website and design
- Employee wages
- Products and equipment
Starting costs for a pet grooming business depend on your business model. For a mobile dog grooming station, you’ll spend between $19,000 to $37,000 to get started. Price varies by equipment and vehicle type.
Franchising is more costly. While getting involved in Zoomin Groomin and Wag N Wash have franchise fees of $35,000 and $45,000, respectively, initial investments are much higher. Along with those franchise fees, Zoomin Groomin, for example, expects you to have a minimum liquid capital of $100,000.
Starting your own stationary dog grooming business could run anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 to get started. Impacting factors include the location (are you grooming out of your home or a separate facility?), number of staff, special equipment, and more.
To start a dog grooming business you need the right equipment and tools. This includes items such as:
- Grooming Table ($120 to $3,000) – There are electric, hydraulic, and portable grooming tables. Price depends on how elaborate the model is.
- Hair Clippers ($50 to $400) – Pricier clippers tend to have longer battery life. Be prepared to carry a few in your shop to use while others are recharging.
- Nail Clippers ($4 to $20) – Groomers require several nail clippers in varying sizes for different breeds of dog.
- Bathing Station ($200 to $4,000) – Price varies based on size of tub and additional features.
- Brushes and Combs ($12 to $30) – Dematting tools and brushes for thicker coats are more costly.
- Grooming Shears ($14 to $150) – Basic shears are cheap, but when you get into specialty shears for thinning and blending, the price goes up.
- Shampoo and Conditioner ($20 to $50 per gallon) – Shampoo and conditioner come in general purpose, medicated, flea and tick, hypoallergenic, and other varieties.
Groomers also require a bulk supply of treats on hand to keep pups happy and calm. You may want to invest in eye and ear cleaning supplies as well, depending on the services you offer.
Cost of Renting or Leasing a Location for Dog Grooming
Finding a commercial space open to a dog business isn’t always easy. Many commercial property owners have harsh restrictions on animals. You’ll have the best luck working with a commercial real estate broker with other dog businesses in the building.
Leasing commercial space for your dog grooming business is charged by the square foot. For a 1000 square foot property asking $20 per square foot, you’re looking at a price tag of $20,000 per year.
Chat with local veterinarian clinics, or look for other groomers or dog daycares looking to sell.
To be recognized as a legal business in the United States, you first need to register with the Small Business Administration. It’s a simple process, during which you register a name, and obtain any permits or licenses needed to operate in your area. In total you’ll pay about $300 to $800 for the process.
Once registered, it’s time to think about protecting your newly formed business. Business insurance keeps you safe from financial hiccups relating to damage to people or property as a result of your brand.
The most common type of insurance for a pet grooming business is general liability. If you’re a mobile groomer, you’ll also want commercial vehicle insurance.
A pet grooming business uses a lot of water and power throughout the year. Utilities are an important point to factor into your budget. Some of the costs you’ll incur as utilities include:
Utility costs vary depending on use. On average you’ll pay somewhere around $2.90 per square foot of commercial space to light your building and operate electrical grooming tools.
What Are the Ongoing Costs of a Dog Grooming Business?
Along with the initial startup costs and investments you make in your business, there are ongoing costs. Anything you need to restock regularly over the course of a year is considered an ongoing cost. This includes supplies such as:
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Dog treats
- Ear flushing liquid
- Receipt paper
- Administrative supplies
- Business cards
- Monthly rent
- Marketing and advertising
- Website domain
- Commercial vehicle maintenance
- Business Insurance
- Employee wages
- Business banking fees
Any specialty products you sell from your own pet grooming business are also ongoing costs.
4. Form a Legal Business Entity
To legally earn and pay employees in the United States, a business must become a legal entity. There are a few different types of entities, the most common being a limited liability corporation/limited liability company (LLC), sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation.
Limited Liability Corporation/Limited Liability Company (LLC)
For a local dog grooming business, an LLC is the wisest business entity choice. It gives you power over your brand while protecting your personal assets. If your business goes under for some reason, creditors can’t look to your personal savings for restitution.
Any single business owner, or married couple, can form a sole proprietorship. This leaves all decision-making in your hands with no outside input. It’s not the best choice for a small business owner, however.
Unlike an LLC, a sole proprietorship links your personal and professional assets. If a liability issue leaves you penniless during a legal battle, your personal wealth is at stake.
Partnerships are similar to sole proprietorships. This is a good entity option for families looking to share a business equally among themselves. You each retain a share of the business, along with decision making rights. You also share financial ramifications, and all your personal assets are involved.
If one partner makes a mistake costing the business money, your private wealth isn’t safe.
Corporations are a strong and financially safe business entity. Your personal and professional assets are separate in this entity. However, for small business owners, forming a corporation is a complex and expensive process. It might not be worth the effort. This is more suitable to large companies.
5. Register Your Business for Taxes
To legally operate any business in the United States, the business must apply for an Employee ID Number (EIN). EINs are sometimes referred to as federal tax IDs. This is because you need one to file your annual taxes.
You can apply for your pet grooming business EIN through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Once registered, you can legally file taxes, pay your employees, and even open a business bank account. Be sure to also check your state taxes with the U.S. government, to ensure you’re pricing things properly.
Having an EIN is also important for paying and making changes to pay structures for non-U.S. residents you employ.
6. Setup Accounting for Success
Financial management is an important part of your dog grooming business. It ensures you know what money is coming in and going out, and where expenditures are being made. Accounting also helps you tally up financial documents at the end of the year for tax season.
As a small business, you have a few options for financial management. Here are some ways to handle your dog grooming accounting needs.
One way to save on accounting is to use accounting software. QuickBooks offers a selection of tools and templates to simplify everyday accounting processes. There are different packages to choose from based on the size and needs of your business.
Find an Accountant
Accounting software helps in many ways, but at the end of the year you’ll want an expert to file your taxes. Why? Because business and personal taxes are different, and there are larger risks involved if you miss something when you file. A professional accountant reads the fine print for you.
Accountant fees vary based on experience and service. You can expect to pay somewhere between $150 and $400 an hour for a certified CPA in the United States.
Get a Business Bank Account
Separating personal and professional finances is smart business. The IRS agrees. In their Small Business Tax Workshop, the IRS recommends getting a separate bank account for your small business. This reduces potential confusion and keeps all your business spending transparent and within the law.
Apply for a Business Credit Card
Small business credit cards, like bank accounts, draw a line through personal and business spending. It helps you track spending, monitor buying patterns, and includes benefits like low APR and cash back and travel rewards.
7. Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
You may require a special permit or license to operate in your state. There are no federal agencies overseeing dog grooming, but the U.S. Small Business Administration can help you find your state requirements.
The SBA’s Find Local Assistance tool is easy to use. It shows you each state’s license and permit codes relating to your industry.
8. Get Business Insurance
A successful grooming business is a protected grooming business. Business insurance keeps you, your staff, and your clients safe. Depending on the coverage you choose, your business insurance protects against:
- Loss of Income
Most dog groomers opt for general liability insurance. It protects you against any costs, legal or medical, due to damage to people or property by your service or products. If a dog bites an employee, your insurance protects you financially.
General liability insurance protection prices vary by provider and service. On average you’ll pay between $300 and $1,500 a year for coverage up to $1 million.
Another type of insurance to look into is commercial real estate insurance. This will run somewhere around $1,000 to $3,000 a year for the same $1 million . Commercial real estate insurance covers the costs if someone’s vehicle is damaged in your parking lot or a fire destroys your equipment.
9. Create an Office Space
As a dog groomer, most of your work is with your furry clients. However, there’s still plenty of behind the scene action in running a dog grooming business. Office space provides a quiet workplace for you to make calls, invoice clients, and prepare employee documents. Here are some options for local office space.
A home office is a solid choice for most small business owners. It’s affordable, and the space is already available to you. No new long-term leases or contracts, and no outrageous additional costs.
A bonus to the home office is the tax breaks you receive through the IRS. Deduct for internet, utilities, and even some renovations. A home office provides deductions of up to $1,500 per year.
Coworking office space is one of the great inventions of the modern age. It provides a quiet local office with no strings attached. Much like a timeshare, you use the office when you need it based on your contract type, with no lease or long-term contract.
WeWork is an excellent choice for small business owners. They offer several styles of offices including private, semi-private, and shared. Choose a package based on your needs and budget.
Commercial Building Office
The final option for a dog groomer office space is renting space in a commercial office building. This is generally unfeasible for most small business owners. It requires a long-term commitment and is expensive compared to other office options.
10. Source Your Equipment
Starting a new business means building everything from the ground up. Sourcing the right equipment can save you money and ensure you have all the tools you need to be successful.
The most obvious choice for tool sourcing is to buy new. New dog groomer equipment is clean and comes with a manufacturer’s warranty to protect against electrical failure and other defects.
Buying new equipment offers the advantage of clean training tools with no scents of other dogs or people. For technical equipment like e-collars, you also receive warranties for mechanical issues.
Some places to shop new for dog groomer equipment are Pet Edge and Pro Groom, as mentioned above.
Some equipment, like grooming tables, are fine to buy used. You’ll likely want to invest in new brushes, combs, and clippers though.
You can find used grooming equipment through local pet businesses selling off their supply, or online through Facebook Marketplace and Craig’s List.
11. Establish Your Brand
A brand is more than just the sign on your salon. It tells locals who you are and what you do. It helps you stand apart from other groomers in the area. Many parts of your marketing and engagement directives make up your brand, including your logo and website.
There are many ways to define and evolve your brand. Here are some tips to get started.
Get a Business Phone Number
Your clients need to be able to reach you to book a groomer. Using a personal phone gets messy. Tracking business and personal calls are stressful and may appear less professional. You can get a business phone through new or traditional phone providers.
Create a Logo & Brand Assets
Your logo makes you memorable and offers some tangibility to your brand. Creating a logo from scratch is daunting. Try using a resource like Looka. Looka uses AI to create a new brand logo based off your personal preferences for color and style. You can use your logo to create marketing materials, signs, and more.
Create Business Cards and Signage
Business cards make it easy to share your business in the real world. While Facebook and Instagram are the kings of content sharing, the business card came first. Pass them out at local events, leave them on partnering business counters, and stick them up on local bulletin boards.
Vistaprint is a good place to shop for your cards. Their business card design templates are simple to use and offer a wide assortment of styles and colors. Use Vistaprint to create signs and flyers as well.
Purchase a Domain Name
No modern business should be without a website, especially a small local pet grooming business. You need to make yourself accessible to your clientele, and that requires a domain name. Try to get a name that includes your brand and purpose.
There are plenty of domain name options out there. Start your search at Namecheap.com for as low as $5.98 per year.
Build a Website
Your domain name leads potential customers to your website. The site should reflect your brand and company culture, as well as maintain user accessibility. Creating a mobile-friendly website is a good way to keep your brand relevant and make it easy to share on social media.
12. Join Associations and Groups
Connecting with others in your industry is a big support, especially as you start your own dog grooming business. The first year is tough. You’re just learning the ropes, and having experienced groomers in your corner is a big help. bu
The International Association of Canine Professionals and The National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc. are good places to start, but there are local options as well.
Check with other groomers and veterinarians in your area for info on local pet associations. You may not find a groomer’s group specifically, but anything in the realm of pet care can be extremely beneficial.
You can also perform a simple search for local associations by using your state name and “pet groomers association” as keywords. For example, the Illinois Professional Pet Groomers Association is called Love Fur Dogs.
Meeting up with local dog groomers, doggy daycares, dog trainers, and even dog walkers helps you network and expand your brand. Meetup is a good place to start this search. By entering your zip or city, it lets you look for local dog grooming events, or make your own.
Finally, we can’t deny the power of social media. Facebook is a solid resource for local and federal dog groomer support. Some of the groups to check out include:
These groups help share tips, concerns, favorite products, and new training experiences.
13. Focus on Marketing
Marketing and branding go hand in hand. We outlined the importance of creating your brand above, now we’ll talk about getting the word out that your brand is the best.
Marketing comes in all shapes and sizes, drawing on old and new resources. Here are some of the ways to get noticed as a dog grooming business.
Ask Friends, Family, and Coworkers
Your friends and colleagues can share your brand by:
- Hanging out business cards
- Leaving an online review
- Talking about how great your grooming salon is to others
Seeing is believing, so don’t be shy about asking your friends to share photos from their latest experience at your grooming salon. People love pet pictures.
Digital Marketing Ideas
Digital marketing is a big part of any local advertising game. The first thing many Americans do when they hear about a new pet service is Google it. You want to be in those results. Digital marketing like Google and Facebook Ads make you more visible online.
Getting yourself aligned with the most popular social media sites also helps. Share photos of pups at your salon on Instagram, make TikTok videos to engage younger pet owners and post relevant business info on LinkedIn.
You can also use your website to market yourself by offering a newsletter subscription. Consider exclusive offers and coupons for those who join your loyalty program.
Traditional Marketing Ideas
The world may be all over the internet, but plenty of things are happening in real life. Traditional marketing tackles those real-life moments through:
- Magazine and news ads
- Billboards and park benches
- Flyers and coupon mailers
Traditional marketing is tangible. Consumers hold it in their hands or drive by it on the street. It can’t get caught in a junk mail filter.
14. Focus on the Customer
As you start a dog grooming business, you gain two types of customers. The furry customers you care for, and their owners. You need to consider both customer types to develop your own business plan and service structure.
Some ways to focus on your customers are:
- Loyalty programs (10 grooming sessions equals a free bath and blowout)
- Customer polls for new services and products
- Special seasonal offers to show you care (Holiday photos, or seasonal treats)
- Hosting events for dog socialization and networking
- Training sessions for pet owners to learn at-home grooming techniques
Hopefully, this guide has illuminated some of the finer points of ways to start a dog grooming business. We wish you the best of luck and lots of wagging tails going forward!