OMG— the pet industry seems clueless…


In a bad economy, where people are reinventing themselves, one finds  a disproportionate  number of people who think it would be ‘fun’ to own a pet related business.  My gut reaction is….omg!  Have you seen the price of a 40 lb sack of dog food?  & they are going  DOWN to 30 lb bags!!!

I have to admit…it is.  I love what I do…but I want you to think about this:  These microbusinesses can’t afford NONWORKING personnel.   Hear me?  If you can’t groom yourself, & think hiring a groomer is going to keep your business afloat with retail, you are dreaming….I wonder if I will be able to even afford a dog in retirement!

1. When I learned to groom dogs, in the late 1960s…things were  way, way different. Middle class people generally paid less than 1/3 of their income for  housing, groceries, & utilities.  Lots of people could not only afford household help (this was before the civil rights movement, and  negroes as they were called back then, were discriminated  against in housing, education, and employment, and took any low wage job they could get), but  middle class white people had  plenty of cash left over to throw around.  Many bought pets needing haircuts!  Think about it.  It doesn’t make any sense unless you have money to burn;

2.  When I left home in 1972, I shared housing with 2 other people, and my share of the rent was  $30 a month—and I was making $70 a week!  Now, in  the 21st century, my rent is closer to $750 a month, and I average $500 a week.  Everything has gone up in price;

3. As the economy has changed, so have fashions. Shocking to me that so many people would pay  $1000 for a designer mixed breed dog, but  the fact of the matter is that the most popular dog breed in the USA right now  is NOT an AKC breed, but a  Pit Bull.  The next most popular is the Labrador Retriever.  Neither needs professional grooming;

4.  Many  dog grooming schools have sprung up in the last 30 years.  Depending how much talent you have, you may actually learn to groom  dogs, but the schools can’t teach you talent.  They also are not totally  honest about your prospects making a living—but most of the grooming school students are not deep thinkers:  they are not really thinking about how they will  make a living grooming dogs…they are fantasizing about how life will turn out.  There has been a lot of publicity given the the very talented groomers doing ‘creative styling’ of Poodles.  Most of them live in mobile homes & don’t have health insurance;

5.  Unless you are in a very underserved area where there are no groomers, or their talent is lacking, or you have a rich partner supporting you, or you own a boarding kennel and live on the premises, or  are an AKC professional handler…chances are slim to none you will be able to support yourself as a dog groomer, meaning:  you will be able to afford a home mortgage & health insurance;

6.  Yes, we hear about dog groomers making $80,000 a year, but  that really is not a lot of money.  There is anecdotal evidence the average groomer  takes home less than $40,000 a year. You can’t send kids to college on that, nor can you pay for health insurance.

How do I do it?

I bought a 2 flat over  3o years ago, and I have rental income.  I have usually had a roommate.  I am very good at budgeting.  I own only 2 dogs—both from rescues (and was shocked at how much a 40# bag of dog food at Petco costs—over $50 for a premium food!).  I have a high deductible health insurance plan AND  (very important) an HSA.   I pay off my credit card every month.  I NEVER carry a balance.   I rarely go to movies or to live shows.  Maybe 2 a year.  I don’t drink alcohol.  I get a lot of my clothing at thrift stores.  I paid cash for my undergraduate degree, and got an assistantship to grad school (huge indulgences).  As for my actual business?  I only have  about 20 personal clients.  But as I specialize in drape coated dogs, virtually all my clients commit to paying me  every  2 weeks.  You can’t live on 20 clients.  I also managed to hitch my star to a very good kennel that  has a unique business plan and caters to wealthy  clients who  will spend for the best.  Otherwise, I could not keep afloat.

What really affects me, and the reason my business does not grow?  Very few  people will indulge themselves with a drape coated dog and NOT learn to groom it themselves.  Too many dog owners get dogs based on  how they look, never imagining the dog would smell as bad as it does (Bloodhounds, St. Bernards, Newfoundlands), or need clipping as frequently (all the dreamers who paid for a Doodle of some sort—rather than a purebred Poodle).  These people are the types  who think they are entitled to have the kind of dog they want without  being about to afford  rent without living on a credit card.

2 things that really irk me—as a dog lover—-are the numbers of people who trust the  employees at the  BIG BOX PET STORES  put either a harness or a training collar on a dog they are not training.  Sled dogs & guide dogs—dogs bred to pull—wear harnesses. Why would you want to make it easy for your dog to pull you?  &  why would you put a training collar on a dog if you are not prepared to use it correctly all the time?  It’s dangerous—&  wee groomers can not SAFETLY HANDLE YOUR DOG.  That—and buying the WRONG BRUSH  because the guy at the pet shop told you  to buy that overpriced tool (the breeder didn’t show you  how to groom your dog)—& yet these people  continue to  patronize these pet shops that sold them the wrong things!  Absolutely demoralizing!!!

I talk to other groomers all the time,  and most are living from hand to mouth.  Or, they have a partner supporting them  &  grooming is  just about a break-even hobby.  Think about that when you give up your day job to pursue this dream.

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