Looking for a Dog Grooming Job in Chicago, part2


I am sort of amazed by how many people  find this blog by searching for how much the average dog groomer makes a year.  Google that question, & you will see that the AVERAGE is  in the  low $30,000 range.  Divide that up by how much you have to earn a day, or a week, and you will know  sort of what to expect.

Next—add up your expenses—you know, rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance (health & car, many renter’s), food/groceries, clothing, etc, etc.  Are you going to be able to generate that  grooming dogs?

I am belaboring this because since the first of the year, I have  been offered 6 jobs.  No joke!

First one was  by a kennel in a very elite area, and I had high hopes. The build out was really nice. Trouble was…the owner wasn’t actually ‘working’ the business. He was using it as passive income—& it wasn’t even generating that. Why?  Too many people on the payroll making too much money  & not adding value to the business:  not  cleaning, not grooming, nor really doing anything…I could see that there would not be enough business unless we  contacted old clients & either called them or  mailed them a ‘reminder’ to make an appointment—-but the manager would not do it.  She kept making excuses….for  over 6 weeks!  She’s on the payroll…. but I was an independent contractor—so that was the end of that.

Next was a  very nice kennel  very close to  the Chicago Loop.  It’s been in business over 10 years. The staff is generally excellent. Their problem—the owner doesn’t really want to  be involved in day-to-day operations anymore, so she became lax about contact information for her grooming clients.  She told me she didn’t know why the last  2 groomers quit…but she also told me they didn’t complain about the horrible lighting or not having regular work (gee—I wonder if they  lived with a parent or husband who paid the bills…). She told me she was absolutely certain she could provide me with  2 full days of work (averaging $150 per day, per week) every week, but this turns out to not be true. I am slowly building up the business, but I still do not have adequate lighting , &  it took over 6 weeks to get a dehumidifier (& she only bought it because the kennel manager insisted).

Another business that has been through 4 owners in 40 years, called me for just Saturdays.  This business used to have a 4 week waiting list for new clients—they were so busy—& still have 7 groomers during the week.  Nobody ever left…but the economy has even affected the wealthy.  This business was NEVER open on Saturdays..but now they are—& just 1 groomer works, or so I was told.  I didn’t believe the owner, a groomer, herself,  was  going to be dishonest with me, and she told me they take dogs in for the day they worked. Turns out–the  groomer already there—has seniority…what we , in Chicago, call first dibs.  That means, she is entitled to all the work she wants—& what she can’t handle, the next groomer is entitled to.  Except if another groomer who works during the week also wants to work on Saturday, and she has second dibs.  So,  the first groomer got 14 dogs, the second groomer got 7 dogs, & I got 4 dogs, & the  first 2 groomers complained  about me being there on Saturday, so that  ended quickly.  There’s a lot of that.  Be careful with shops that think that is fair. What they end up doing is hiring a groomer fresh out of school, who can only groom  2 or 3 dogs a day & doesn’t mind being critiqued, & she slowly works her way up. … but don’t expect a living wage for months….

A guy who interviewed me 2 years ago, with a very good boarding & dog training business, emailed me & told me his groomer left & they really needed someone…so I met with his manager.  He’s been through 4 groomers in 2 years. The problem?  He has one ‘Force’ dryer…& that is it.  Clients are complaining about dogs going home wet.  I suggested  a Sahara  or Grizzly      (these are carpet dryers used in the grooming industry to  move a lot of air), or even just a few box fans & crates, so you wouldn’t have to blast a dog for 1/2 hour.  The manager told me they didn’t believe in crate drying.  I asked why.  She couldn’t come up with a good explanation. So, I told her  the  solution was….if the owner would not invest in more  fans, dryers, or  crates, to contract with a mobile groomer.

From there, I went to talk to a guy opening a new dog grooming school—Chicago Academy of Dog Grooming.   Steve Cox, who used to train groomers for PETCO—& was screwed by them.    Very nice shop, he has an excellent online reputation.  I am sure he can teach people to groom.   Not styling, really. You will never see a Bedlington or a Bouvier des Flandres in his shop, nor a Lakeland or Kerry…He wants a full time groomer  so he can teach full time—much more money in that.  But when I asked him what I would make a day, he told me I’d average $75. Well—what’s the point of that?    I can do that at home grooming 2 dogs a day—in fact, make more!  I asked him if he’d tell  students what they’d make.  He said he’d tell them the range. These dog grooming schools are a huge racket—because the State of Illinois will give students grants—paid directly to the schools—so students can learn a new skill—whether there is a market for them or not.  let the buyer beware?

Finally, I interviewed at a very small shop—only about 100 square fee5t in the front for product, but a nice  build out in the back. The owner, not a groomer, but a typical corporate refugee, wanted  a dog business.    She did her research & invested in god equipment, but—even though she has kept the business going for over 3 years now, &  does excellent social marketing, she is learning that the business is too small to  support a non-working owner…and has had to  take consulting work to support this indulgence.

I have blogged about  the  few I know that just didn’t make it.  One that I thought would, “Sit!”, which had an excellent groomer, recently got sold to “Soggy Paws”, a chain of small  grooming shops with an excellent reputation( & good for groomers who need health insurance) because the could not generate enough per square foot or per day—in income—to support a non-working owner. In any case, the owner of this very small shop asked me about some of the terrible  reviews for my grooming on-line. I asked her to show them to me, but I told her about Dan London, Doggie Bath House, how I refused to work for him, so he decided that I would work for nobody if I would not work for him.  & I told her about  the  breeders selling on Craigslist , and how, since they are sure I cut into their business  when they are flagged off for selling, they will libel me whenever they can.  She told me she had been through that as well.

Meanwhile, via word-of-mouth, I remain busy  either at home, at the kennel downtown, or working now & then for other friends, and that is fine.  I have not had to go into savings, even though I recently had to do a major infrastructure repair on the house & buy  a new stove & bathroom vanity for the 1st floor flat.  I am sure the backyard dog & herp breeders—now that they have saturated the local market, are NOT doing so well.  Many of the idiot Pit Bull breeder seem to have disappeared.  Hey—many have gone into foreclosure…& it seems, also, that many more are being flagged off the Craigslist  pet section (& general for sale section) by others just like me who feel the same way:  let the older pets  you’ve already sold  have a chance to find a home. Go pay for an ad in the paper.

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3 Responses to “Looking for a Dog Grooming Job in Chicago, part2”

  1. Gabriel Smith Says:

    As a member of the dog grooming community, I find this Awfully helpful thanks, I do believe your subscribers would possibly want far more posts like this continue the great content.

  2. Alison Says:

    Thanks for the honest information. I’m trying to get back on my feet after some hard times and have been struggling tyring to come up with some viable ideas as to how to make a living doing something I could, call me crazy, love. I love animals and was so excited by some the listed grooming schools. Kind of bowled over (ya think?) by the tuitions quoted on some web sites. And then there’s the equipment, supplies, application fees (really? application fees). Some don’t even list them, but instead tell you to call for information…hmmm, starting to feel a little suspicious, maybe this is some kinda racket? I tend to be someone who wants to think the best of situations, especially if it involves an aspiration of mine. Feeling much more caution now. A little dejected, but a little more knowledgable. Thanks for the “straight dope”. Maybe cooking school isn’t such a bad idea! 🙂

  3. http://www.squidoo.com/GoldensealforDogs Says:

    I like what you guys are up too. This sort of clever work
    and coverage! Keep up the great works guys I’ve
    added you guys to my own blogroll.

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