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Starting a Dog Groomers Business: Everything you need to know

By Maria Hickey on September 1st, 2021

Very few people make a career out of something they truly love. If you’re a dog lover, opening a dog grooming business can be your ticket to a dream job that allows you to make a comfortable living. But where do you start? How can you protect your dog grooming business? What should you look into to launch your new career? Our comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know.

  1. Understand the dog grooming industry
  2. Think about your niche
  3. Complete training and obtain qualifications
  4. Develop the skills needed to become a dog groomer
  5. Register and launch your dog grooming business
  6. Get the right insurance

Understand the dog grooming industry

Many dog owners just don’t have the time, energy, knowledge or desire to groom their pooches. Therefore, hiring a professional to do the job is a no-brainer. However, in order to be the dog groomer they pick, you need to understand what the industry looks like and where you can fit in.

There are approximately 12.5 million dogs in the UK, so it’s clear there’s a market for groomers. What’s more, the UK pet industry is a multi-billion pound sector. £2.4bn is spent on pets every month and the average dog-owning Brit spends £178 per month on their best friend.

But it’s not just about the cold, hard figures. People increasingly view their dogs as companions rather than their property, so they want to make sure they’re treated right and looked after. How many times have you heard a dog owner refer to their pet as their baby? This means it’s not enough to just charge affordable rates. Your business also has to offer a personal touch by highlighting how much you love animals as well as the strength of your skills.

You should also keep up-to-date with all the relevant guidelines. Consider joining The British Dog Groomers’ Association (BDGA) to receive education, training and support. Becoming a member is also a great way to show customers you offer the highest standards of customer care and animal welfare. Taking part in trade shows and exhibitions is also recommended if you want to keep on top of your game and get to grips with new trends, practices and equipment.

Think about your niche

Even though the pet grooming sector has been resilient in the past, only seeing a minor downturn during the 2008-2012 recession, there has also been a shift away from high-maintenance pets like dogs. The fewer dogs there are, the more competition there’ll be to attract clients. And the best way to secure business is to find your niche.

Take a look at your region and what other groomers are doing. Try to think about what sets you apart and what you do best. Do you have a gift when it comes to troublesome dogs? Maybe you’re really good with curly fur? Or are puppies your true passion? If you don’t have a straightforward specialty, consider catering to a certain size or breed, for example. Your previous work history can be helpful, too — perhaps there are some special skills you’ve learned in previous jobs that can be celebrated in your new role. If you’re still unsure, maybe the way you run your business could define your niche. Running a mobile dog groomers business from a van can be a unique selling point, while a super late closing time or early opening hours can appeal to working people.

Whichever niche you choose, make it abundantly clear in your marketing that this is your specialty. Think about it this way: if you own a difficult border collie that can’t bear to be apart from you, would you be more likely to choose a generic groomer or one that brands themselves around their experience with separation anxiety? People care for their animals and want the perfect fit, so ensure they know that you are just that.

Complete training & obtain qualifications

Although there is no legal requirement to be fully trained and qualified, pet owners — particularly ones who invest in grooming their dogs — want to be assured that you know what you’re doing. This includes the technical elements of how to wash, brush, clean, clip and groom even the most difficult dogs, and may want you to prove it. To practice your profession, you have to first train and gain certain qualifications to convince people to trust you with their precious dogs.

This can be done either by working with a qualified and experienced dog groomer or taking a course privately. City & Guilds, for example, offer three types of certificates for this purpose (Level 2 Certificate for Dog Grooming Assistants, Level 3 Certificate in Introductory Dog Grooming, and Level 3 Certificate/Diploma for Dog Grooming Stylists). Qualifications in animal care can also be useful, or you could take part in a special traineeship or apprenticeship. Whatever you do, it is recommended you join the BDGA to get this important stamp of approval and open yourself up to further training opportunities.

Develop the skills needed to become a dog groomer

Whether you’ve gained qualifications or not, there are other skills you should work on when it comes to grooming. It’s not just about the technical experience, but also how you treat customers, how you advertise yourself, and the way you make people feel around you.

Arguably, the most important trait a dog groomer needs is to be passionate about animals. Dog owners can see whether the person in front of them enjoys their craft, and if not, they are unlikely to trust you with their pet. You should be able to communicate  what you offer with calmness and clarity, and be patient with your clients — remember, their dogs are precious to them, and they want to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Sales and marketing skills are also crucial. It doesn’t matter how great your services are if not one knows about you! You need to be comfortable selling yourself, spreading the word, and embracing uncomfortable but essential tasks like asking for referrals or testimonials. Some social media savvy is essential for this purpose, and basic photography and writing abilities can never hurt.

Register and launch your dog grooming business

Once you have committed to opening a dog grooming business, it’s time to properly launch it. In order to do so, you’ll need to register legally through HMRC. There are a couple of ways to do that:

  • Sole Trader: A relatively simple business structure. It is unincorporated, which means you are entitled to 100% of the profits, but also fully liable for any debt or risk. This is also referred to as being self-employed.
  • Limited Company: A business structure that is a separate entity to you. In other words, you will not be liable for any debt.

Costs of starting a dog grooming business

As we’re sure you know, tax isn’t the only cost you have to consider when opening a business. Running a dog grooming service has many other fees that you need to plan ahead for:

  • Premises
  • Business supplies
  • Training and learning resources
  • Insurance
  • Marketing
  • Employees’ salaries
  • Transport

Make sure you consider these fees when you set your prices.  According to the government’s National Career Service, dog groomers’ salaries start from £13k per annum, and can grow up to £20k with experience. Remember that you can set your own tariff, but on average, grooming services will be priced at around the £26-£56 mark, depending on the treatment and the size and type of dog.

Equipment required to start a dog grooming business

There’s also the question of equipment. Of course, you’ll require a dog grooming table and a bath, which can be quite the expense. But clippers, scissors, brushes, combs, dryers, shampoos, conditioner and towels are also essential. Most professional groomers would also appreciate having some bonus items in their kits, for example, tick-removing tools, blood stop powder, ear plucking powder, and muzzles for poorly-behaved pups. This is without accounting for your personal equipment, like your water and fur-proof uniform, as well as pet-friendly cleaning supplies.

Types of dog grooming businesses

Brick-and-mortar dog grooming salons

Salons are the most common type of business set-up in this sector and they’re great because you don’t have to travel to your clients, saving you time during the day. You’ll also get walk-by business, and be able to establish a brand in a more conventional way. However, in order to open a salon, it’s vital to find a good location and this may not be cheap. What’s more, on average, salons employ three groomers. So, if you’re on your own for now, you may want to consider partnering up with other groomers or employing others. It probably won’t be financially feasible to pay for a salon if only one person is working in it.

Mobile dog groomers

Instead of running your business from a salon, mobile dog groomers work out of a unit — most commonly a van — which allows them to travel to clients. This is particularly useful for older or disabled clients who might struggle to move around, as well as more aged dogs. And considering the convenience of this service, no one would raise an eyebrow if your prices are slightly higher than a salon. However, remember you will need to fund a van and the added costs of petrol and maintenance have to be taken into account. Driving between clients may also be time-consuming.

Get the right insurance

It cannot be stressed enough how important dogs are to their owners. They are their little fur babies! For this reason, it’s crucial that you not only know what you’re doing, but also that you protect yourself against any accidents that can damage your business. That’s where insurance comes into play. As well as ensuring you’re covered financially, it will also give your clients confidence if you can prove you’ll be able to pay compensation if necessary.

There are a few different types of insurance associated with setting up and running a dog grooming business. The most important ones are:

  • Public liability insurance: If a customer or another third party is injured as a direct result of your business activities, public liability cover will ensure you’re covered in the case of a claim. It also covers you if you damage their property.
  • Business equipment insurance: Groomers have lots of expensive equipment, and the financial impact of replacing them if they are lost, damaged or stolen can be huge. This policy will cover the cost.
  • Business interruption insurance: You can’t predict what might happen in the future. If you need to close your business, whether short or long term, this policy will cover you against any lost revenue.
  • Business contents insurance: While business equipment insurance covers the tools you use, business contents insurance covers everything else on your premises, including fixtures and furniture.

These are your basics covered. However, some elements of a dog grooming business may not be considered in generic insurance policies. That’s why we recommend investing in a targeted policy that’s tailored to your specific business needs.

Dog groomers insurance does just that. You’re protected against the most common risks of running a dog grooming business, including covers such as buildings insurance, stock insurance, goods in transit insurance and more. The combination of covers will be decided based on your specific dog grooming business and its special requirements, depending on whether you work from a van or a shop, for example.

To find your perfect policy, compare dog groomers insurance quotes with us here at Brisco. We will show you the prices and policies from all the leading UK insurers so you can weigh up your options and confidently select the best insurance package for your business needs.

Maria Hickey

For more than 20 years, Maria has worked in the insurance sector and has extensive underwriting and customer service expertise. Maria is an experienced Senior Underwriter with a particular specialism for shop, office and surgery related insurance.

All articles by Maria Hickey

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