I am writing this so people can learn more about me and our family business. If there is anything my sister (business partner) and I can do to help improve the lives from Salon Owners to Beginner Stylists and Veteran Stylists. We will help in any way we can. I am always interested in hearing from people in this great career!
Growing up as the child of a small business owner, I was exposed to the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship at an early age. My two sisters and I were raised by our mother, Jacqueline Rauch, who breed show poodles and owned a handful of dog grooming salons throughout the western U.S.
We used to do our homework and sometimes slept in the salons, my mother owned and operated in California and Montana. When you start a business, sometimes you don’t have a lot of money left over. So there were times when we just lived in her business. We even had Thanksgivings in the salon. I began working in her salons at the age of 13. I began as a bather/brusher and time went on my mother taught me to become a professional pet stylist that would meet her high standards, not only in grooming the pets but to also care for each pet as if they were my own pet. This training helped me to become a National Certified Master Groomer. Which is a distinction given only to those stylists who have reached the highest level of pet styling and grooming knowledge.
I went to college to become a television journalist and worked in the field briefly before deciding that I missed working with the pets and being around the pets owners who deeply cared about their pets and were grateful for my work that not only made them beautiful but the pets and I also developed our own relationships.
In 1994, equipped with what I had learned from my mother’s teaching and experiences, I purchased an old grooming shop in Humble, Texas for $5,000 and transformed it into a chic pet salon named Golden Paws. While I was working on the shops build out, my mother acquired the customer list of a pet salon that was going out of business in nearby Houston. Before I knew it, I was already expanding my business and opening a second storefront in Houston to better accommodate my new clientele list.
It all happened so fast; the first store was up and running in March. Then, I started on the space in Houston and opened it that summer, before it was even fully finished. People would walk their dogs across the construction planks. Because word of mouth had spread, that the styling and care of their pets was of the highest quality.
Early on I believed there was huge profit potential in mobile grooming units—fully-outfitted salons on wheels that travel to clients’ homes. My ultimate plan was to create a traveling salon that could be franchised. During Golden Paws’ first year, I bought a used RV, gutted it, and transformed it into a pet parlor equipped with fresh water tanks, a bathtub, cages, a blow dryer, grooming accessories and a generator. For two years, the Golden Paws mobile salon steadily served clients in and around Humble.
The Golden Paws mobile unit’s success was cut short when it was destroyed in a sporadic electrical fire.
I was still convinced that a mobile franchise model could be lucrative for my company; I spent the next two years researching and developing a second mobile unit. This time, I bought an airport shuttle-type bus and built a prototype of the vehicle I envisioned franchising around the country. This version of my traveling salon had an interior that was sleeker and easier to navigate, updated equipment, ramps for the dogs and safety elements.
It felt like a vet’s office, but its lifespan was equally as short. During its third year on the road, the mobile unit driver hit a church overhang going about 20 to 30 miles an hour and the top of the unit was torn off.
I was devastated. I was glad no one was hurt, but it was devastating because it was my prototype and so beautiful and different from anything else on the market at that time in terms of mobile units.
Though frustrated with the unexpected failure of my mobile concept, I then realized that another part of my business was showing growth potential. The grooming classes for professional pet stylists that I was offering at my two locations were attracting more and more students from throughout and beyond the state of Texas reaching as far as Japan.
The teaching program my mother and I developed was excellent and the schools were going so well that I decided to put my focus there. Then, I thought to myself, “Why stop at two? What if I did this across the country? The schools fit so easily with the flow of my salons, a lot better than the mobile units”. I saw a huge market in helping other salon owners open their own schools. By now my business in pet styling had grown so huge and with the schools I needed help and asked my sister, Rianne, who owned a grooming salon in California to sell hers and move back to Texas to help run the businesses.
I then refocused my energy on education and worked with my sister, Rianne, and our mother to turn more than 50 decades of pet styling experience into a structured training program that could help other pet groomers open schools to train future stylists.
I had worked and quit some places immediately after seeing how they treated dogs. A lot of that experience inspired me to go into teaching.
My passion for pet styling education lays in my desire to help people, especially single-parents, create sustainable careers and help teach them humane compassion for the pets in their care. I witnessed first-hand that opportunities within the growing pet grooming industry can help families survive. My mom raised three girls on her own doing this and I raised a daughter. It can really be a life changer.
To put the industry into perspective, the American Pet Products Association estimates that pet owners spent $4. 54 billion on grooming and boarding in 2013.
One of our salon owners who opened her own school, Michelle Kennedy, said “The school does have the potential to be very lucrative,” whose students pay up to $6,550 for registration, tools, and tuition. This year, she’s planning to move her academy out of her salon and into a rented space that can accommodate up to 16 students, four times her current classroom’s capacity. She also hopes to begin offering weekend sessions.
Besides bringing in additional capital, becoming a teacher has allowed Kennedy to better understand her industry, take on a new professional role, and affect the lives of others who also love her craft.
“I actually think I’m turning out to be a good teacher,” said Kennedy. “It’s made me think about my craft and about how to break it down so people can better understand it. And I love encouraging people to open a business. I think three of my former students have started their own salons.”
There are currently 10 schools across the country that license the Golden Paws program and more locations are pending state approval.
Last year, our company unveiled the Long Distance Dog Grooming Program, teaching professional pet grooming program with a very unique training program that mimics our innovative instructional program at the schools. Not everyone can attend a Golden Paws Pet Styling Academy and for those who can’t and want a quality education with a high ratio of student instruction interaction this is a great program for them.
When I reflected on my decision to forgo my franchise idea and base my business in education, I believed I chose a path that will continue to reap benefits both financially and personally. A Win Win for everyone involved!
Offering education for other groomers is very rewarding on a financial basis, but also on a personal level. When you have someone calling you that you taught 11 years ago to say that you changed their life, that’s rewarding.
Mitzi Parrish, NCMG