Outside the Box...

"Wait. You do what?" This is what other groomers ask me when I tell them how I have set my business up.  There is a little story to it, let me share it with you.  

I have been making dogs and cats more beautiful for over 30 years.  Over the course of time I have worked in a small grooming and boarding facility, two large, modern veterinary offices, a large boarding facility that offered grooming as an afterthought, as a house-call groomer and as a mobile groomer.  I was proud to be a part of a large, very upscale pet spa for 11 years.  And then... I decided to begin the final phase of my career.  A small shop based out of my home.  

My husband and I live in a 100 year old farm house in rural Maine. When I say "rural," let me describe it to you this way. Our town is so small we share a zip code with another town.  There are around 1,500 people who live here. There are no traffic lights, no street lights, no stores.  

Business advisers will tell you that when you plan where to open a business, the most important thing is "location, Location, LOCATION!"  Those same business advisers would have hustled me off to have my head examined when they heard my plan.  


The front porch of our house was (and is) my favorite room, but was under-utilized.  I had this idea that I could turn it into a grooming studio.  Despite the fact that I spent many a dark night lying in bed with my eyes wide open, wondering who in the world would drive all the way here to have a pet groomed, I went on with my plan.  I lined up a man to build my web page.  He knows the grooming industry quite well.  I mentioned to him that I thought I might have a little sitting area and allow people to stay while I groomed their pet if they wanted.  His response galvanized me.  "That's a GREAT idea!" he said.  "It is rare for groomers to allow people to stay. You need to market this."  And so I did.  


My web site, Facebook page and advertising all state plainly that people are welcome to come and stay with their pet. I groom one animal at a time, and I would estimate that approximately 80% of my customers choose to pull up a chair and stay.  


To give people something to do while I work I provide a coffee/tea maker, and most days, a plate of home baked goodies.  People really look forward to the brownies or cookies, and I am rather enjoying trying out some new recipes to offer folks. 

I know that most groomers cringe at the thought of having people stay while they work, and I realize this method is not for everyone.  But it has worked wonderfully for me, here in this rural spot.  Some folks make an event of it. One young woman brings her young daughter, or her mom, (or both!) They play cribbage or a card game while I groom her Soft Coated Wheaten terrier.  Two elderly ladies come together, and make a big deal out of having tea and a goodie while they chat and I groom.  I have heard some amazing stories from people, and had some memorable conversations, (when the dryer is off!)  

There are bird feeders set up just outside the window, and people enjoy seeing the activity there.  I also happen to have farm animals milling about... a horse, donkey, goats, sheep, chickens and ducks.  People get a huge kick out of looking out to see what the critters are up to.  

As for the dogs, most of them adapt quickly to their owners being there. I ask that people don't touch their dog while I am working, and rarely have to remind them.  I cater to pets that weigh under 50 pounds, so most dogs are done in about an hour.  People surf the web on their phone or tablet, bring paper work to do, or just sit and talk.  Getting to know people in this way has been a gift to me.  The elderly man who made me a bird feeder and brought me a basket of fresh-caught trout. The woman who told me about her amazing life history, and how she had written a book about it.  The sweet,simple stories of birth and death and triumph over adversity... all shared over some fur and a macaroon.  My life has been enriched.  Not just because I have been busy since the day I opened.  Not just because people drive from miles (or even states!) away to have me groom their pet. Not just because I am earning a good income while keeping an eye on my livestock and starting supper between grooms.  It is so much more than that. 

The moral of this story is this:  Think Outside the Box.  What niche can you fill with your particular talents that will make your business succeed?  You don't have to groom the way everyone else does. I don't. And it delights me.  

Pearl kisses