Please tell us about your company and what role(s) you play.
My company is called Have Shears Will Travel, and yes I did name it after the old western TV show! It is a house call grooming business, and I am, like so many mobile roomers, a solo entrepreneur. I wear just about every hat a business owner could, except I do have the benefit of having my husband be the best personal assistant and morale booster a person could ask for.
How and when did you start your business? Was it inspired by a pet?
I started my business after being inspired by a customer who reminded me that I shouldn’t let myself be limited by lack of stuff or money. She was my first house call, putting nail caps on her cat after she’d had surgery and couldn’t drive. As we were chatting I told her about my hopes to one day save for a mobile unit, so I could work for myself and be groomer with a van. Her reply was that I just needed to be a groomer with a car! This suck in my head, and after a year or so where I truly thought I invented house call grooming, I realized that I didn’t want a van anymore. I love the close connection I get with my clients, the comfort that a nervous pet ( or pet parent) gets from being groomed in the comfort of their own homes. My dogs have always been rescues, with varying degrees of baggage. When I worked in small shops and could take them with me on a regular basis they got used to the shop. Even when they weren’t used to the shop, they always seemed less stressed if they could see me. There were some days I felt their accusing eyes on me for hours as I spent time with dogs who were clearly not them!
Do you have a pet(s) that joins you at work, what are their names and roles?
Unfortunately I don’t have any pets that join me at work, that’s a bit harder to manager with house call. I do have a cat who insists on seeing me off at the door every morning and who tries to keep me home by leaping on my shoulders and walking all over me. He also keeps watch for me to return home every night and greets me with a meow of “Where have you been???!!!” I do have a tattoo of 2 of my pets paw prints on my left arm who are no longer with me. The dogs paw print, Norbert, was actually the first pet I ever tried to bathe. After dealing with his being convinced that water was actually acid, I felt confident when I started as a bather, not thinking another dog could be harder. I learned I was wrong about that, but am still grateful for the early “Training” Norbert gave me.
What makes your business or brand unique?
What makes my business unique is the personal touch of house call. I believe that every house call groomer is unique in how they interact with their clients, both 2 & 4 legged. This is such a personalized service, for both the clients and the groomer. I have the ability to really get to know my clients on a deeper level than when I was in a shop. Being a bit chatty myself, and having worked in the corporate fishbowl, I don’t mind the pet parent being in the room. I’ve had clients say that they look forward to my visit because in addition to a pretty dog, they get to vent and have a mini therapy session at the same time. It’s also a reassuring process for the more concerned pet parent who wants to watch every step if what’s happening to their baby. Some eventually become comfortable enough with me to leave the room to get other things done, some always want to stay & watch. Both are just fine with me, again, it’s all about providing a personalized experience.
How does your business help other pet lovers like you?
I think that it’s a blend of that personalized experience and the ultimate convenience of the groomer coming to them that helps pet lovers. I have many clients who are on a set schedule and don’t even have to be home, they know that their pup will be clean & well cared for without having to take time off from their busy schedule.
What have been some of your biggest challenges in running your business? How did you overcome them?
Besides figuring out the daily operations of how to run house call smoothly there have been two really big challenges I’ve faced in running my own business. The first is learning to say no, to take time off and realize that I can’t (and shouldn’t) groom 12 hrs a day 6-7 days a week! I still sometimes struggle with this one and have to leave positive post-it notes up for myself reminding me the its okay to take a break! The second is a secret I’ll share with you that I wish someone had told me when I first started. Every corporate shop I’ve worked at, and there have been a few, at some point everyone talked about going out on their own some day. It was always talked about as if it was a cure all, that it would be a magic time where we wouldn’t have a boss telling us what to do and we’d always leap out of bed singing every morning! When the time came and I was finally out on my own I was ecstatic.
Never a morning person, I never actually sang before coffee, but I truly love what I do. However, the mornings still came where you overdid it with too many doodle grooms the day before and hurt all over. The mornings where it’s dreary out and bed looks so much more cozy, or worse, the sunny summer days where you’d rather be at the beach than working, these days still happened. The days when the schedule contains a pet who may be a little more challenging to work with, attitude or groom wise. Every so often, I still caught a case of the “I don’t wanna’s”. Only now, the person making me get out of bed is me. That takes willpower, professionalism & faith that tomorrow or the next day, you’ll have one of those days that will have you saying “ Wow, I love my job & am so blessed. “ Those days aren’t every single day, but they certainly outnumber the “Don’t wanna” days.
What qualities have made you successful or do you feel are important for inspiring leaders?
Some of the qualities that I feel have helped me succeed is a combination of stubbornness and the ability to think outside of the box. The current pandemic is an unfortunate example of both of these. It’s hard to keep a social distance while grooming in someones kitchen, so I had to rethink how I did business. Once grooming reopened in my state and the weather got warmer, I transitioned my business model to work in a completely outdoor set up. I searched amazon for portable dog tubs for my larger clients, used a plastic storage tote for the smaller ones, bathed with garden hoses and pots and buckets of warm water, and used my clients fenced in yards for a contact-less grooming experience. Never accepting “That won’t work for house call” as an acceptable excuse, I set up a UV sterilizer box in the back of my SUV to sanitize my tools between each stop. I learned to work through my glasses fogging up and realized that I actually could groom with a mask on for 7+ hours at a time. Whatever I needed to do to be able to help keep my clients safe and their pups healthy, I am determined to do. When things get rough, it’s just time to channel my inner Rosie the Riveter and know that I can do it!
What cool things are you/your business working on that you would like to share? New product or service? Podcast or training series?
One of the cool things I’m doing now is that I’m one half of the Traveling Groomers podcast with Mary Oquendo. It’s a weekly podcast where we talk about grooming and some of the unique challenges that mobile & house call groomers face. We have so much fun recording it, and have been known to make a few groomers giggle throughout their day. With the current break in trade shows we are even planning a virtual trade show June 12-14, complete with contests! You can find all the information - Traveling Groomers Podcast.
I’m passionate about continuing education for groomers (including myself) so I’m thrilled to be a part of this new way for groomers to be able to attend a show without having to be in a crowd or take time off work to travel.
You can find our podcast, The Traveling Groomers, for your weekly dose of grooming info & fun on pawsitiveed.com our FB page and wherever you find your podcasts.
Where can someone get more information about your business?
I encourage every groomer out there right now is to look into your state grooming association or alliance. If there has been a silver lining to the current situation, it’s that with time on our hands groomers have become a more organized force to be reckoned with. There have been many new state organizations that have been created in the past month, my home state of New Jersey among them. If you’re not sure if your state has one, check out the National Alliance of Grooming Associations webpage or on FB. There will be contact info if your state has a group up & running and guidance for your to start one if their isn’t! Groomers are underrated professionals and its up to us to organize and help further our profession. Not just for ourselves, but for the pets and pet parents who depend on us.