Matthew Held aims to eliminate the “stress” that many pets endure at grooming salons, where, among other things, they’re often forced to wait their turns in cages next to other barking dogs. Held, who owns and operates Celebrity Pets Mobile Grooming, provides an alternative to pet owners in south-central Tennessee and parts of Kentucky: He offers professional grooming services in his trailer, right in their own driveways. GoPayment recently chatted with Held about his successful small business and how he stays ahead of the competition.
GoPayment: How did you get started as a pet groomer?
Held: I grew up on a family farm and almost became a veterinarian. Instead, after graduating from college, I spent eight years doing civil-engineering design work and then worked as a PR manager for a leading aftermarket automotive-parts manufacturer. When I was laid off in 2008, my wife Lisa suggested that I take my love for animals and become a pet groomer. A few weeks later, I decided to go for it. This meant living in a trailer while attending grooming school, but it turned out to be well worth the sacrifice. In 2009, I went full-time in the mobile pet-grooming business. Now I’m booked up every day and even working weekends. My customer base has me booked up a year in advance.
Does being mobile give you a leg up on the competition?
Absolutely. In addition to my formal training — which many other pet groomers lack — the ability to bring my services to clients’ doorsteps offers a huge convenience both to pet owners and to their dogs and cats. Nobody really enjoys sitting in a cubicle all day, so why should we think a pet wants to sit in a cage for hours waiting to be groomed? I’m usually in and out within two hours. I keep the pets happy by giving them little treats and lots of love. And, in many cases, clients leave the keys to their homes, so they don’t have to take time off to get this important task done.
How do you promote Celebrity Pets Mobile Grooming?
From the start, I understood that referrals and word of mouth would be the keys to success. In this day and age, that included creating a Facebook page and making sure I listed my business on every online site I could find at no cost. I also invested in a great graphic design for my trailer, for eye-catching mobile advertising.
In the early days, as soon as I got home from a day of grooming, I mailed clients a referral card thanking them for their business and offering a free gift in exchange for a new referral — usually a free bottle of pet shampoo after their referral completed the first grooming. This was a huge hit! A free gift always wins out over other offers. And when customers use the free pet shampoo or cologne, it’s a reminder that they need to re-book my services for the next round of grooming.
What do you like most about GoPayment?
Being a mobile business owner, I have the GoPayment app on both my iPhone and iPad. It works perfectly, sending me an email confirming that the credit card was swiped, then another email when payment goes to my bank account. When I get home, I pull up my QuickBooks account, and it shows all my day’s transactions. I don’t even have to write out a bank deposit slip.
Do you have advice for the owners of cats and dogs?
Make sure you find a groomer you’re comfortable with and get your pet groomed on a regular basis. Remember, the groomer sees your dog and cat a lot more often than the vet does, and a good groomer will be able to identify any problems with your pet’s health. I’ve groomed dogs with ear infections that their owners didn’t know about!
And advice for small-business owners?
Take very good care of your customers, and they’ll take care of you.