Last year, Trevor Yanuszewski spent about $100,000 — including money withdrawn from his 401k retirement plan — to start Hot Dogs and Cool Cats Mobile Grooming, LLC. He went to school, scoured the country for a van, had it retrofitted and registered his business. When Yanuszewski was finally ready to open, it was the realization of a long-time dream — happening at the start of the pandemic.
“I was worried,” said Yanuszewski. “I didn’t think about the fact that it was a blessing in disguise.”
As the stay-at-home order took effect just as Yanuszewski opened his business in late March, he was able to slip into the void left by grooming salons who were forced to shut down. It turns out that mobile grooming is the perfect way solution for dog and car care during social distancing.
“They can come to the front door, hand off the dog and that’s it,” Yanuszewski says. “They can even pay online.”
As grooming salons around the state reopened, many had long waits as they tried to service a backlog of grooming clients. That provided another opportunity for Yanuszewski, who was able to book appointments the same week that a potential client called. For six weeks through May and early June he was booked solid. Although business has slowed a bit since then, Yanuszewski is getting many return customers.
“Once they recognize how much I love their animal and how careful I’m going to be, I win some people over,” he said.
To try and expand his customer case, Yanuszewski has used some Facebook ads. He’s planning to have his website optimized for search engines, so it will be easier for potential customers to find him. In the meantime, he’s servicing a large area in the south of the state in order to reach as many customers as possible. Eventually he’d like to focus his business on his hometown of Derry and the surrounding towns, but for now he’s happy to travel where business is. He’s also learned to prioritize clients who want more than one animal groomed for increased efficiency.
Even as the pandemic and its economic implications drags on, Yanuszewski is confident that Hot Dogs and Cool Cats will have new customers. Last year, Americans spent more than $95 billion on their pets. Even if the recession reduces that, there’s still plenty of demand to go around, Yanuszewski believes. While some people see grooming as optional, many of his customers prioritize top-notch care for their pet, he said.
“People love their pets just like they’re members of the family. I’m the same with my dogs.”
Mobile grooming typically costs up to 40% more than grooming in a salon because it’s a premium service, Yanuszewski said. There’s no wait, no travel, and no need to worry about your dog waiting in a crate until the groomer is ready for them.
“Mobile grooming is a luxury and a convenience,” he said.
During the coronavirus, it’s also a way for people to keep their pets healthy and looking great, without risking exposure.
“It is far safer during the pandemic to stay at home while your dog is being groomed,” Yanuszewski said. “It’s up to the client, but if they prefer, there doesn’t have to be any social interaction at all.”
This story is part of the 50 Businesses, 50 Solutions series, shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative, that aims to highlight how business leaders across the state, from mom and pop shops, to large corporations have adapted to meet the challenges and disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus in the hopes others may be able to replicate these ideas and innovations. Tell us your story here. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.