123Pet customers are passionate about small business owners who excel at what they do. As part of our commitment to supporting and educating entrepreneurs, we aim to showcase our customers’ expertise in growing a successful business. In the spirit of Women’s History Month, we wanted to celebrate the story of Nikki Budaj, owner of Scrubbers Dog Wash, which has three locations in Royal Oak, West Bloomfield and Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Read on to find out how Nikki grew her first shop into a three-store business in five years.
How did you get your start as a small business owner?
I purchased the first Scrubbers Dog Wash in May of 2012. The business had been open since April 2010, but the previous owner thought the business was going to plateau. Yet, I could tell by looking at the numbers that the business was growing.
Much of the market hadn’t been tapped into yet, and there was no advertising, no marketing or SEO on the company website. Everything was pen and paper or word of mouth, and I saw that there was still a lot that could be done. In fact, I was sure that the business would not plateau. Now we’ve been open for nine years, and I expanded to a second location in 2014 and the third location in 2017.
What is your favorite part about running a grooming shop?
I love working with dogs and I love grooming. I find it very satisfying to take an unkempt fluffball and turn him into a work of art. I also love the customers—making friends with them and building rapport with them and their dogs.
Growing those relationships also helps to build a healthy clientele. Rapport and communication are necessary for this business. You need to establish a sense of trust to create customer loyalty.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a small business owner?
First and foremost, thank goodness I provide a service that can’t be duplicated by the internet. And even so, there is a lot of competition with so many good groomers in the area. It’s a challenge to keep prices competitive without underselling yourself.
Another challenge is finding good groomers. You need people who are responsible and reliable, especially when your business is growing.
When we had two shops, I could run one and my husband could run the other. Now that we have three, we need loyal employees who can manage the shops—which may be the most important thing for running a business and keeping customers happy. I need employees who will give the level of customer service that I would.
What advice would you give to women who want to pursue careers in grooming?
It depends on if they want to be a groomer or a business owner. If you want to become a groomer, understand what you need to learn. Find someone to apprentice under, work your hardest, do your best and don’t give up. This is a hard industry, and not as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
People think groomers play with dogs all day, but that’s far from the truth. It can be a dangerous job; you need to know how to handle animals and you need to be strong. You also need to be somewhat artistic. As a groomer, you are sculpting and creating a work of art—but on a moving subject.
If you want to open a business, take the following steps: do your research, know the demographics in your area and look at what your competition is charging. Know exactly what you’re getting into before opening up shop. You’re going to have a lot of questions, so have a lawyer and an accountant on call.
Understand what sets you apart from other groomers in your area. Embrace that you need to market yourself and spend money on advertising. And most important, you need to love what you do to make a business out of it.
How has 123Pet Software helped you grow your business?
As soon as I took over Scrubbers in 2012, I purchased the single user package of 123Pet. Once I expanded to more shops, I purchased the next size up so I could add multiple groomers.
Now we use 123Pet on every computer and phone, we add as many groomers as we want and it’s been a lifesaver coming from the shop’s original pen and paper model. In fact, the previous owner of Scrubbers took great notes on all the customers, which the 123Pet team imported into the new system. The transition was seamless, so it didn’t take any time for me at all.
Now, with 123Pet implemented on our phones, all our groomers can see what their schedule is for the next day. And, since we added online booking to our website, we’ve been able to gain new customers. I knew 123Pet was the software for me, and it has paid for itself.
Our employees’ favorite 123Pet features are email marketing and text notifications. The marketing function allows us to take care of our current customers by reminding them of appointments. The text notifications and text for pickup reminders also give us a lot of extra time.
Our employees can go into the computer, hit “ready to pick up,” and 123Pet sends a text to the customer, so we don’t have to spend time leaving a message or waiting for them to pick up their pet. This is such an easy software to use. It’s been great.