For some of us, starting a business may be one of our goals in the New Year. However, the whole thought process of how to start, how to get money and how to have faith that it will all work can be the most daunting part of the process. For Zakayla, owner of Pawpin' Pawz Luxury Mobile Grooming located in Cincinnati, Ohio, keeping faith and perseverance was at the forefront of her vision of what being a business owner should be. We caught up with Zakayla to learn more about her vision for being a business owner and her journey to becoming one and here's what she had to say.
How I Got into the Industry:
About 3 years ago, I began dipping into grooming by watching YouTube and practicing on my sweet boy Benji. At the time, I was working at Sprint and was happy, and making decent money, but I longed for something more rewarding. I have always loved dogs, but it never crossed my mind to actually work with them. I walked into a pet store to buy clipper oil and was offered a job as a dog groomer. I was sold a dream: they offered paid training while going through grooming school and I was told that after schooling, I would be making the “big bucks”. In the beginning, I was reluctant about making the switch, but then after some conversations and lots of prayers, I went ahead and submitted my application. This was THE best decision I could have ever made for myself.
How I Learned:
I attended The Paragon School of Pet Grooming distance learning program (remember this is still 2020 during COVID, so the courses were online), but I worked side by side with my amazing trainer Erica. She was the person who began to water my seeds and show me the way. She was patient and made sure that I understood what I was doing and how to properly care for pets. The only reason I really know how to groom is because of her, without her I would not have succeeded in an online-only program.
A few months after my training, I decided to leave and go to a different location that would offer a different clientele and another groomer whom I could expand upon my knowledge with. This location was a bit more upscale and allowed me the chance to really practice my scissoring skills and techniques that were taught to me in school and in the expos that I attended. Although I loved my job, I did not enjoy the busy environment of the corporate store and how it affected the pets in what should be their “spa day”. Dogs would be kept in kennels for hours with other dogs stressing them out and unknown people in and out. Some would be afraid to come into the store which always broke my heart. I thoroughly loved and enjoyed the pets that I cared for and was happy that I could bring some joy to them and their families. What I did not enjoy was the fact that I felt as if I was on an assembly line.
Dealing With Employee Neglect:
I experienced a lot of what I guess you could call “employee neglect”? We were forced to work in back rooms with little to no air circulation, cage banks, hot water, and dryers going (imagine the heat and humidity), we were expected to place our food in the same refrigerator as crickets and other insects, and we were expected to eat lunch (the rare occasion that I actually had a few minutes to take a quick break) at our grooming table (b/c there was no break area - wait there was, next to the sick pets), and continue answering phones and checking dogs in and out. In the corporate locations, we were always expected to make more money, fit more dogs in and upsell, upsell, upsell. There was never a time that allowed you to slow down and work with pets that may have needed a bit more patience and that is what filled my heart the most. I have always loved seeing how a pet can learn to trust me and that the grooming process can be something that they can learn to enjoy or at least tolerate.
Because everything in the salon was left up to the groomers (I barely interacted with management), I felt like I was running my own business in a sense. I had my own clients, booked my own schedule, handled problems on our own, and cleaned and cared for the salon like it was mine. I looked around me and saw other entrepreneurs who looked like me including my dad (The Cincinnati Trainer), my cousin (TaxxWare Pro), and a group I found called “The Black Groomer’s Association” which is filled with African American Animal professionals and business owners. I said to myself, “if they can run businesses and I’m basically doing it for this place, why can’t I go in for myself? So, I did!
Making the Switch:
One day after my contract was over, I left and 5 days after that I officially opened Pawpin’ Pawz Luxury Mobile Grooming: House Call (which I had been planning all along). In the beginning, I was nervous about what people may think of me being an “in-home groomer”. Would they think I'm unprofessional, would they expect less of me, would I not succeed doing this? All of that and more crossed my mind, however, I decided that my business was just that. My business. I decided that I would be the one to make it what I want it to be. I created a luxury experience and gave professional customer service and quality grooming.
In just one year’s time, I have been blessed and fortunate enough to grow a strong and consistent client list, network with other pet professionals, volunteered my time, joined, and hosted The Pup Relief Tour: Cincinnati, gained several different certifications, began teaching others the trade and acquired my very first mobile dog grooming trailer! One of my obstacles was obtaining funding. When I started, I didn’t have a lot of money saved at all; maybe a couple thousand, I knew mobile trailers and vans were tens of thousands. I had no clue how I would come up with that amount of money. I applied for loans and lines of credit and were denied each time, so I just kept working and saving. I was determined to reach the next level in my business with or without help from banks and lenders.
What I’ve Learned:
One of the things I have learned along my journey is that not everyone is my customer. That is to say that everybody will not be happy with your services, not everyone will be able to afford your services, and not everyone will want your services. You cannot take it personally, lower your standards or lose too much sleep over 1 or 2 clients. As long as you continue doing the work and showing up every day, those clients will replace themselves. Another thing I have experienced is that because I am a young business owner, some people think that they can easily “get over '' on me. Not on my watch. I recognize work as work and need to be compensated fairly for it. I know that the service that I give is top tier, therefore I only want clients in my life who are going to maintain schedules, brush and take care of their dog, and tip. Naturally, those clients who fall on the other end of that spectrum will fall off your schedule and the ones that you want will be waiting around the corner!
Always remember that if you want “it”, “it” is yours. Nothing in this world comes easy, it will take your hard work and faith in the unknown. Don’t be afraid to take chances and risks; those who don’t move ahead and are stagnant are because they operate out of fear. Believe that His word is true and that you will make it through! It’s God’s Plan. Being an entrepreneur is not something that I ever saw for myself, but I believe that God had it all planned out before I ever even expressed interest in grooming. He sent me through numerous life experiences that gave me the drive and motivation to want something more than what I ever had before. He put me in positions that allowed me to head and spear organizations giving me the skills needed to operate a business. And He continues to show me every day that the more that I work and believe in him the more he will show up and show out! And I believe that the same is true for you!