Noah's Ark brings grooming to pet area owners' homes
Mobile idea offers business owner, customers flexibility
By Bob Van enkenvoort • firstname.lastname@example.org • December 11, 2007
Stephanie Anderson's version of Noah's Ark has four wheels.
And if Scruffy or Fluffy need to be cleaned and groomed, she'll come to you … suds and all.
Anderson pulled the stakes up from her brick-and-mortar business, Noah's Ark Pet Grooming, 129 N. Broadway, De Pere, earlier this year after operating out of that location for eight years.
"I didn't own the building that I was in," she said. "I had thought about it a couple years ago."
Anderson formerly lived in Arizona and saw that mobile pet grooming was popular.
In fact, it was a neighbor, an owner of a mobile pet grooming service, who encouraged Anderson to seek a job washing animals to get her first experience in pet grooming. She was hired quickly and eventually managed that shop for four years before returning to the area and starting her own business. (She is a 1989 graduate of Pulaski High School.)
"I started my shop with $5,000 and worked two other part-time jobs to get it going," she said.
It didn't take long before she could devote her full energies toward her business.
"It was like six months and I was able to quit my other jobs, but I was very determined to make it work."
After eight years, though, she was looking for something that offered a bit more flexibility.
Instead of being tied down to a business during set hours, she can make her own hours.
"I wanted to do it just for the freedom of being able to travel," she said, as well as working around the schedule of her 9-year-old son, Noah Manders. (The business was named Noah's Ark because of her son's name and her love of animals.)
Typically, she tries to take days off on Sundays and Mondays, and then spreads appointments throughout the rest of the week.
"I liked my shop," she said, "but I like this more."
Anderson hopes it will be more profitable after her specialized mobile van — a three-year-old Ford Econoline specifically built for such a business — is paid off in three years. She also doesn't have rent or upkeep on a building.
In her truck, she washes and air-fluff dries dogs and cats using only natural products. Nails will be trimmed, ears cleaned and deodorized and breath will be freshened. If she observes health problems, she will provide the owner with a written report. For an extra fee, she will pet sit or dog walk as well.
"The dogs really like it," she said. "They like to stare out the window and look at their house."
And many of the pets are already familiar with her.
"I have a lot of customers from my shop so the dogs know me. So the first time I go and get them, they're going, "I know you and why you're here." And then they get in the van and they're all excited like they're going for a car ride … and then I shut they door and they're like, "You tricked me."
Still, the pets enjoy the one-on-one attention at home, she said.
And customers enjoy the convenience of having the pet groomer come to them.
For example, she said a business owner told her he would have to take 90 minutes out of his day to bring the pet to her shop and come to get it later.
"I think they get better customer service because it's one on one. It's more flexible. They don't have to leave their dogs for three, four, six hours while they're at work and come and rush home," she said.
It's more expensive than bringing the dog to a shop, she said, but customers save time and gas.
"Plus, they get a good grooming," she said.
In the future, Anderson plans to finish her Master Groomer Certificate as well as possibly buy a second mobile pet grooming van and hire an employee or two to handle some of the grooming duties.
To earn the certificate, she will show her grooming skills on toy, working, mixed and sport breeds as well as complete an intensive test.
"Basically, it just means that you know about the breeds and their characteristics and how to handle them and what kind of cuts they get," she said.
In essence, it proves she knows what she's doing.
"I should after 13 years," she said.
The mobile van helps her take her skills to a new level, she added.
"I thought I was a good groomer before, but now they're getting better haircuts because they're washed and dried straight through so their hair is fluffy and really nice to cut. They react better to the whole situation because they know they're home.
"They definitely get better haircuts this way, the whole process is just more personal and a real spa treatment for the pets. They love it!"
Dog and suds are featured in artwork on the outside of the mobile pet-grooming vehicle. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Stephanie Anderson, owner of Noah's Ark Mobile Pet Grooming, had two pieces of advice when asked what she would recommend to others trying to start their own businesses.
"Good customer relations are very important.""Stick to your beliefs and work hard and anyone can achieve their goals."