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Cat Grooming: To Groom or Not to Groom with Danelle German

Special Guests

Danelle German

Danelle currently serves as President and Certified/Instructor of the National Cat Groomers Institute of America, which she founded in 2007. Along with her husband, she is the inventor and patent holder of the Catty Shack Vac drying system. She is a sought-after speaker, innovator and entrepreneur within the pet care industry. She is known not only for her exceptional skills as a feline-handler but also for her awesome show-worthy grooming results developed over years of successfully competing in the show ring. Combined with her seemingly unlimited knowledge of the feline-species, her training proves time and time again to be the best that can be found. Danelle is also the author of The Ultimate Cat Groomer Encyclopedia. This encyclopedia focuses on the cat grooming business, CFA-approved cat breeds, feline behavior, grooming and handling techniques, feline health, and case studies on cat grooming. In her talks, she leads people into self-awareness and self-actualization, inspires them to find and pursue their own excellence, motivates humans to reach deeper within themselves as they learn to communicate with another species on a profound level. She espouses several simple truths along the way: never trust a cat; failure is not an option; every cat deserves the best groom and groomer.

To Groom or Not To Groom Cats…

That is the question in this edition of “Hey Joe!” when he teams up with feline aficionado and expert Danelle German.

  • What are the key characteristics of those willing to groom cats?
  • The Fear Factor – Is feline-fear healthy, or something you need to overcome?
  • How should your grooming choices differ between cats and dogs?
  • Is grooming cats financially rewarding? How do you tap into that?
  • How do you make a million dollars grooming cats?

Announcer: Welcome to Hey Joe, a podcast answering questions asked by our listeners. Created by pet professionals for pet professionals. And now your host, Hey Joe’s very own Joe Zuccarello.

Joe Zuccarello: What’s up everyone? Joe Zuccarello here and welcome to Hey Joe, a podcast brought to you by Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Check out our site at paragonpetschool.com for lots of really cool information on a variety of programs, products, and to connect to educational resources such as webinars, podcasts, current events, special news, certifications, and lots of other helpful information to help you grow yourself, your team, and of course your business. Let’s get started with this week’s episode.

Joe Zuccarello: Today’s topic is cat grooming. Better yet the question to do or not to do, cat grooming. We’re going to be answering questions like what experience do you need, and what tools are necessary, and what can you determine if this is even really the type of service you want to provide. This is a podcast where you get to listen in on real coaching calls between myself and an expert in the industry.

Joe Zuccarello: Most of the time we’re answering questions that we get all of the time, usually starting with, Hey Joe. My guest today is Danelle German. Danelle has got to be one of the most bravest people I think I’ve ever met. You’re going to find out why listeners, just because she’s not only is she just a really cool super person in general, but she is the founder of the National Cat Groomers Institute of America. So that should give you kind of an idea of why I consider her to be very brave. This institute is one of the world’s first feline-exclusive grooming schools, which is exciting. She’s an author of several different publications, and she’s a speaker at many, many industry trade shows and highly regarded really as the cat guru if you would, or the cat queen. I don’t know how they reference you. Danelle, maybe you have your own self proclaimed title. Why don’t you tell the Hey Joe listeners a little bit more about yourself?

Danelle German: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I am really honored to be on here. You mentioned National Cat Groomers Institute of America. I started this organization back in 2007 after several years of feline-exclusive grooming myself and building the business that was doing really, really well. People were asking me questions about cat grooming and how could they do this and how could they do that. It ran the gamut from, how do you handle these aggressive cats by yourself and do this whole groom, to how are you getting clients on a regular schedule, how are you pricing your services and all of the things in between. It was within months that I realized the “of America” part was a really big mistake because we were already international within the first couple of months of incorporating that business. We really just dropped that altogether because so much of our work is done globally now. It’s very exciting to me to see how this has really taken shape over the past decade-plus since starting this particular business.

Danelle German: If people aren’t familiar with my backstory, I really simply started out with wanting a Persian cat as a pet. It was a show cat that I got. Lady invited me, the breeder invited me to a cat show, which led to how do you groom the cat for show, which led to an epic fail the first time I did that. Because I’m very competitive, I wanted to win. So I set out to learn how to do that. Then that resulted in along the way running a cat for national win very quickly. In the process of that, my feline exclusive vet here where I live in South Carolina saying, “Hey, do you mind if I give out your phone number to some of my clients because man, they sure could use some of your grooming help.” I said, sure. Next thing you know, I had 80 accidental clients. I mean that’s really how it all started.

Joe Zuccarello: Accidental clients. I love that term. Accidental clients. You know, we fight so hard to get clients sometimes. That’s a real blessing sometimes to just have clients almost fall from the sky into our lap, isn’t it?

Danelle German: Absolutely. Absolutely. I tell people all the time, I never said I wanted to be a cat groomer when I grew up and I was not in the grooming industry at all, so this was really unexpected. But because these 80 accidental clients were literally dropping in my lap and telling me things like, “Wow, I’ve never seen my cat look this amazing.” Or they would tell me always after the groom, never before, they would say, “I can’t believe you were able to handle or manage or groom my cat because she’s been turned away from every place in town.” I thought if me, the untrained, uneducated, non-grooming professional is getting this type of response and this type of client growth without even trying, no website or anything. I had a home phone number they were calling, this was back in the day when we didn’t really use cell phones. They were calling my home phone number. If that was happening, what were the potential opportunities if I actually tried to do it? That really was the question.

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah. I always love hearing the stories of how people get started. Sometimes we have a hard time, I think especially in this industry and in a lot of industries really, where we don’t take a moment to look back on the path we had tread and just to think about all of the little turns and pivots that had to happen to land you here. So you are obviously the renowned expert as far as cat grooming and you started not as an expert of cat grooming. So how intriguing is that for the Hey Joe listener audience to know that they, even if they don’t offer cat grooming right now but might have a little bit of interest in it, could possibly become cat groomers themselves and probably even really good cat groomers if they follow your tutelage?

Joe Zuccarello: Before we get too deep in our conversation, because I can just tell this thing’s going to really take off and our listeners are going to be so intrigued. I just want to let our Hey Joe listener audience know that Danelle has, not only has she just graced us with her presence on this podcast, she has also agreed to do multiple podcasts with us, but she’s even gone one step much further in that she’s got such an awesome offer for all of the Hey Joe listener audience members at the end of the podcast. So you’re going to want to stick around because at the very end Danelle’s going to be able to tell you what this really great offer is that her and her institute are offering to all of you.

Joe Zuccarello: So again, circling back, our main topic. Our main topic today is to groom or not groom cats. That is the question, right? So as I look at this then Danelle, it kind of begs the question, obviously, you’ve worked with people that haven’t done cat grooming or some people that have done cat grooming to your point epic fail in some cases like you did. What are some of the ingredients that we have to consider if we’re going to even think about becoming a cat groomer?

Danelle German: Yeah, that’s such a great question and something I get asked quite often. So the key ingredients that I see are very necessary to success in this industry is number one, a willingness to learn. That’s whether you are completely new to grooming any animal, or new to grooming cats, or you have three plus decades worth of experience in that field of cat grooming. I have trained people that run that gamut from zero to decades of experience. So a willingness to learn is absolutely at the top of my list for key ingredients.

Danelle German: Then number two, a desire to do something niche. There is a whole lot of coolness in that niche aspect. I will talk a little bit more about that. I think when we get a couple episodes in and talk about building that cat grooming clientele and those opportunities. But you know, I think that’s neat to have a really niche conversation starter. You do what? Kind of vocation.

Joe Zuccarello: Do they ask you to see how many fingers you have left?

Danelle German: Yes, yes. They immediately look at my forearms to see if my [inaudible 00:08:59] scratched off. You should see the comments I get in the airports when they’re asking why I’m traveling internationally for whatever. I’ve actually been stopped by TSA or security in countries where they don’t believe that’s legit. I’ve had to learn to just say I’m a teacher. It just makes things easier. But number three in the key ingredients would be a healthy fear or respect of felines. What I mean by that is understanding that these creatures that average in weight from anywhere from about seven to 15 pounds, they’re extremely agile and quick. They have 18 sharp claws and they have a mouth full of teeth that they know how to use and will not hesitate to do if they feel threatened or they just have, generally speaking, anger management issues. And there’s a difference between the two.

Danelle German: So having a healthy respect, a healthy bit of fear for that is a really good thing. That’s smart. I’ve had people ask me, what if I’m afraid, can I do this? There’s a difference between like terrified to open a crate once you know what you’re doing versus having a healthy respect and fear. Again, I can talk later on in another episode about that a little bit more and delve into that deeper. The number four in my key ingredients would be a space or time for this to be feline exclusive. People have a different set up for their business, different model for their business from one another. So there’s a different, a whole variety of ways this could be done and it doesn’t necessarily need to really cost anything. It’s just something that takes some strategic planning in advance to go, could I make a separate time or space a reality for creating the right environment for cats to be groomed and in a safe manner. So those are my key ingredients.

Joe Zuccarello: So if we’re looking at the key ingredients, and you mentioned something to me that really resonated. We talked about this when we were doing show prep as well, which is the fear factor. I liked the way that you put it, that there’s a difference between having a healthy respect for what that creature can do versus just being terrified. I’m sure along the way you’ve met both types of personalities, right?

Danelle German: Yes.

Joe Zuccarello: Can you overcome both of those or does one kind of rule you out of grooming all together? I mean, some people just have to take a pass at this, right?

Danelle German: Yeah. Some people just have to take a pass at this. It’s not for everyone. For six years we ran a school program, a brick and mortar school program that was exclusively a feline grooming school. We ran a school program nearly every month out of a year. So it was a lot of classes of students coming in and going through that training. Along the way, I encountered a handful, just a handful of students who despite the training, despite the knowledge base that we were giving them, were just genuinely terrified of what a cat might do. That it was paralyzing to them. Obviously, you got to think, is this a thing for me?

Danelle German: Now on the other side, what I saw most often happen was that students were uneducated or inexperienced about working with cats. So they understood they could do some damage and they understood it could be done very quickly and they applied the training. Some of the temperament and handling stuff that we do is like fundamental. Then the handling techniques that we teach, making good decisions about the groom style that we’re doing, and so on and so forth. Then can they, with that healthy respect for these creatures, know how to work well with them in a way that is safe for cat and groomer? And yes, absolutely 100% that can be done. I have seen this lived out literally thousands of times.

Joe Zuccarello: So you mentioned a couple of the other ingredients that I think are worth mentioning. Just a real quick reminder to to the Hey Joe listener audience. We’re talking with Danelle German who is the founder of the National Cat Groomers Institute of America. Do you want to follow along with us and maybe as you’re listening, want to visit her website, you can see her website at nationalcatgroomers.com. Again, that’s nationalcatgroomers.com and you can always go to paragonpetschool.com as well to find links back to Danelle’s website and some of the products and services and just her overall information and of course these podcasts.

Joe Zuccarello: Danelle, when we’re talking about… We talked a little bit about the fear factor, but there are some things in this as we’re talking in episode one, we’re talking kind of the overview to do cat grooming or not to do cat grooming. When they move past that and they kind of check those boxes, our listeners might then, they’re going to benefit from our upcoming episodes. One you’re going to do with us on safety. Another one is on building clientele and pricing structure and another on techniques and training. So you’re going to take a much deeper dive even into that episode. So we’re very excited about those.

Joe Zuccarello: But you know, you don’t get to those, right? Except for getting through an overview and kind of making a conscious decision whether or not this is even something to explore. One of the things that you had mentioned was just having this healthy respect for what these creatures can do, but also kind of having a healthy respect for what the person can do. If we don’t equip ourselves with the right tools or we don’t put ourselves in the right environment, we’re kind of cutting ourselves short if you would, or not allowing that to even take form. Is that right?

Danelle German: Oh, absolutely. And you know, I’m going to guess that the majority of the listeners are already in the dog grooming industry. So if they think back to the first time they ever had a dog on the table, you know that very first like I’m grooming by myself now. Whether that was after some training, like at a facility like Paragon or during the time of training at Paragon or something similar, or if they were just totally learning on their own, there was always that nervousness and lack of confidence and fear that encompassed that. Especially if we say, let’s make this very first dog we’re grooming now aggressive, whatever that looks like. It’s trying to bite. It’s growing. It’s big, let’s say it’s big. It’s a force to be reckoned with. That’s nerve-wracking. That is difficult.

Danelle German: But how many of the listeners have waded through that and pressed on through that, applying what they’ve learned or whether it’s been the school of hard knocks or educational training, and then built upon that experienced teacher gained confidence on the other side of that. So the same thing absolutely can be done with cats. As you started to understand dog behavior, dog reactions to certain types of handling that you might do, you would learn, oh, this is a good thing to do here. This is not appropriate to do here. And so on and so forth. The same thing holds true for cats. The problem is, is that most dog groomers attempt to treat a cat just like it is a dog, which it is not. It is completely different. And they try to handle it. They try to apply those same techniques to this cat and it doesn’t react well.

Danelle German: They make the same grooming choices for the cat that they would make for a dog and it doesn’t respond well. So then the conclusion is, we’re already going into this with lacking confidence and we’re a little fearful as we should be. If the outcome is not a good one, then we deduce, well cat grooming is like forget it. This is ridiculous. I’m not going to do this. It’s too dangerous. And yes, if we continue that way it is dangerous. But what if we get some training such as taught at Paragon for dogs? We learn behavior, we learn handling, we learn how to make proper grooming choices, and then we’re able to put those into practice regardless of whatever cat we encounter in a crate at any given time. We are able to make good decisions that have a good outcome each and every time. That’s really-

Joe Zuccarello: When you described this to me… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to step on you there. But when you described this to me, I kind of go back to like when you first learn to ride a bicycle. Well, you’re riding a bicycle. What keeps you balanced and upright on a bicycle? Well, it’s the fear of falling. The best bike riders are not necessarily… They do it because they don’t want to fall and you can master that craft. I know there are people that their whole profession is in stunt bicycle riding or whatever they choose to do. But it all started with the fear of falling. That’s what kept them upright and balanced on the bike.

Joe Zuccarello: Then I would say the same thing, and maybe we can’t remember since we were kids, but I’d say the same thing for any adults out there that might’ve learned to swim as an adult or as a teenager. You might’ve been deathly afraid of the water, but you were because you didn’t know how to overcome that. But taught properly and having a motivated sense about you to swim and overcome that, again, the same thing. There are swimmers, the reason why they swim so well is because the alternative is drowning.

Joe Zuccarello: I ride a motorcycle and I will tell you that the worst thing in motorcycling that you can become as complacent and too confident because that’s when you… In motorcycling we say it’s called staying frosty and staying on top of your game and staying edgy. And not fearful, going back to the beginning of this podcast, not being terrified. This overview, I think, is going to serve the Hey Joe listeners very, very well in determining, okay, I had a notion to want to start cat grooming. I needed to know whether or not it was right for me. So maybe this overview has helped individuals in that regard. I will tell you too as maybe one of the last things you can say during this particular episode that might help our listeners, the Hey Joe listener audience out there, to determine whether cat grooming is right for them. What about the financial rewards from cat grooming? You mind giving us a real quick peek behind the curtain.

Danelle German: Yes. I’m so glad you asked about that. That’s what I really saw when I had these 80 accidental clients. So let’s fast forward just a little bit into me opening my feline exclusive business called the Catty Shack, LTD in Simpsonville, South Carolina. Not an affluent area. We used the actual yellow, like the phone book with yellow pages, like the book book, not online. And so this is back in the-

Joe Zuccarello: You’re dating yourself there. You’re dating yourself there, Danelle.

Danelle German: I am. Sad but true, right? These young people don’t even know what I’m talking about. But anyway, it used to be like that. During that time I picked up that very first year that I opened the brick and mortar storefront that was not in my home-based cattery. I went from 80 clients to 480 clients all without benefit of social media and online stuff. None of that. The next year was another 350 clients. This just grew and grew and grew. So a couple of years in I was looking at relocation to another facility that was about four times the space and I was adding in cat boarding, which was a wonderful thing to add in. At that time I had 1,869 clients that was in my database. I knew all of those cats had come into my salon at one time.

Danelle German: I thought to myself at this point, I’m looking at my numbers and I’m thinking, how many new clients do I need to get into this business in order to cover the additional overhead costs that I’m going to incur with this new, larger facility? So I took that 1,869 clients and I thought to myself, you know, it doesn’t seem like I have that many clients. The reason it didn’t seem like that is not all of them were on a regular… The vast majority of them were not on a regular schedule. For me, regular at that time was a six week schedule. So if I took the 1,869 clients and I multiply that out where they were coming in every six weeks, over the course of the year, they would visit my salon eight and a half times in a year. So I multiplied that. And that comes out to 15,886 grooms a year if all my clients are on a six week schedule.

Danelle German: Now, I had a problem going into the new place because I didn’t have enough space for the equipment to have enough staff or employees to handle that volume of cat grooms every week. That was over 300 grooms.

Joe Zuccarello: Wow. Wow.

Danelle German: That’s what I said. I went wow. With my existing clients. So at that time, this was many years ago, I was averaging, I already knew that my average per cat groom was 75 bucks. On a 10 cat day, it was $750. So it was 75 and some were cheaper and some were more expensive, but it averaged out to 75 bucks at the time. So I multiply that 15,886 grooms in a year times 75 and you know what it came out to? I just couldn’t even believe this. It was $1,191,487 that’s 1.2 million bucks.

Joe Zuccarello: Grooming cats.

Danelle German: Grooming cats. Yes. I didn’t even believe that. I did an equation like six times. I’m like, this can’t be right. I show it to my husband. I’m like, do you get this honey? I’m telling him, this is my client base. So my shift went from not meeting new clients but needing clients that were on a regular schedule.

Danelle German: So now I ask all the listeners, if you had any number of cat clients, 10, 20, 100, whatever. You probably don’t have 1,869 because I worked my butt off to make that happen. But whatever you have, you can do that number, that equation for yourself. You’re just going to simply multiply your client base a number by that 8.5, that’s the visits in a year, times whatever your average per groom is. You’re going to need to figure that number out. For most people now we’re looking at that being $95 and up. In my later years of having my phone that was well over $100 per groom. If someone’s mobile, that’s definitely going to be higher. So the potential, run your numbers. Even if you have zero clients, what would it look like if you worked on getting one client a year for, or I’m sorry, one client a week for the next year? You’d end up with 50 clients. Run the numbers. It’s super easy. I mean math doesn’t lie. I love that because it’s just such an accurate gauge of what that potential is.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, and what I might recommend then too, since you pointed out earlier, a lot of the Hey Joe listeners are already dog groomers and maybe they’re looking at adding cat grooming or just getting better at doing cat grooming. I would probably, would you agree that maybe they should be looking at the two different types of grooming tickets if you would, or grooming appointments. You’ve got dog grooming, which that same equation works. Obviously the dollar amount is probably less of a premium for dogs than it is for cats, I would imagine. That’s okay because with cats, even the pet parent to some degree understands how much more specialized cat grooming is than dog grooming. I think cat pet parents kind of get that. I don’t know that all dog pet parents understand how complicated or how laborious dog grooming is. But I would bet cat pet parents get it.

Danelle German: Oh yes, absolutely. This is something I really want to cover in a later episode when we talk about building that cat grooming clientele, because there are some hurdles that we as cat groomers have to overcome in order to get those initial clients, get them on a regular schedule that dog groomers don’t have. I’ll talk about that later. But then there are also some real advantages that we have and are we using those advantages? That’s the question. So I look forward to sharing them-

Joe Zuccarello: That’s going to be a juicy episode.

Danelle German: Yeah. Yeah.

Joe Zuccarello: That’ll be a real juicy episode, I’m sure. Okay. Well Danelle, you know what, I bet our Hey Joe listener out there is just chomping at the bit. Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have used that term. See it just happens, but I bet they are anxiously awaiting our future episodes as well. So if Hey Joe listener audience out there, again, this is Danelle German who is the founder of National Cat Groomers Institute of America. You can visit her website at nationalcatgroomers.com. Again, Danelle, she is so graciously agreed to participate and stick around for some more podcast interviews and episodes. So we’re going to be doing that. So look for those released very soon.

Joe Zuccarello: But in the meantime, Danelle, if you have convinced somebody out there in the Hey Joe listener audience or hopefully many, to start pursuing the education necessary to perform cat grooming in a manner that treats both the practice, the person, and the pet in the best possibility. What have you brought, we kind of teased it earlier, but what have you brought to the Hey Joe listener audience as far as a gift or an offer for them to take advantage of?

Danelle German: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share this with people. We have a program that is a distance learning or online course program that we call The Complete Cat Groomer Training Syllabus. And what that consists of are two books, five DVDs, and 13 online courses that they can go through at their own pace. We have assignments laid out on a weekly basis for them to be able to follow along and do that in the proper order. That training syllabus normally retails at 1197 for all of that and we are offering $200 off of that to make it 997 by using the coupon code, HEYJOE, all capital letters. They can go to nationalcatgroomers.com/syllabus and they’ll find that product there or information about that, a description, some reviews, things like that. Then they could put that in the shopping cart, use the coupon code, HEYJOE at the checkout. That will automatically knock off the $200 and then complete that process. When they check out, they get the links to those online courses. Then we ship those books and DVDs and we do free shipping on regardless of wherever they are in the world.

Danelle German: So we want to get that to them and then we walk them through that syllabus in the order that it needs to be done so that when they come out on the other side of that, they’re ready to jump in and grab a couple of days of hands-on training with one of our remote trainers, our certifiers. Then if they want to pursue their certified feline master groomer certification, which I highly recommend, then they are set to do that.

Joe Zuccarello: Danelle, that is outstanding. What a great offer and an exclusive, again to the Hey Joe listener audience. Again, go to nationalcatgroomers.com. Enter in the promo code HEYJOE to save $200 on the syllabus program offered by Danelle. I’m kind of speechless. What a great, great offer, and listeners, if you have ever contemplated starting grooming cats, I think Danelle’s just made it a whole lot easier for you to get the tools and training that you need to get going. Again, you can find that information on her website. You can also find it at paragonpetschool.com under the podcast pages and just follow the prompts.

Joe Zuccarello: You know, Danelle, thank you so much. I am so geeked and so amped up to talk to you on future episodes and I know our audience is just anxiously awaiting that. Thanks for helping us today, helping our audience. I know the information that you’ve provided will be very valuable. To the Hey Joe listener audience out there, thanks again to all of you for your great questions. Remember, send your questions in to us at the email address heyjoequestions@paragonpetschool.com. Again, the email address is heyjoequestions@paragonpetschool.com and you might just hear your topic discussed with an industry expert in the near future. Danelle, thank you so much again, and I look forward to our next episode together.

About Joe

Joe Zuccarello is president of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, leaders in grooming education on campus and online. He possesses more than three decades of experience in the pet grooming, product development and pet business consulting disciplines.

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