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Spa Offers Post-Groom Photo Shoots

Kentucky pet spa brings in the bucks with post-groom Facebook photo package.




BATHE. CHECK! Cut and style hair. Check! Trim nails. Check! Next task: Take a picture of the freshly groomed pet on an elaborate set, creating an adorable image that their person just can’t wait to share on social media. Fairytales Pet Spaw in Winchester, KY, does all of the above and more as part of its popular Facebook Photo Package.


DIY Pet Portraits

Salon owner Heather Carter has been pampering dogs and cats for nearly 25 years. She would pay a professional to shoot “after” photos during the holidays, until 2008 when the groomer decided to DIY instead.
“I was already doing so much of the work. I had to book sessions and help out during,” Carter says. “I started making my own sets and taking my own pictures.”
She now offers the images as part of an add-on package available year-round. For $10, it also comes with teeth brushing, designer neckwear and a gourmet treat.



Ready, Set, Shoot

Carter finds inspiration for her sets — holiday, seasonal and other themes — in a variety of places. She may find a backdrop online and build around it, or an item at a thrift store may spark an idea. That was the case with Labor Day photos this year.
“I was at Goodwill and saw a man looking at this teeny tiny grill. I thought, ‘Please don’t buy it please don’t buy it.’”
He didn’t, so the salon owner snatched it up. She put it on a patch of fake grass and added a mini Coleman cooler from American Girl, plus squeaky hot dog and hamburger toys. A green sheet and red, white and blue bunting hung behind.
Carter spends between $50 and $150 on each set. With minor adjustments, pets of all sizes can fit. The set currently in use — she introduces a new one every two weeks — stays in a designated photo room, complete with box lights from a $100 kit that also came with solid backdrops and a stand. During the busy holiday season, large dogs get their own set in the salon’s adoption center.
The groomer uses her iPhone to take pictures.
“I do have a professional camera that I use during the holidays, when we offer longer sessions for $50 with a CD of images to take home.
“Most people, though, just want one nice photo of their dog to share on Facebook.”
Because many pets are regulars, they are comfortable on the set.
“They know it’s the last thing we’re going to put them through, and then they will get a treat and can go home. It doesn’t take but a couple of minutes.”
Carter edits and adds her logo to photos between appointments, also right on her iPhone. She then shares the final images with clients on Facebook or via email.



Income Boosts

From five to 10 clients buy the Facebook Photo Package each business day, resulting in $200 to $400 in additional income per week. The branded images circulate on social media, seen and shared by Fairytales Pet Spaw’s 3,500-plus Facebook fans alone as well as proud pet parents. Carter does not have to advertise otherwise.
“We not only get to showcase our work, but it’s great marketing and has been highly beneficial for me.”
The salon owner also earns money through sales of her photo sets. She offers replicas and those she no longer uses to other pet businesses. A package including the set and pet accessories can sell for as much as $150 plus shipping.
“I’m so busy I can’t fill all of the orders!”


Do It Yourself: 5 Steps to DIY Pet Portraits

1. Create or purchase a photo set. Carter offers hers through the Tickled Pink Photo Sets group on Facebook
2. Designate a space where you can leave the set in place. Buy an inexpensive light kit if needed.
3. Adjust appointment lengths to allow for extra time, a bit more to start as you get in a groove.
4. Download an editing/watermarking app for your phone. Carter uses iWatermark and EasyMark.
5. Share the photos on social media. Run contests to encourage likes and shares, awarding prizes for the highest engagement.

Pamela Mitchell is the senior editor at PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Spot the senior Boston Terrier as her assistant.



Things Are Looking Good in the Pet Business … but Don’t Get Too Comfortable

PETS+'s marketing guru just wants to remind you that eventually, the upswing will become a downturn. When that happens, will you be ready?

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Best of the Best

Tiny Bubbles: This Spa Brings In $1,000 a Month Extra with Micro Bubble Treatments

A spa offers therapeutic microbubble treatments.




BUBBLE BATHS PAMPER and relax. Microbubble baths do, too, but they also deep clean and help to treat a variety of skin problems in pets.

Danielle Wilson of Bath & Biscuits in Granville, OH, has been providing this type of hydrotherapy for more than three years.


Provide relief, reduce costs & boost sales. Wilson learned of microbubble bathing systems at a pet industry trade show. Originating in Japan, they use bubbles greater than 2 and less than 25 micrometers to penetrate hair follicles and skin pores. These teeny tiny bubbles attract and bond with dirt as well as with bacteria, yeast and allergens, and lift them to the water’s surface. Oxygen from burst microbubbles also boosts skin metabolism and promotes healing.

“I really liked the idea,” she says. “I was a vet tech for many years and had seen never-ending battles with skin problems.”

Using microbubbles during a groom also reduces the amount of water, shampoo and conditioner needed. All this, combined with her ability to offer 15-minute treatments as an add-on, convinced Wilson to buy a system.


Pick, promote & treat. Wilson researched manufacturers from around the world before choosing NatureBless in Singapore. Her first microbubble bathing system cost just $350, but a year later she upgraded to a $1,100 model. Its bubble-generating unit sits on the floor, connected to two nozzled hoses: One draws in water from a filled grooming tub, and the other returns microbubbly water to the tub. The second hose can also be used to apply bubbles to body areas not submerged.

“The microbubbles make the water this milky color, from the churning action. I tell customers that they’re scrubbing bubbles,” Wilson explains, adding that while effective, they are gentle on skin.

In addition to promoting the treatment for skin problems, she also recommends it for senior dogs.

“The bursting bubbles create heat, which helps with sore muscles and arthritis.”

And for those who encounter a skunk: “It has been tremendous for de-skunking dogs. It gets down in hair shafts and pores, helping us get rid of the smell so much quicker.”


Healthier dogs & higher revenue. Wilson points to late Sweetpea the Bulldog as one of her microbubble bathing successes. After years of struggling with skin allergies, the pup came in for a treatment and saw immediate relief.

“Sweetpea was such a happier dog, not having to stop every 2 feet to scratch,” she says. “It was devastating to lose her, but really cool to know that for the last year and a half of her life, she wasn’t miserable and itching.”

Wilson charges $10 to $15, depending on size of dog, for a microbubble bath. (She has yet to try it on cats.) Treatments bring in $1,000 in extra revenue a month, plus provide savings on utilities and bathing supplies.

Do It Yourself: Start Your Own Bubble Treatments

  • Choose the right microbubble bathing system for your business. They can range greatly in cost, to upwards of $10,000.
  • Start by offering the treatment for free. Wilson benefited from positive word of mouth when she did.
  • Promote regular and seasonal benefits, from skin problems to allergies to skunkings.
  • Sell local veterinarians benefits on the treatment. Wilson has one in particular who regularly sends her clients.
  • Promote on social media with cute videos. See for Sweetpea bubbling in a tub.

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Best of the Best

Cats Protest Dogs in Promotional Event

A feline protest of a dog parade is all in good fun.




MORE THAN 250 DOGS take part in the annual Spooky Paws Parade in Des Moines, IA. They wear Halloween costumes and compete for prizes from event organizer Jett & Monkey’s Dog Shoppe.

But what about the city’s kitties?

They like to walk (or be carried, as befitting their status). And dress up (OK, so perhaps “tolerate” better describes their attitude toward outfits). And get free stuff (catnip, preferably).

Enter the Kitty Protest.

Betsey Qualley, owner of Smitten Kitten cat boutique and grooming salon, also in Des Moines, has staged the demonstration since the event began in 2010.

“We walk at the very end,” she says, “dressed as cats and holding signs that say, ‘Where is our parade?’ and ‘Cats rule dogs drool.’”



Promote a Cat Biz at a Dog Event

Qualley and Jett & Monkey’s co-owner Josh Garrett are actually good friends. He suggested the protest as a way to promote her business and to include cats in a type of event traditionally dominated by dogs.

“The first year, it was my daughter and me with a couple of friends,” she recalls. “Now we get about 20 people to walk with us.”


Make It Fun & Easy

Qualley begins advertising the parade with protest, which winds through the city’s East Village neighborhood, several weeks out. She posts flyers in her store and on social media, and takes them to area shelters. Employees encourage customers to participate, letting them know that Smitten Kitten T-shirts, signs and cats ears are all provided.

“We make it easy to join us,” Qualley says. “We tell people, ‘Just come! We’ve got ears for you.’”

On parade day, the kitty contingent carries a branded banner. At least one store cat comes along in harness and leash — carried, of course — with others riding in strollers or carriers.

“Everyone wants to meet them,” she says. “It’s pretty comical.”

Supplies get reused for as long as they last, with the only expense most years being the candy thrown out along the route.


Brand Boost

Qualley sees the protest as purely a promotional event, one that costs her very little but has significant results in terms of name recognition.

“How do I know it’s effective? By all of the random people who share photos they took of us, on Facebook and Instagram,” she says. “We get noticed by people who didn’t know us before.”




Do It Yourself: Stage A ‘Protest’

  • Pick a popular dog-centric event and ask the organizer if you can “protest.” Or vice versa. A dog protest at a cat show!
  • Recruit customers to take part. They’ll feel even more like a member of your business family.
  • Promote in-store and via social media through tongue-in-cheek posters and posts. Alert the media!
  • Throw branded candy out along the parade route.
  • Go live from the protest via Facebook or Instagram, then share the replay often. It just may go viral!

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Best of the Best

At Exotic Pet Birds Inc., Lifetime Support Leads to Lifelong Customers

Lifetime support leads to lifelong customers. 




TO SAL AND JAMIE SALAFIA, the birds they sell are their babies. Quite literally. The owners of Exotic Pet Birds Inc. in Rochester, NY, breed 70 percent of their stock. They also provide care long after these feathered friends — and those from other breeders — fly the coop.

THE IDEALifetime Support

How the Salafias raise and sell birds allows them to provide physically and mentally healthy pets. Post-sale efforts let them continue that care and form long-term relationships with the birds and their people, which leads to regular sales.

“Clients get a hug on the way out. They become our friends, too, and I treat them that way,” Sal says.

THE EXECUTIONPre- and Post-Sale

All babies go through quarantine in a contained area with its own air-handling system and staff. Once verified as healthy through third-party testing, they move into the main nursery and live there until fully weaned.

Staff hand-wean to maintain optimal health and to create people-friendly birds.

“Hand-fed babies crave human interaction, which everyone wants in a pet. They learn to trust us as companions,” Sal explains.

Selection begins with a conversation.

“We ask them what they’re looking for but also talk about experience. They may want a macaw but might not be ready for one,” Sal says.

With options narrowed, staff start opening cage doors and bringing out potential pets. A match usually takes about an hour.

“We don’t think the person picks the bird. The bird picks the person.”

Clients can pay for their new pet all at once or take advantage of the store’s interest-free layaway plan. The latter works well when purchasing a baby, as it holds the bird during weaning.

As the baby prepares to leave the nest, staff invite pet parents to visit and strengthen their bond. A visitation room offers comfy seating, a flat-screen TV with Netflix, and charging stations.

“We have a customer now who visits every day,” Sal says. “He’s going to have the sweetest bird.”

The Salafias continue to provide support long after their babies go to new homes. Staff groom the birds — as well as others in the home, even if purchased elsewhere — for free. They answer questions and post promotions in the store’s Facebook group.

Sal also makes himself available for one-on-one consultations.

“If a client calls with a question, I welcome them to come in for a one-hour meeting with me, no purchase required.”


Exotic Pet Birds Inc. saw 600 percent sales growth from August 2017, its first full month in business, to April 2018.

“Now we have more people in the store sometimes than we have space for,” Sal says.

Do It Yourself: 5 Steps to Lifetime Pet Support and Sales 

  • Create a timeline for care. Exotic Pet Birds Inc. reaches out after three months to schedule the first free groom.
  • Partner with a local veterinarian. Birds bought at the store come with a free exam from an avian vet.
  • Require and pay for staff to take continuing pet education courses.
  • Offer appointments during which clients get undivided attention and expertise from an expert.
  • Create a Facebook group to build community among staff and clients.


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