Where’s the best place to work?
Making the decision to run your business from home or rent commercial premises is a difficult one – it could mean the difference between success or failure. Here are some things to consider:
Working from home can appeal because on the surface it seems cheaper but you may have to invest a lot of money to set up a viable business including access to water, electricity, drainage as well as the costs of having a suitable building. The shed at the bottom of the garden will require a lot of work to turn it into a salon. Leases for commercial premises can vary enormously. It is easy to be attracted to the cheapest but often these are short-term and all of a sudden you find you’ve got to move out.
You may need planning permission if you are going to run a salon from home and could even need it if you plan to make a lot of alterations to a commercial property.
Commercial premises are more likely to attract passing trade, especially if you have a distinctive logo and easily readable signage.
Attitudes and Access
Some potential customers may automatically regard you as a hobby groomer if you work from home. Parking is often the first thing neighbours will complain about if it inconveniences them in any way.
Well-known groomers Peter and Becki Ensell have recently moved their business from a commercial site back home. And Sarah Bakewell has done the reverse. Their experiences may help you decide what’s best for you.
Peter and Becki Ensell
“We moved back home because of the insecurity of our short-term lease. It was just becoming too stressful not knowing how long we’d got the premises for. We’ve had a business for 15 years but moving home was like setting up a new business and we lost about 50% of our customers. It didn’t help that our telephone area code was different and we couldn’t keep our shop number so customers couldn’t get hold of us. It took three months to resolve the issue! We’ve also had to invest in marketing to find new customers.”
First steps and challenges
“In the first instance we had to approach the council for permission and then prepare the premises. We thought we’d convert our kennels but in the end we had to rebuild from scratch. And that came with it’s own challenges. The water couldn’t access the drains to soak away so we’ve had to install a pump system that takes it back to the house. Basically we’ve got a log cabin that is 24 feet by 12, which we’ve customised. We were lucky that Pete’s dad did all for the work for us so we didn’t have to pay for labour. It took three months in total and cost us about £6,000.”
Avoiding parking issues
“To avoid any issues with parking we take the dogs in groups at 15-minute intervals. Customers can park on our drive, outside our house or in the car park at the end of the road and so far this seems to be working well.”
“On the plus side we’re saving money on rent and petrol and being at home we can keep an eye on our litter of pups as well as get on with something if we have a no-show rather than just waiting around. Personally for us it’s better, our work-life balance has improved and slowly business is improving. We’re glad we moved home!” Peter and Becki Ensell
Sarah moved from home to commercial premises.
Reasons for moving
“I had a big room at the front of the house which I’d never used so converted it into a grooming salon. Business suddenly took off about 18 months ago. I had a part-time helper and was doing about seven dogs a day. That’s when parking issues started to occur and the neighbours started complaining. One neighbour in particular would be rude to customers if they parked outside his house. I also had problems with the water draining away from my hydrobath, which started to flood my other neighbour’s drive. I was worried the council would close me down so I moved out last year to a two-storey shop on a busy road.“
“The parking was fine right outside my shop when I first got it but the council are implementing some traffic calming measures so the priority has changed to the other side of the road and I’ve now got double yellow lines outside! Fortunately there are some fixed parking bays in a side street nearby. The traffic calming will mean people go past my shop a lot slower, which will hopefully bring in some more business! They are building a new Tescos nearby which will do the same.”
“I’ve had to do a lot of work to kit out the salon and spent about £10,000 in total. I’ve been lucky that apart from one customer all my regulars have followed me to the new premises. However I need to build the business to pay the rent and start making a profit. Fortunately I have the scope here to expand and take on another groomer eventually.”
Creating a retail space
“I’ve also got space for a small retail area, which is proving a huge success. I stock the normal grooming products and also coats, collars, leads harnesses etc. I also stock a large selection of natural treats and Nutriment raw food, which my customers love. A lot of my stock has about a 150% mark-up so it’s a useful add-on to the grooming.
Worries and possibilities
There are different worries and different regulations when you have a commercial premises but I’m excited about the future and having the scope to expand my business here, which I couldn’t do from home. Sarah Bakewell