Start-up of the Month: Wiggle Wags

Ten years ago (that's 56 canine years) Chandra Peffers graduated from the Michigan School of Canine Cosmetology in Lansing, hoping to make a career of her life-long love of pets and newly acquired set of scissor skills. She has managed salons and worked for veterinarians, including a four-year term at Suttons Bay Animal Hospital, which she left last year to embark on the venture she had always hoped for: owning her own grooming salon. Confident in her abilities and recognizing the demand in an under-served market, Peffers and her husband packed up their three dogs and five cats to set up shop inside Wiggle Wags feed store in Fife Lake.

Background

I originally wanted to be a veterinarian, so I went to grooming school right out of high school and found it was something I was good at and had a passion for. I've run salons and worked for vets, and my dream had always been to have my own salon. When a Fife Lake business owner opened a feed store, he was looking for a groomer, so I took over the salon. My husband and I had planned to open one, but then this opportunity came along that looked a little bit better for us. It just happened a little quicker than we planned.

Paws-on Experience

You have to have patience and a way with animals. With grooming there is a lot of scissor and clipper work, so you also have to learn skills on how to run those kinds of tools. I'm certified, having gone through a 600-hour, three-month hands-on training course. I learned the basic steps of grooming, including proper bathing techniques, toenail trimming and the art of hand scissoring. I was required to study the entire AKC (American Kennel Club) book and was veterinarian tested after learning basic skin conditions and parasites – not for diagnosing or treating, but to pass information along to owners. I hope to eventually get my master certification and compete in grooming.

Pretty Kitties, Perky Pooches

Our typical package includes bathing, breath spray and toenail trimming and, with grooming, each gets a scissor finish. I recommend people bring their pets in every six to eight weeks to keep their coats tangle-free and nails trimmed. A lot of breeds have hair in their ear canals which can cause infections and need to be plucked. We offer tooth brushing (by special request) to help break up the tarter. With cats, we bathe and comb them out, and a lot of times owners want them to be shaved because they may have been rescued and have matted fur. They all get the works when they come in.

Dog Days

Summer is a busy season because a lot of people don't like to get their dog's hair done in the winter, which is a shame because you don't necessarily have to cut your dog's hair. In the winter it's good to do overall hygienic bathing and moisturizing treatments for dry skin. Some dogs get snowballs in their fur, which we can trim at different lengths to avoid them becoming a matted mess that we'll have to shave down in the spring. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are also busy times for us.

Combing Attractions

The store owner is looking to lease the building to me, so eventually I'll be taking over the whole feed and pet supply business. My ultimate goal would be to have a one-stop-shopping pet hotel with all the amenities, including an indoor/outdoor dog park. It would be convenient for the people who keep asking me to recommend a place to board their pet. We would also like to start in artistic grooming – adding a little color to dogs. Nobody in Michigan that I know of does it, so we're looking to expand into that area as well. We have a big future planned. It's just a matter of finding out the demand and getting there.

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