Salty Dawg Pet Salon Gets Dogs Ready for Red Carpet | Franchise News


Salty Dawg Pet Salon is targeting hair stylists from Paul Mitchell Schools, a training school started in 2000 and affiliated with the new brand, to switch to pet grooming. Some of their adorable clients are shown here.

If your fluffy Bichon Frise was born to walk the red carpet, or your long-haired Lhasa Apso could pull off a Farrah Fawcett style, new franchise Salty Dawg Pet Salon might be their place.

Its founders are also involved with Paul Mitchell Schools, a long-standing franchise that trains 14,000 hair stylists (primarily for people) a year. Now Salty Dawg is targeting some of those stylists to switch to dogs.

“We found that a lot of our students and graduates love, love, love animals. Sometimes they love working with animals more than working with human beings,” said Winn Claybaugh, co-founder of Salty Dawg, which had three stores open and nine in development by mid-summer.

The history dates to 1980 when two friends, celebrity hairdresser Paul Mitchell and John Paul DeJoria, today a self-made billionaire, took a $700 loan to launch a hair care system with three products. Now John Paul Mitchell Systems sells more than 100 products in 80 countries.

Then in 2000, Claybaugh, DeJoria and Angus Mitchell, son of the late Paul Mitchell, created Paul Mitchell Schools with one location; today there are more than 110.

Enter John Kanski, a Paul Mitchell Schools franchisee with locations in Illinois, Texas, Georgia and Wisconsin, who is CEO and also part owner of Salty Dawg. In 2018 they began working on the concept, with the slogan “Pet Differently,” and in May 2022 launched the franchising program. Cost of investment ranges from $200,000 to $400,000.

Kanski says sourcing talent from Paul Mitchell Schools is a natural fit. “There’s a multi-decade history of producing an army of loyal, wonderful people that have gone through our school system, so we have sourcing talent.”

Also, “we have an ability to create training materials, that’s really key. A lot of people get lost in their career, how they are onboarded. People need to feel like they’re improving.”

Human hair stylists and dog groomers are both hard to find. “Any grooming business will say they’re understaffed and they’re having trouble finding talent. We have people after COVID say, ‘I’m just going to quit.’ You better believe it’s impacting the dog grooming business as well,” says Claybaugh, whose bio says he espouses a “Be Nice” workplace philosophy and strives to incorporate “inclusivity and acceptance” as core values.

“We focus on three basic human needs. People need to feel safe. People need to feel they have a purpose. And people need to feel that they belong. If a franchisee, an owner, a boss, a manager will focus on these basic human needs, they will retain their team members,” Claybaugh says.

“In any kind of a company, any time that there is a problem, that problem came up because relationships broke down. And we believe relationships break down because of a lack of communication, end of story,” he adds. “It’s built within our systems that we communicate. The old school is dictating, controlling, policing people. That’s a type of a business that people will leave.”

Kanski said “of course” some human hair stylists will think dog grooming is beneath them, but perhaps just as many will prefer pets. “I want people in my school to go off and do fabulous things in the beauty industry and hair. And a lot of them are. They’re working on runways, they’re working on editorial. This is just one option. This is just something for people who—man they love this, they have the skills” to give dogs what they desire.

But isn’t the groomer really trying to please the pet parent? “Absolutely, but the pet tells the parent so much without speaking,” he says.

Asked if dogs have “it” haircuts, like “the Rachel” made popular by Jennifer Aniston on the TV show “Friends,” Kanski laughs. “That would be so cool, wouldn’t it?” But most grooming at Salty Dawg is for maintenance and health. “We really focus on what we call the lifestyle groom,” although sometimes the pet—or perhaps the pet parent—wants something spectacular.

“I’ve seen avant-garde work where they shave designs: I saw one with a dolphin that was built on the back of this pet. I saw one which was the Elvis. It can get kind of crazy.”

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