Sylvie Marks is the owner of Waggy Wagon, a dog grooming salon based in Dulwich, South East London. Sylvie tells us all about her amazing grooming business.

Hi Sylvie! What can you tell me about Waggy Wagon?

Waggy Wagon started out as a Mobile business in 2016. I bought a van and had it converted by Pro Dog Baths.

It started out very busy in the first few weeks, and I was able to make lots of new clients very quickly. In 2019 I, sadly, had to sell my van because of ULEZ.

I started working from home, and I built a salon in my garden. Although initially I was upset about losing my mobile business, I’m now loving working from home! Luckily most of my clients were local, so they just started coming to me. Following this, I managed to keep most of my long-term clients.

My business is built from the love of dogs. I have been a dog lover my whole life but for various reasons, I never had a dog until I turned 40.

At the time, I had just lost my long-term job of 16 years as a gallery manager. Sadly, we lost our home, and I had a small child. Life was very stressful.

I don’t actually remember where the idea came from but one week after losing my job, I was signed up for an intensive dog grooming course, and I have never looked back. My only regret is not doing it sooner!

What would you say is your unique selling point?

My unique selling point used to be about concentrating on nervous dogs that have previously been turned away from busy salons. I am very patient with dogs and I work one on one. And, the dogs seem to relax in this environment. I still kept all my clients from seven years ago and this is one of the many reasons!

What can you tell me about how you trained to be a dog groomer?

I trained with Heidi and Christine Anderton at Absolutely Animals in London. I met a lot of amazing people at that course that I still keep in touch with today. It is the best thing I’ve ever done and, as I said, I should have done it a lot sooner.

Do you have any “hidden gems” you’d like to share with our readers?

Because I had a lot of nervous dogs, and I had a diploma in aromatherapy,  I started using essential oils during my grooms. Lavender oil in my burner, to keep dogs calm.

Patchouli oil mixed in with the shampoo, to help with keeping bugs at bay. That led to me making certain products, such as an anti-anxiety spray, a canine shampoo bar and paw balm etc. I used to give them away to my clients at Christmas time as presents!

After a while, they started asking me for it, so I decided to start making them in small batches for retail, hence my secondary business Waggy Essentials was born. It’s a range of natural products for dogs.

What advice would you give to other dog groomers who are just starting out in the industry?

Be patient with your clients, four and two-legged. Be patient with yourself, too!

Don’t rush the grooms, as dogs pick up on your mood and will relax if you are relaxed. And,  do as many seminars, training days and further education as you can, to work alongside other,  more experienced groomers if you have the opportunity. You learn something new from everyone.  Never stop learning!

Are there any general thoughts you’d like to share?

I consider myself super lucky to have found my passion in grooming. Clients trust us with their dogs, who are mostly like family to them. It’s very special, and I never take it for granted.

Working with dogs is an absolute passion., and we are all very lucky to make a living out of something we love. Dogs are the best.