In 2010 I opened a little grooming salon in Elizabethtown, KY. It was open just over a year before I had to close it for personal reasons (relocation). It was heartbreaking for me. It was also the only time in my career I truly felt defeated. I took a year off after that. When I was ready to get back into it. I found a job at a small grooming shop. The groomer has said she needed help due to an injured back. I found out later she was battling a serious drug addiction. It worked great for the first few months, but there was a personal dynamic going on between the family, and my working threre was somehow enabling the addict not to work. The hostility between them escalated and started to be projected at me, so I quit. I found a temporary grooming job, but we decided it was time to relocate again. We weren’t where we felt we needed to be.
At the advice of some friends we moved to Breckinridge county. I found a job at another little grooming salon. For the most part things went well. But I was still just shy of making ends meet. I had inquired at another local shop that promised I would be able to work the volume I needed to sustain my family. I gave my notice. It was a mistake on my part, in hindsight, I should have just taken a second grooming job. But we are far past that point now, so no use dwelling.
The new job went great for the first month. But as time passed the tone changed. I was advised to look into the legal side and I did. Most groomers hire as independent contractors, when most if not all are simply miscalsdfied employees. It was, like my previous jobs, just an under the table work. I was ok with that. My only goal was to feed my family. I worked up till the day before Mosiah was born. When I inquired about resuming work I was sent a contract. I disagreed with the terms (one being that I was not allowed to sell MY bows to the groomer I had previously worked for). I found work at yet another salon, trying to decide what to do next.
I retained work at that salon for 6 very long weeks. It was the worst environment I have ever worked in. Just before I left this job, I was solicited by another salon. I was hesitant but when things came to blows over illegal pay structure and stolen pay, I took the new job. I also started a Facebook page (Groomer Nicole) for my grooming so that I could display my grooming skills and retain the client base that I had been working to build. I wasn’t walking away empty handed anymore.
When I took the new job I was clear on my expectations from day 1. Come day 2 I realized they were being ignored. I needed work and couldn’t afford to question them. 2 months later I sustained a life changing dog bite to my hand. It could have been a career ending injury and I am so very thankful it wasn’t. But things had to change.
Before I continue my story I want to explain something. In the grooming industry many groomers are hired as independent contractors. This is illegal. The IRS 20 factor test makes this clear. The other aspect is that the wages are unfair. While 50% commission sounds great at first, when you deduct all the expenses you’re really not making that much money. Independent contractors are responsible for maintaining all their own equipment and paying their own taxes and insurance. At this particular job I was running the entire grooming business by myself. The owner had no part in the daily operations. From open to close cleaning, booking appointments, record keeping, everything including grooming was done by me. I even paid for my advertising. And while none of those places I worked at fully met income needs for the family, they still paid better than the alternative jobs.
After the bite I was advised to address the issue but this time to record conversations. So on several opportunities I addresed this issue with the owner and the manager of the business. Each time my concerns were dismissed and ignored. I gave a personal deadline of December 31 to have the situation corrected or terminated. I was highly confident that I would have to terminate. A few days before Christmas I began my plans to open my own salon.
We had a few ideas in the works but we lacked funding. I continued my employment into January. The tensions began to escalate as I continued to pursue the misclassified employee situation. One morning an argument erupted over a $2 price increase. I was asked to leave.
At this point I needed to focus on how to move forward. I put together a temporary business plan of doing house call grooming. I also was able to acquire a private business loan. So we proceeded with my idea of Blessed Little Grooming Company.
I decided to go with the commercial location that I chose for several reasons one being that I wanted to be able to bring in other groomers. Knowing I’m not the only one who’s experienced the strain of being of misclassified employee and considering most grooming facilities only hire as misclassified, I was hoping to give others opportunity to move forward with their careers. I decided to build a four station grooming room and a three station bathing and drying room. We had a few minor setbacks but the salon was scheduled to open the first week of May.
Of course the whole world knows what actually happened the first week of May. The day I scheduled my soft opening I was actually sitting in a jail cell. I cannot relay to you how I felt in there. Everything was destroyed. My entire life, my family, my business, was in jeopardy and I had no way to fix anything. I will discuss all that in a later post. This one I want to focus on the salon.
We finally got the salon opened on May 20, 2015. So many things changed in those few weeks. Everything we had planned was flipped upside down. We were just taking it all day by day. The business neighbors had started complaining about the barking, as if we needed more stress. After 6 months of trying to figure out how to resolve the neighbor issue, we came to agreement with the property owner. A new wall was put up and a sound test was done. The sound test passed and I signed the new lease with a rent increase to cover a portion of the wall. Two days later another noise complaint came in, and with it a 30 day notice to vacate.
I decided not to fight. I really didn’t have any fight left to be honest. We found a new location and I told the property manager we would agree to sever ties and we would be out in 30 days. So that brings us to here. A beautiful new location, and a slight change in the dynamic of BLGC. We are no longer looking to bring in outside groomers. We plan on expanding our retail and keeping our business small and personal.
Its been a strange journey. One we have been working on. We hit our one year mark at full steam and are keeping pace. I’m very happy with our success. I owe it all to my clients, some who have been with me all along on this crazy journey with us.
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