Pampered pets make for great startup customers

Barkbus has been able to expand from two to 55 vans since 2017 because, well, we love our pets.

Every dog has its day, but what about a spa day?

Pampered pets make for great startup customers

California-based Barkbus brings the spa, contained inside a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, to the dog. There’s also a mid-groom photoshoot — perhaps with a soapy mohawk or Princess Leia towel-buns — and yeah, it’s adorable.

Part of Bay Area startup studio Wilbur Labs, Barkbus expanded from just two vans in LA to 55 across SoCal and Dallas since its founding in 2017.

Out of the salon, into your driveway

Barkbus CEO Jeff Safenowitz, formerly of WeWork, said he and founder Patrick Riley, entrepreneur and former guitarist for The Ataris, identified the pain points of brick-and-mortar salons:

For customers: Leaving their dog at a busy shop where they may be caged and surrounded by other noisy dogs, which can stress them out.

For groomers: Feeling rushed at a hectic big-box retailer, or navigating the challenges of running their own business.

Barkbus groomers are full-time employees with benefits, who average just four dogs per day. They go straight to customers’ homes, where dogs receive detailed, one-on-one attention; one groomer even discovered a cancerous tumor on a pet’s leg.

“Our favorite thing is when customers say, ‘My dog’s never been able to get groomed, and all of a sudden Barkbus shows up now and he’s running to the van licking your groomer’s face,’” Safenowitz told us.

Mobile grooming isn’t new…

… but Barkbus elevates the experience with tech and personalized touches, like an online booking system and reminder postcards featuring images of customers’ pets.

More broadly, consumers are spending more on both online, to-your-door services (e.g., grocery delivery) and their pets.

“I like to joke, in this day and age, dogs and cats are now our kids, and plants are now our pets,” Safenowitz said.

As of 2022, spending on pets had increased 450% since 1994. The US grooming industry alone is currently worth an estimated $5B+ and expected to exceed $10B by 2032.

You want to know if they do other animals, too, huh? It’s up to the groomer, but yes.

Topics: Pets

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