A few months after her 18th birthday, Julie Timura filed incorporation papers for her business, Fuzzy Hearts Grooming.
Now 19, Timura continues to grow her pet-grooming business thanks to an innovative idea: She makes house calls for her four-legged customers.
This winter, she customized a van to reach her clients in a new way — their own driveways. The mobile grooming service appeals to time-strapped clients as well as those with shy animals.
Timura said she’s fulfilling a childhood dream.
“My parents raised me to go after what I wanted to do, this is what I wanted,” Timura said.
The Indiana native graduated from high school in the spring of 2011 at the age of 17. That summer, she took a six-month internship with a full-time groomer in Indiana. Following her internship, she enrolled in Golden Paws Pet Styling Academy in Kokomo, Ind.
“It was pretty intense. We worked all day, every day,” she said. “It was long hours but I learned a lot. At 17, I was definitely the youngest student.”
Last year, after moving with her family to Brunswick, Timura registered Fuzzy Hearts Grooming with the state of Ohio and officially began working as a groomer.
In December 2012, she purchased a van, and with the help of her father, retrofitted it to include a dog bathtub and grooming station.
“I can come to you and groom wherever, as long as there’s an electric hookup,” she said.
Timura also has had a lot of practice grooming her own dogs — Sheba, an 8-year-old poodle-Schnauzer mix, and Sasha, a 5-year-old Labrador-poodle mix.
Timura always knew she wanted to work with animals.
When she was younger, she had dreams of becoming a veterinarian and at 12 she hosted “dog washes” on her front yard for neighborhood pets.
“I guess I should have known then that this was going to be my career,” she said.
Timura takes her business seriously. She set up a website, and her grooming van and personal car are covered with her business name and phone number.
She’s had a lengthy conversation with representatives from the Internal Revenue Service to make sure she was accounting for all her businesses expenses properly and to make sure she was filing her taxes correctly the first year. She also had to take out two insurance policies — for the business and the grooming vehicle.
“I’ve learned a lot about business,” she said.
But she’s also learned a lot about keeping animals and their owners happy and comfortable. Timura provides all types of grooming services, from a basic bath to a full grooming with a haircut styled to the client’s preference.
The mobile service costs a little more than traditional brick-and-mortar grooming services because of the one-on-one attention to the animal, travel time and gas and car upkeep.
But Timura said there are a number of reasons clients prefer the service.
“It’s good, especially for animals who are scared or shy. There aren’t any other animals here like at a shop,” she said.
Unlike the crates animals are kept in while they await their grooming at a storefront, Timura’s clients get her full attention for the length of the grooming.
“In a lot of shops, they’ll put the animals into crates. Then after the grooming, they stick them in a crate with a blow dryer attached,” she said.
And while that method works fine for many animals, it’s scary for some skittish animals.
“Any owner who wants to step inside the van during the grooming is welcome,” she said. “Sometimes, with really scared dogs, it’s soothing and they see someone that’s familiar.”
Timura also has taken steps to accommodate elderly clients that need a ramp to access the van.
“The ramp is good for dogs with arthritis, and I have steps up to the tub, too, if they need it,” she said.
She’s also researched and purchased the safest harnesses available that include a quick release and a groomer’s helper — a tool that helps hold the dog in place, making grooming safer for the dog and the groomer.
“There are dogs that die every year in grooming accidents,” she said. “I have a quick release on all my harnesses so there’s no risk of strangulation, and I never take more than one hand off a dog at a time.”
Eventually, Timura hopes to build her client base in Brunswick and the surrounding area, but she said she could see growing her fleet to include hiring employees someday, though she doesn’t know about owning a storefront.
“I think the idea of mobile grooming is unique and my clients really like it,” she said. “But I could definitely add some employees and a few more vans.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.