Groomer's Choice Celebrates 25 Years
Started in the Garage, Now a Bone-a-fide Pet Industry Leader
Groomer’s Choice Pet Products looks much different today compared to when CEO and founder Dan Dressen started the company out of his garage in 1997. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the company now employs 60 people, has three additional warehouses across the United States and manufactures coat care products for six house brands.
We caught up with Dressen to discuss the company’s origin, challenges and future.
Q: What was your inspiration for Groomer's Choice?
A: I worked 22 years in the automotive industry prior to starting the company. At the time, that industry was more advanced and mature than the pet grooming industry. It was difficult to find your way in.
When I looked into the pet grooming industry, I found it was a really interesting place to be. It was refreshing to see the smaller scale of the industry, and I thought I could bring things we had done in the automotive industry to the pet industry to help it advance.
Q: How has Groomer’s Choice successfully contributed to the industry?
A: We’ve helped by bringing innovative products and services to the industry. One of the things we’ve brought to the industry has been our BatherBox Bathing System. We’re not the first to have a bathing system of course, but we are really the first to have a comprehensive program of coat care products married to a system to help groomers. By shortening the time it takes to bathe a dog, the system helps make the bathing experience more enjoyable for the pet, makes it easier on groomers and makes it more profitable for grooming shops.
By bringing those types of products and services to the industry, we end up being more than just a supplier of products to groomers. We end up being somebody that can bring more value, and that's how we've tried to position ourselves. We want to bring more value to the industry and not simply be just another distributor.
Q: What are the company’s values?
A: What’s most important to us is to bring value to the industry and not just be a distributor.
Sure, the company needs to win, but also as important or even more importantly, the customer needs to win, and our employees need to win. You have a triangle win that needs to happen. If you can build that win triangle so everyone involved becomes a winner, you have a successful equation to drive the company forward.
We’ve also always tried to keep a family culture, recognizing people have families and life outside of work.
Q: What challenges have you had to overcome?
A: Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years. At the beginning, I think all industries were in shock, and our revenue dropped like a rock. It was difficult. The first thing we had to do was ask ourselves, ‘How can we salvage the company and make sure we’re not losing any employees?’ We had to find a way to get ourselves through it. After shedding as much expense as possible, we had to find a way to increase our revenue.
We also evaluated how we could provide services to what was going on in the world as COVID was entering itself into it. We knew the world was in need of disinfectants and sanitizers manufacturers. We partnered with POET, who is the largest producer of ethanol in the world and located here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Through that partnership, we went from knowing nothing about making hand sanitizer to becoming a significant producer in just three weeks. It helped keep our employees employed, and it helped bring some revenue into the company to offset the loss because of the pandemic. We were able to donate some of the product to local organizations, too.
After about six months, things started to turn around. People were staying home and had brought more pets into their lives, which boosted the pet industry. We went from a large offset of revenue to a large increase in business. We had record-setting years in 2020 and 2021, and it was due to more pets and, as a result, more demand for our products and services.
Q: What are some of the rewarding aspects of your role?
A: There’s a lot of rewarding aspects. It’s rewarding to see the company grow and bring new people on board. Seeing how our employees can help move the company to the next level is probably one of the most exciting things to be part of.
It’s also exciting for me to now have all three of my children involved with the company. My daughter joined us a couple months ago, and my sons have been part of the company, one for going on 15 years and one for almost seven years. It’s rewarding to see them grow.
We’re working on taking the company to the next generation. Me being the founder of the company, eventually, I’ll be phasing myself out, and they will be phasing themselves more and more in to move it into the second generation. And hopefully one day it will go into a third generation with my grandkids.
Q: Is there anything you would’ve changed along the way?
A: When you take a company from basically zero customers and one very small location working out of a garage to tens of thousands of customers and four locations, including this 125,000 square feet location, you’re bound the make some mistakes along the way.
It would be nice to cut some of those mistakes up, but there are also learning opportunities that allow you to get better at serving our customers and employees and building company culture.
Q: What’s next for Groomer’s Choice?
A: We have plenty of projects going on. One of the more exciting projects we’re working on is coming up with the latest, greatest shampoo technology. It needs to utilize the best pet-safe and environmentally friendly products that are sustainable and renewable while being unique and fresh for the grooming industry. Maybe even something that hasn’t been done before. That’s our challenge. Hopefully within the next year, we’ll have something new to share.
Also, since the pandemic, we’ve decided disinfectant is a category we want to bring to the grooming industry. We have always provided the products, but we’re now becoming a manufacturer and have spent the past year working to produce a new line of kennel disinfectants we’ll be launching soon.
Q: Do you have a favorite dog breed?
A: I have to say Boykin Spaniel since we have two of them. Gator is almost 15 years old and has been a brand ambassador for the company for a while, offering his wisdom to help us determine the right products for the industry.
After 25 years, we know we're just getting started, and we'll be continuing to help groomers and pets for years to come.