My Unexpected Career As A Groomer

In 2006, I left my hometown of Hanford, California, and headed for the beautiful city of Camarillo CA for college. I was a transfer student majoring in biology.  I moved into an apartment with my lab BJ and immediately started searching for a job.  After a short lived search I landed a position as a part-time sales associate at a corporate pet retailer in the neighborhood .

It didn’t take too long before I was promoted to a team lead, and once I was there, some of my responsibilities required me to become involved with the grooming salon staff and salon functions.  I remember how I would admire them through the window that separated the salon and the store.  What an easy and fun job I thought — they get to bathe, groom and play with dogs all day….and they get tips!  It didn’t take much soul-searching for me to realize that was the place to be, so I decided to see if I could switch into the salon as a bather.  It would be the best way to get my foot in the door and it didn’t require much training, at least, not as much as it took to be a groomer.

The next week I started as a bather and so did my career (but I didn’t know it at that point)!  Mind you, this whole time I am attending college working towards a Biology degree.  My goal was to be a biologist, not a dog groomer.  When I entered the salon as a bather, the corporate office had sent in a grooming instructor to teach and apprentice a class of trainees in our salon.  I watched as the class would come each day, go over their booklets, practice clips, and compare equipment.  The instructor noticed my interest and often encouraged me to think about a job as a groomer, and feeling the financial crunch of college tuition, books, housing etc, I began to seriously consider it.  I would go from making hourly plus tips to commission plus tips.  It would definitely be a pay increase.  But I hesitated quite bit because I did not consider myself to be the creative type,  I couldn’t draw, I wasn’t artistic, so how could I ever expect to succeed at a job that required a natural talent I didn’t have?

However, in the face of all that self-doubt and with my future-husband’s encouragement, I started my training by becoming an apprentice under one of our main groomers in our salon.  A few months passed and I quickly acquired the technical expertise required to perform what I considered “good” grooms on the majority of dog breeds.  And believe it or not, I was offered a position as Grooming Salon Manager shortly after finishing the grooming course.  I guess maybe I did have that natural talent after all.

Now, as the manager, I became much more involved in the business aspect of the grooming salon.  I made sure we were reaching our goals in sales, add-on purchases, promotional purchases, etc.  I answered customer complaints, dealt with employees, and dealt with the corporate office.

Over time, I began to realize the shortcomings of the corporate grooming environment.  Many things seemed more complicated than they needed to be, and in my opinion, not necessarily in the  clients’ or dogs’ best interest sometimes.  I acknowledged the valid complaints of our customers:  Why has my dog been here all day?  When is she going to be done?  Why is she afraid to come to here?  Why do we have a different groomer or bather every time?

I knew there were areas we could improve the grooming experience for customers and their dogs but I felt restrained from being able to make a real difference under the corporation’s rules and regulations.

So I made a huge decision for a student who was up to her neck in debt and still trying to finish college.  With the support of my soon to be husband,  I started my own mobile dog grooming business.  I thought, hey, at least I could have more flexibility with my school hours, and I could set my own schedule and work as much as I needed or wanted to while still going to school.

The Itchy Pooch Mobile Pet Grooming started in May 2008 in Camarillo CA.  It was a huge success.

I was busy, between school and work.  I had no time for the overflow of clients who wanted in with The Itchy Pooch.  I hired a good friend as a bather who ran the van 1-2 days a week and then made two of the biggest decisions of my life — I quit school and got married.  I had a successful business, was my own boss, had employees, had a flexible schedule if I needed one, and I was making great money.  I was able to start paying off my student loans.  Best of all I loved my job!  I got to work with dogs… who doesn’t love dogs?

It took me about 6 months to tell my parents that I quit college with only a year left graduating.  I didn’t want to sink anymore money into a degree that I wouldn’t be using.  I had found my career.  I was a business owner, I was a dog groomer, I was the owner of The Itchy pooch Mobile Pet Grooming.

So here I am, now relocated back to my hometown of Hanford to be closer to my family.  I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old, so being near family is important to me.  I work 4 days a week and I am completely booked to the point that I can no longer take new clients.  I have a growing waiting list and I am just waiting for the right groomer to come along that will be a perfect fit to help expand our company.  But in the meantime, I couldn’t think of a more perfect job.  Especially as a mom, I have the flexibility of moving my schedule around my daughters’ preschool hours, dance schedules, sicknesses, vacations etc.  If I need to work more hours one week for some extra unexpected expenses, I can.  I love doing what I do.  And all I can think of is how different my life would be if I was stuck in a lab all day with my biology degree, working under a boss, with probably a very inflexible job, probably not making as much money as I am now, and paying off even more student loan debt.

I was always pushed by school, society, and family that college was the way to go.  A college degree is what you needed to be successful in life, they would say.  I had always thought that until recently.  I am living proof…. I am successful.  The other day I saw my 3 year old daughter in her room with all her stuffed animals on display, pretending to be working for The Itchy Pooch.  I can’t help but smile and think that what I am growing  and creating may someday be my daughters dream job too.


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