Groomers around the world inspire us. Their passion for pets and business consistently set the bar for the industry, which is why we'll be featuring stories from VIGs - very important groomers - like you. This month's spotlight features Jennifer Gray of Soledad, California.
GC: Tell us your grooming story.
JG: Hi, I'm Jennifer! I've been in the grooming industry for roughly 10 years. I spent the majority of my life working in music and church ministry, but shortly after I got married, my husband became very ill and was in and out of the hospital.
Around that time, a friend asked if I would like to work in her grooming shop. She needed somebody to run her calendar and billing. I decided to go for it! Within the first week she was yelling to me, "Jennifer, come wash this dog! Jennifer, come brush this dog!" And that's exactly how it started.
It's also why I’ve stayed in this industry. Life was incredibly stressful then, but I remember the day clearly. I was sitting on the floor brushing a doodle and feeling overwhelmed by life. And then it happened. The dog put his paw on my arm and leaned his head against me. I could feel myself start to calm down. I even began to cry. In that moment, I knew I was taking care of that dog, and he was taking care of me. I realized what a precious job this was, and what I thought would be a steppingstone ended up being a career I love. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
GC: Tell us more about Pawsitively Clean.
JG: About five years ago my husband and I relocated to the area where I grew up. At first it felt like a step backwards, but we took the plunge anyway. I began working for a local radio station, and although I really enjoyed it, I looked at my husband and said, "I'm not done working with dogs yet."
When we started Pawsitively Clean, we did anything to get the word out – went door to door with business cards, introduced myself to the local veterinarian, met with the city council, etc. Now, we have four to six staff members (depending on interns, apprentices and volunteers)and service 17-24 dogs per day.
I’ve continued to re-invest in my community and build relationships with our local rescues by grooming their dogs for free. We’ve also gifted brushes to rescues. The brushes have a QR code to a video teaching new pet owners how to brush their dogs.
This year, my business has committed to grooming our homeless community’s dogs. Every three months, my staff donates their time, and our local rescue donates supplies, purchases flea preventative and provides free vaccination, spay and neuter services. Groomer's Choice even donated a bunch of products for us to use!
GC: What interested you about becoming a dog groomer?
JG: What first interested me in becoming a dog groomer was the ability to groom my dad's Maltese. Then, my parents wouldn’t have to pay for grooming anymore. Grooming dogs terrified me, but even as a bather, I knew I would love it.
What’s kept me here is being able to see the change we are making. For example, previous clients who would bring their dogs in pelted twice a year are now on a good rotation. Plus, I get to create a personal connection with every dog and teach other people how to do this job and how to love it.
GC: Do you have a favorite breed to groom? If so, why are they your favorite?
JG: This may sound cheesy, but my favorite breed is rescue! Those and the old timers. Anytime a local rescue gets fur babies who need to be cleaned up, we groom them. These dogs are often terrified, and we take our time to love them and give them the best chance at getting adopted. Their success stories always bring us so much joy.
GC: What is your favorite thing about being a groomer?
JG: Teaching people to do better. We never shame our clients, but instead show them how to do better. And the majority of the time, they do.
GC: What is the best piece of grooming advice you've received?
JG: Stop trying to be the hero. Always choose humanity over vanity. It is not your job to clean up somebody else's mess if they're not willing to put in the work. Teach them how to keep up on the coat, and if they want to, they will. If not, then we will help them start over.
GC: What would you say to someone interested in becoming a groomer?
JG: Don't let anyone convince you to not do this. Give it a try. You owe yourself that. Get in there and start washing dogs. Embrace every ounce of it and see if this is something that your heart wants to do. It will require so much from you mentally and physically, but the rewards are plenty.
GC: Why do you choose to shop with Groomer's Choice?
JG: I love Groomer's Choice. It is my one and only supplier, and the customer service is second to none. The products are always high-quality, and the shipping is super-fast. The reps are always reliable and knowledgeable! And Groomer's Choice gives back! I love that about them.
GC: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
JG: As a home-based groomer who is licensed with my city, I sometimes feel like home-based groomers don't get as much attention or credit. Almost like we're not as legit as storefront groomers. Where I live, real estate is simply not available for a shop. Plus, it benefits me more to work out of my home.
Even with obstacles, I won businesswomen of the year in my city. Every single day I step foot in my shop, I’m determined to make a difference.
It’s important that we don’t count ourselves out just because we don’t have everything we need all at once. It’s not about that. It’s about starting. Start where you’re at and with what you have. Then, grow. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can make a difference in this industry.
Are you a groomer or pet professional? Want to be featured in a future Groomer's Choice blog post or magazine? Submit your grooming story!