Please introduce yourself and how you came to the grooming industry.
My name is Helen Khom, and I am a Pet Groomer. I live and run my own in home service grooming in Deltona FL. I also work part time at Shear Magic Pet Salon in Orlando. I am 27 years old and have been grooming for almost 2 years. In addition, I have an art degree and in my free time I paint. I always thought that my life is going to be connected to art but one day I have decided to do something completely different from what I was doing for my entire life. Once I brought my dog to the grooming place and I saw a sign that they were looking for a bather and that day was a starting point of my career. When I started grooming, I realised that it’s my passion and understood the whole meaning of the phrase “Do what you like and you will never work a day in your life”.
Is there anything particular breed or type of grooming you focus on?
In the beginning of my career I went to Europe to improve my qualification and one of the courses I took was Asian Fusion. It was the most impressive class, and I focused on this style. After coming back to the US, I offered Asian Fusion to my clients. At first it was hard to convince people to try something new on their beloved once, but after seeing results they never went back to the regular cuts.
How did you get into competitions?
While working in the pet salon I was getting a lot of good comments from clients and other groomers and that pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and take another step in my career which was grooming competitions. When I competed for the first time it was really stressful because I didn't know how everything goes and on top of that I have a language barrier. During that competition I felt so many emotions, met new people and learned a lot from the judge's critique that it made me want to compete again and again.
How many have you competed in?
I started to compete last year. My first experience was in Orlando, I decided to compete here because I knew some groomers and felt a little more confident. In that year, I already competed in seven competitions, including five virtual ones.
What have you placed?
Fun in the Sun 2019 (FL)
● Career Start Contest - 2nd place
Safari Palmetto Groom 2020 (SC)
● All Other Purebreds - 1st place (Entry)
● Salon Fantasy Class - 1st place
● Creative Grooming Class - 3rd place
Barkleigh’s World Groom 2020 (Virtual)
● Salon Fantasy Class - 1st place (Entry)
● Poodle Class - 2nd place (Entry)
West Coast Groom Alliance (Virtual)
● Creative Facebook Photo Contest - 1st place (Intermediate)
● Creative Facebook Photo Contest - Best in Show
● All Other Purebreds Contest - 3rd place (Intermediate)
● Asian Fusion Facebook Photo Contest - 3rd place
● Terrier Photo Contest - 4th place (Intermediate)
● Poodle Contest - 1st place (Intermediate)
● Cute Face Contest - 4th place
Worldwide Stay at Home Creative Grooming Contest (Virtual)
● Model Class - 3rd place (Entry)
Zolitta Asian Style Model Dog Contest (Virtual)
● The winner of Zolitta Asian Style Model Head Contest
Have you participated in any virtual competitions since COVID hit?
As you can see from the previous question I did compete in five virtual competitions. There are more virtual competitions coming later this year, which I am planning to compete in.
What do you think the future of virtual competitions or competitions in general will look like?
Virtual competitions are an amazing idea because competitors have less travel expenses and don’t have to take days off from work, compete in as many classes as you want and should not worry about pet policies at the hotel, and virtual competitions are usually less expensive than regular ones. But there are some drawbacks too, in the regular competitions you can meet new people, exchange experience, try new products and get personal critiques on the cuts you’ve completed. In a few words virtual competitions are less social, and emotions you get are not the same as when you are in the ring.
What would you change (if anything) about the grooming industry?
I don’t think there is anything I would change in the Grooming industry. There are a lot of great groomers with great experience which I learn from.
Is there anyone you’d like to shoutout in the grooming community?
Yes, I would want to mention a few great groomers who I learned from a lot:
Irina Pinkusevich - I’ve learned how to groom Poodles from her and placed 2nd after her masterclass.
Karen Tucker - Learned a lot about Poodles from her video courses, her work inspires me.
Sue Zecco - She was one of my first judges, and she provided great critiques which helped me to grow.
Kerrie Rousey - Just an amazing groomer who is always there for me and who has five dogs which I use for competitions.
Have you ever shopped at Ryan’s?
Yes, I have ordered a lot of products from you guys, the prices are unbeatable, shipping is fast and sometimes I get free stuff as a gift.
What is your positive experience with grooming?
The most positive experience I had was when I competed for the first time and placed second place. I will never forget the emotions I received at that time.
What is your most negative experience with grooming?
There are no negative experiences in grooming, I always try to look at the positive sides.
What would you tell someone just starting out?
Don’t be shy! We all go through it, don’t be afraid of competitions, don’t be afraid of not placing or doing something wrong on the ring. Even if you do not place, you will learn a lot, judges provide great critiques and getting their opinion is priceless. Just try it once and you can never stop.
Thank you to Helen aka @groom_land for letting us interview her! This post-covid world is certainly "unprecedented" but we will adjust as needed. Hopefully we can all see each other at an "in-person" trade show soon but virtual grooming competitions look like they'll be sticking around for a while since it allows so many more groomers to compete!
We appreciate Helen for encouraging other groomers to participate in competitions. Groomers can gain so much knowledge from the judge's feedback. It's quite valuable!
If you're considering competing in a virtual competition, check out Barkleigh for upcoming events.