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Category: Groomer Interviews

Competing for the First Time: What It Took to Get There

As trade show season quickly approaches in February, some may have made the promise to themselves that "this is the year I'll compete." However, for many industry professionals, considering entering into competing may be something that fills us with not only excitement- but also anxiety too. Luckily for Kayla Scott, owner of The Groomery, in Waco, Texas she was able to overcome those mixed emotions about hitting the competition floor earlier this year at the annual Pet Pro Classic and Pet Quest tradeshows. We caught up with Kayla to learn more about her journey to the competition floor, and here's what she had to say.

How I Got into the Industry:

I think for quite a few of us we kind of just stumble into this industry. At least that was the case for me. In 2016 I received a call from my local PetSmart offering me a position as a bather. I had no prior experience with dogs, but I had always been an avid animal lover. I went for the interview and was hired on immediately. In 2018, I was sent to academy to become a groomer. I was so excited for what the future would hold. Little did I know it would be quite the journey to where I am now. A journey filled with tears, self-doubt, and lots of learning. I spent 2 years as a groomer at PetSmart, stagnant, doing what felt like the same thing, just a different day and I was longing for change.

How I Got Inspired to Compete:

After I left corporate to go work for a local shop, there was a point where I started to feel lost, burnt out, and defeated. I searched everywhere for ways to spark inspiration or a change from the everyday. Next thing you know I was buying a ticket to first my trade show. As I looked through the site in anticipation for my weekend plans, I was only focused on the classes I would be taking and shopping. Until the day finally came, I remember going straight for the tradeshow and stopping in my tracks in awe as the competition ring entered my sight. Rows of Poodles on tables and groomers creating masterpieces. I sat there until the end watching competitors spray up top knots, stacking their dogs when a judge would glance in their direction and the smile on their faces when their name was called after judging. I was so inspired, I too wanted to get in there and pour my heart into a groom and hear my name being called. I started doing research and asking fellow groomers for advice. The consensus was that I just needed to jump in headfirst. With a little nudge from some friends, I was signed up for my first competition, Rescue Round-Up.

Preparing for my First Competition:

In Rescue Round-Up you’re given a number relating to a rescue dog that you will be grooming. This is a great opportunity for first-time competitors to get experience in the competition ring without having to find a dog to compete with. Though I didn’t have a dog to prepare or travel with I knew exactly how I would prepare for the coming competition. The next 3 months consisted of soaking in all the knowledge I could. First, I headed over to the trade show site to read the rules for the competition I’d be competing in. I also went to the Animal Photography site to look at past Rescue Round-Up photos to see what past contestants had gotten. I watched YouTube videos on how to pack for competition, past grooming competitions, product and tool reviews, and grooming tutorials. What I didn’t get from there I searched for in webinars. Groom Haus and Super Styling Sessions was a great source for a variety of breeds and trims. I watched the Balance the Boofs webinar by Jess Rona about 100 times in hopes the dog I got would have a curly coat. It can be difficult to prepare for a dog you have no idea what it looks like, but I made sure to soak in all the knowledge I could.

I Almost Let Doubt Defeat Me:

Before I even stepped in the ring or even registered for a competition there was a lingering feeling. This feeling was one of the biggest obstacles that held me back and still sometimes does. Self-doubt. I was stepping outside my comfort zone and the fear of failure was taking over. It was up to me to change the voice of self-doubt telling me “I can’t do it,” “I’m no good,” and “I don’t deserve this,” if I didn’t these thoughts would become constant. To get past this, I had to be mindful of the way I thought and be compassionate to myself. When that wasn’t enough seeking guidance from friends and family helped to reassure me.

Competing for the First Time:

The night before I got everything together that I would need for competition day. I had two bags. One filled with all the stuff I’d need to do a bath and another with the tools/products I’d be using for the groom. Once everything was packed it was time for bed. Though I knew I had an early morning ahead of me I couldn’t sleep in anticipation for the next day. My alarm was set for 5:30a so I’d have more than enough time to get myself ready, get the car loaded, and be at check-in by 7:30a. The highly anticipated day had come. I got to check in, got my table number, and waited as fellow competitors got theirs. Once everyone was checked in it was time to pull numbers to see which dog we’d get. I pulled the number 3 and got excited because it was my lucky number. I looked at the line of dogs to see which one matched with 3 and it was a beautiful standard poodle! I was lucky! I went over to my dog to introduce myself while other competitors did the same. Once that was done it was time to head to our tables for prejudging. Prejudging is a great time to go over any faults your dog may have with your judge. (I.e., missing hair, sores/wounds, or any other problems that may affect the haircut)

As the judge goes from table to table my heart starts to race in anticipation for the time to start. The judge finishes with the last contestant and time starts! We’re given 2 hours to complete prep work and the groom. I was lucky enough to be a part of the first group to the bathing area. I knew I needed at least an hour and a half to do the groom, so I only had an hour to prep. I was constantly checking the time, but it seemed to be standing still. With an hour and half left after prep, I was right on time. I headed back to my table to start the groom. I glanced up from my dog to see the chairs starting to fill with spectators, and it all became so surreal. I had made it. I was competing.

Time seemed to go a little faster once I started grooming. Next thing you know it was over. As the judge walked to every table looking over each dog all I could do was smile. I was so proud of myself for getting out there. Unfortunately, I didn’t place but was so happy to have experienced competing and given it my all.

If You’re Thinking of Competing:

My advice to anyone out there looking to compete for the first time is to just do it. Reach out to competition groomers you look up to and ask if they offer lessons or if you can assist them at shows. This will help you to prepare and know what to expect. Most of the things you don’t know or are uncomfortable with can be learned so try not to worry too much. If you’re doing a freestyle or a specific breed trim give yourself a few months to prepare and master the trim and timing. Preparation is everything.

Remember to not be afraid of failure or disappointment because those are just temporary experiences on the path to your dreams coming true. Have fun and breathe.

- Your future table neighbor 😊