This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend my first trade show, GroomFest. I had a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I wanted to share some of that with you all.
The entire first day of the 3-day event was a seminar on creative grooming. This is something that I have just started doing with my own dogs, and I am definitely interested in learning more and potentially offering these services to clients. So I was definitely looking forward to this seminar.
I had no idea what to expect from the whole weekend. That first day, I brought with me a water bottle, snacks, 2 notebooks, and an entire package of brand new pens. I had no idea if there would be any restaurants near the hotel, so I had no idea what I was doing for lunch. I had no idea how many people to expect. I was curious/nervous about running into people I have worked with in the past that I no longer have contact with. I had no idea what to expect at all out of the entire weekend. So I was excited about this entire event, but I also had A LOT of anxiety going into it.
Friday morning, I got there plenty early and found my way to a smallish ballroom with tables set up in rows with pads of paper, pens, glasses, coasters, and pitchers of ice water. Oh, and Jolly Ranchers, which I don't like but thought was a neat touch. This hotel, the Crowne Plaza, is out near the airport and has its own small convention center. They clearly deal with events like this a lot. In fact there was another event going on this same weekend - more on that later.
Anyway, I picked a seat in the front row near the middle. I wanted to see as clearly as possible since I have practically no experience with creative grooming. I pulled out my water bottle even though there was water provided (if I had to carry it around all day, I would rather it be empty than full), a notebook, and two pens. When the seats next to me were taken, I introduced myself and we made some small talk, but this would be my first indication at how clique-ish the weekend would be. Most people either came with friends or coworkers, met up with people they see every year at this event, or made fast friends with people immediately, leaving my shy self feeling excluded. But that's okay, I came to learn, not to make friends.
Angela Kumpe was the teacher of the creative grooming seminar. This is out of the brochure for GroomFest: " Angela Kumpe is internationally known for her creative styling work and was named Creative Groomer of The Year 2011 and 2012 by the Barkleigh Honors Awards. Angela is also VP of The Creative Groomers Association (CGA)."
Needless to say, she was well-qualified to lead this seminar.
Anyway, the morning was predominantly a PowerPoint demonstration. I took LOTS of notes. I will need to re-write them into something that makes sense, because they are kind of a mess right now. (PS - Sorry I can't figure out how to rotate it. I still don't have a great way to upload pics from my phone to my computer, so I'm having to do everything in a backhand way.)
I also need to pick through all my notes and make a list of what to buy and where.
After the PowerPoint presentation and before the live demos, it was time for lunch. Luckily there were several restaurants nearby so I didn't have to have chips and Starburst for lunch. That day I went through the KFC drive through so I could charge my phone in my car while I ate. The girl who handed me my food saw my name tag and asked if there was a convention going on today. When I replied Yes, her face said, Great, the lunch rush is going to be TERRIBLE. Although really, I think there were around 50-75 women in the creative grooming seminar, and spread between all the nearby restaurants, each rush shouldn't be terrible. But what do I know.
Anyway, I learned a lot during the PowerPoint presentation, but there's just no substitute for seeing all of these techniques done on real dogs. The first thing Angela demonstrated was how to do leopard spots. With the right tools, it was actually surprisingly quick and easy. By the way, that's not her in the picture, it's one of her assistants.
If I recall correctly, without checking my notes, I think those spots were done with a semi-permanent dye that she gets from Sally's beauty supply. I kind of thought you had to be a hairstylist with some sort of license to shop at Sally's? I hope I'm wrong, because I don't know where else I would find these colors.
After demonstrating some of the Pet-toos and glitter on one of her human assistants, Angela brought out this cute Chinese Crested to demonstrate several different techniques. The blue streak in his mane is from a product she created called, I think, Touch of Color. It is designed specifically for just streaks. The neat thing about this color is that you MUST heat set it for the color to hold. So the streak you see, she heat set with a flat iron. What you can't see is the spot she put on his neck with the same dye. Since it wasn't heat set, it washed right out. Talk about fool-proof color!
She also did this koi fish. She had printed out several different images on paper, and after asking our opinions on which image we thought she should do, she created a stencil out of sticky foam, which she stuck right on him and airbrushed around the edges. If I remember correctly, the black, orange, and yellow were all done with the airbrush, and the green and blue were done with blow pens. I don't know that I am that artistic, but she swears that anybody can do it. Once you outline the design with a stencil, free-handing the other stuff isn't as difficult as you might think. I guess we'll have to wait and see about that...
Oh, look, here's an earlier picture with that blue spot in his hair that I had mentioned.This was before he got bathed.
And here is another airbrushed stencil that she did. I think it came out great, what do you think? Angela is the one with her back to the camera.
So I learned a lot during the day-long creative grooming seminar. It got done around 5, and there was a Career Start grooming competition at 7 that I wanted to see. With rush hour traffic both ways, it would not have been practical for me to drive home and come back, so my mom was kind enough to take my dogs out for me. I went to a restaurant a few miles away that has amazing calzones that I visit a couple of times a year.
The Career Start competition was really interesting. There were 4 women with less than 1 year of experience. They all had to provide their own dog and table. Coincidentally, there were 2 Westies and 2 Toy Poodles. As I watched everybody, I got a pretty good sense of who had relatively more experience and relatively less experience than the others. The poor girl directly in front of me was working on a Poodle, and I could tell that she was EXTREMELY nervous. It took her forever just to do the clean feet. They only had an hour and a half, and she spent easily 30-40 minutes just on the feet. She was clearly one of the less-experienced groomers.
The lady next to her was much older than the other girls. The way she groomed, I suspect she may have been a hairdresser before becoming a groomer. She looked reasonably confident and moved along at a decent pace. She finished much before everybody else and, not wanting to stand around doing nothing, used that extra 10-15 minutes thinning shearing the dog. He already looked good, but that extra time to blend everything may have made the difference.
Over on the other side of the stage, the other girl grooming a Westie looked incredibly nervous. I overheard some women in the seats behind me saying that they heard an opening in this competition hadn't been filled yet, and could they please try to find somebody to fill that hole. This girl was a bather in this lady's shop, so she decided to show her how to groom a Westie and that girl groomed every Westie to come in the shop that week. So if I heard correctly, she only had one week of experience doing anything aside from bathing. No wonder she was so nervous!
Furthest away from me was the girl grooming the other Poodle. Once time started, she got off to a blazing fast start. I'm not sure if this led to a quality issue. The dog looked pretty good from my vantage point, but it was quite a ways away from me.
After all was said and done, the girl in front of me with the Poodle got 4th place (out of 4). The older woman with the Westie won 1st place. The other Westie, with potentially the least-experienced groomer, got 2nd place. The other Poodle came in 3rd.
It was really quite interesting for me to watch other groomers groom and how they are being taught to groom. It was interesting to see how their quality looked after less than a year of experience. And it certainly made me wonder how well I would be able to groom under such pressure and with several dozen strangers in the audience. Here is the winner with the judge to her left and the sponsor of the event to her right.
OK, this is already way too long, so I'll write about Saturday and Sunday at GroomFest in a Part 2. Look for it soon!