For years, Katie Heikkila had devised a plan to bring ordinary, New England pet groomers together with a competition to celebrate their everyday work. Her vision was both simple in concept and radical in its goal of drawing everyday groomers into an endeavor perceived to be as glamorous as it was highly competitive. The culture of grooming competitions is a difficult one to enter. It’s a world that can be intimidating to some.
It’s a huge commitment in time, money, and coat upkeep to enter the competition arena, and it can be difficult for many stylists to find owners with dogs of the right quality that are also willing to allow their pet to travel long distances for days at a time. A dog of less-than-stellar attributes may not turn heads in the same way. This creates enormous hurdles for the majority of groomers. It can become a logistical nightmare that makes the dream of winning seem faraway.
But Heikkila did not want groomers’ trepidations to risk not having their talents recognized. Just last month, Heikkila, now the founder and owner of New England’s Groomolympics, quietly realized her dream with the first annual Groomolympics. Heikkila is an instructor at The Whole Pet Grooming Academy in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and has been grooming for 18 years. She competes in creative grooming contests and says of everyday groomers, “We groom double coats, drop coats, and everything in between, and do amazing work. We work hard and I feel we need to be celebrated.”
Participants of this year’s Groomolympics likely found this competition much more inviting. With lesser entry fees, lower travel expenses because the first round of judging is done by photographs and the remainder is local to New England, groomers found it easier to enter. Groomolympics has toned down some of the requirements associated with traditional grooming competitions, and has made the event local and accessible to New Englanders.
Although the first annual Groomolympics has just concluded, New England pet groomers are encouraged to enter next year’s competition to showcase their skills. The competition is open to groomers living and working in any one of the New England states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. This year’s winner is Elsebeth DeBiase, stylist and proprietor of Coastal Creations Pet Salon in Bucksport, Maine. DeBiase, who has been grooming for 15 years, says “I entered this competition because […] I perceived it as a less intimidating atmosphere where I could compete live for the first time with my pet quality Bichon Frise.” The finals were judged by a well-known industry figure and author Ellen Erlich.
A cocktail reception will take place at the Sturbridge Host Hotel this Saturday evening, October 15, 2016, during the New England Grooming Show to celebrate and congratulate the semi-finalists and DeBiase. Everyone is welcome.
In the spirit of celebrating pet professionals, PetEdge will be there, and we invite you to join us. Collaboration with groomers has played a role in the success of our company in our 60 years of service to the pet industry. PetEdge is an industry leader in producing and distributing grooming supplies from tables and tubs, to clippers and consumables. We’re so passionate about supporting pet professionals that we’ll be running groomer-focused specials at the event. Come check us out!