In the United States, GroomTeam USA sets the standard by which one’s professional dog grooming chops are measured. With a roster that includes many of the nation’s top groomers, members of GroomTeam USA are pioneers in the industry. However, while the trail may have been blazed by the likes of Cheryl Purcell, Jodi Murphy, and the late, great Liz Paul, a new crop of young, hyper-skilled groomers is emerging—the most recognizable of whom is Mackensie Murphy.
If her name sounds familiar, it’s probably because she comes from famous stock—Mackensie’s mother is world-renowned groomer, competitor, educator, speaker, contest judge, and fellow GroomTeam USA member Jodi Murphy. Mackensie recently stopped by our office, and we had a chance to chat with her about grooming for contests vs. grooming for clients, her recent appointment to GroomTeam USA’s traveling team, and the legacy left on the grooming world by her mother.
PetEdge: How did you get your start in the grooming industry? How long have you been grooming professionally?
Mackensie Murphy: I’ve been professionally grooming for 11 years now. My mother was a groomer, and she kind of taught herself and did the whole competition thing. I tried to boycott it as long as I could, but eventually I caved to the family business, and it turns out I’m really good at it [laughs].
PE: Do you have a favorite breed that you’ve worked on, or a signature style that you’ve developed or perfected?
MM: What I do in the contest ring and what I do every day are two completely different things. When I groom pets, I really enjoy changing things up and pushing the limits and changing styles—it’s kind of my own personal form of art that I do on a daily basis. For my competitions, American Cocker Spaniels are a breed that I’ve really grown to love and perfect. They’re also my mother’s specialty, so she kind of passed that down to me.
PE: How did you first become involved in competitive grooming?
MM: I grew up in the contest rings at trade shows. When my mother was competing, I was young, maybe 8, so it’s just an environment that I’ve always been around. When I finally did start grooming, I learned that everyday grooming is very wearing on you in many ways, so contests became a much-needed break, kind of a light at the end of the tunnel for your everyday work. So finally, after being hounded by many industry people as to when I would begin to live up to the name my mother made for herself, I gave in, and here I am.
PE: How long have you been a member of GroomTeam USA?
MM: I’ve been on GroomTeam since 2011—that was the first year I made the team. And then just this past year, I made the traveling team, so I’ll be going to Italy to Milan Groom in October to represent the United States.
PE: Nice. Will this be your first time traveling with the team?
MM: This is my first time making the traveling team. I’ve ranked top 10 or top 5 for the past couple of years, and this past year was the end of our two-year cycle, which is when our team is decided. I’ll be grooming an American cocker. Very exciting, but also nerve wracking.
PE: What are some of the challenges you face in competitive grooming that aren’t necessarily present when grooming pets for clients?
MM: In the contest ring, there’s the technical aspect. To really learn the breed standards, you’ve got to go out and go to dog shows and find the time to take lessons and work with different people, which can get to be a lot. For me, and it’s probably mainly more internal, there’s this big legacy that I have to live up to with who my mom is [laughs].
PE: What do you find most satisfying about being a professional groomer?
MM: Every day, it’s just really rewarding to be able to care for so many different animals. For these people, their pets are their children. What we do for some of them, when they get their dog back and they’re so ecstatic, it’s just really nice to be able to play that role in their lives. We become a part of their family, really—they’re trusting us with their loved ones, basically. And on the other end of the spectrum, in the contest world, it’s nice to see how far you can push yourself and how good you can actually become at something.
PE: Do you have any big plans for the future of your career, or for future competitions?
MM: Obviously, going to shows and seeing how many wins I can get is a big thing, and making the traveling team was one of my big goals. Long term, I’d like to at least travel maybe two more times, but I kind of have these little personal goals that I set for myself, too. One of our fellow competitors is Jackie Boulton from Canada, and she has the record for the most Groomer to Groomer covers ever—one personal goal is to beat her record [laughs].
PE: [Laughing] How many do you have to go to beat her record?
MM: I think she’s at like 15, maybe 17, something like that, and I have four. But I’m second, I believe [laughs].
PE: What advice would you give to new groomers just getting started in the industry?
MM: Just stick with it and push yourself, and don’t just focus on working with one person. Don’t be afraid to branch out and take lessons and learn more and just keep going. It’s physically tiring, and a little emotionally exhausting, but it’s very rewarding at the end of the day. Your career and how you are and your technique and all of that are forever changing, so you can never stop learning.