By Daryl Conner
The grooming industry is filled with kind, patient, generous people. Todd Shelly knows this better than most. He has been involved in the grooming industry much of his life. Shelly, however, recently became discouraged when he found that a handful of strident, negative voices on Internet grooming sites were drowning out what he knew was the real spirit of our industry.
“Online negativity is not unique to groomers. In fact, it is much worse in other industries. Most groomers are genuinely nice people; what they do for a living each day proves that.” But the tentacles of disharmony and negativity were spreading their poison on a daily basis, coloring the way groomers looked at their peers. Groomers were reporting cases of cyber bullying; threads of negativity and discontent were creeping outwards, all rooted in online groups.
In January of this year, Shelly began a new page on Facebook. He called it Groomers Uplifting Groomers. “I wanted to create a place to affirm great people and good ideas. It was selfish, really. I wanted a positive place to go online—somewhere that there would not be negative responses. I wanted to have a Facebook group where people could go to read positive posts. I believe people are starving for good stuff!”
The response was galvanizing. In less than two months, over 2000 groomers joined the group. Shelly got the conversation started by stating, “A group where groomers can go for a jolt of positivity. Please share encouraging stories about customers, dogs, co-workers, peers, etc.” He periodically asks questions like, “Who in the grooming industry has been the most influential to your career as a groomer or getting started as a groomer?” or “What made you decide to become a groomer? Or perhaps you never ‘decided’—events just led you there. Let’s hear your story.”
The stories flooded in. Interesting and heartwarming tales flooded the space. Stylists from every area of the industry chimed in, sharing their experiences. Suesan Watson answered Shelly’s question like this: “I was 13 and groomed my first Poodle by myself without a lesson. I had been watching my grandmother and mother but had no formal instruction. I did a clean face and feet, 4 blade strip, scissored top knot. When they saw the dog when they got home, they were shocked. When I started high school, I was on a work program, which meant I went to school until 11:30 and came home and groomed for the rest of the day. And so it began. I wasn’t given a choice, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing!”
Tammy Colbert Fate said, “I didn’t grow up with dogs. I walked into a shop, asked the owner what this was all about. She had me come in that following weekend. She instructed me how to brush out a dog. I did it. She saw something in me. That’s when she encouraged me to go to school. It was all over. It’s been a wonderful ride of 30+ years, and it’s not over. I love what I do.”
When asked what the new Uplifting Facebook page means to them, responses are “I know I am not alone” and “It’s a place where I can find solidarity and camaraderie instead of competition or judgment.” But there is more. Tica Verret is a groomer who is currently facing serious health challenges. She has shared her diagnosis online and says, “In the biggest battle of my life, the strength and love that my fellow groomers give me makes me feel I can move mountains! I truly feel blessed with the overwhelming outpouring of love and true concern from my Facebook friends.” To have much needed encouragement and support just a few keystrokes away has enriched her life during a difficult time.
The site offers more basic networking, as well. One groomer is relocating across the country with her new husband. She posted looking for job opportunities and received several warm responses. Another groomer posted a photo of a beloved pet that had died. A few days later, she received a gift in the mail from someone who had read her post—a lovely wooden plaque with the cat’s image engraved on it as a remembrance. Someone else was planning to go mobile in a new state and received a flood of encouragement. It is plain to see that Shelly began more than a space to print words on a screen. He created room for the true good nature and kindness of people in an industry he admires to shine through. “It’s a place to feel good,” said one participant.
This reminds me of a sign I have hanging by my door where I see it every day before I go out into the world. It was given to me by a groomer friend and says, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” You are invited to join in the good feelings at Groomers Uplifting Groomers. You can find it on Facebook, and we’d love to have you be a positive part of the conversation!