By Daryl Conner
“I have a grooming industry hero. She is also a mentor, someone who goes above and beyond for other groomers. She is a woman of many talents, always busy with some new project designed to make things easier and better for pets and groomers. I wish I had her energy and drive. She writes books, sells wonderful shears, and knows so much about skin and coat care. Yet with all she does, she does not think herself so high that she can’t take the time to write a long email answering a grooming question or even drop a note to say, “Hello, how are you doing?” All of these reasons are why I am a proud member of WAPPS, and I am happy to call myself friend to Christein Sertzel, my grooming industry hero.” — Ashley Pelletier, Pet Stylist
What is WAPPS and who is Christein Sertzel, you might wonder? WAPPS is short for the Wisconsin Association of Professional Pet Stylists, and Christein is someone greatly admired by many. A wife, mother of three young children, professional pet stylist, and owner of eight dogs, she decided to start a grooming organization in 2002 after moving to Wisconsin from another state. “Groomers in this area didn’t have much of anything for learning opportunities, and there was no easy way to work on certification here, either. I wanted to start a group to get some educational stuff started.”
When asked how much time she invested as she started WAPPS, she laughed and said, “A lot!” In the beginning, she was sending out mailers, making cold calls to local groomers, and organizing everything from scratch. “By the time we had our first meeting, I had probably put in at least 100 hours.”
New members to the group receive this message when they join:
The Wisconsin Association of Professional Pet Stylists began a little more than ten years ago as not only the first non-profit organization in the state of its kind, but more so as an idea to create something larger than one’s self by which pet stylists and groomers of all walks could benefit from. The WAPPS began as an effort to offer a well-rounded educational and business networking medium as well as a means for groomers to interact. Indeed, over the years, we have become one of the most respected associations nationwide, and that has been achieved through our leadership and our members’ individual accomplishments.
Although our roster is ever changing, our goals and ideals remain the same.
We all work together to give each member every possible medium to increase their knowledge, to broaden their field of opportunity, and to better themselves and their business potential. We work to facilitate social and educational guidance and support from peers and fellow professionals.
We firmly believe in giving all that we can to members in order to grow and be a positive asset to the grooming industry, thereby raising the bar of industry professionalism, safety, and better client care throughout our state.
As a group, we strongly believe that education is the key not only to success but also to change. Respect among peers gives us all a common platform on which to work for the upstanding ethics and professional ideals of all pet stylists.
The resources and knowledge that each individual can bring to the table and share with others is invaluable, and through that networking, the opportunity for personal and professional growth is immense.
Without our members, we could not exist, and our members’ needs and interests are at the heart of every part of our association.
It is clear that the organization touches the lives of its members in a positive way. Member Angela Ng says, “The association has been a blessing! I am like my own little island in my shop, because there are no other groomers, but with the association, I have a place to socialize with other groomers as well as learn new things.”
The goals of furthering education are certainly appreciated by Amanda Johnson, who said, “Every time I attend an event, I build more and more confidence. It makes me enjoy my job more and causes me to strive harder to be a better groomer. Everyone is so nice and helpful and always willing to help teach new things.”
Christein says, “Through the association, I have worked to bring classes and learning possibilities every month of the year. I networked to find some discounts for all members on health care insurance, discounts on certain products within our industry, discounted legal services for members, and networking for career placement opportunities. One of the simplest and most necessary ways to help our entire industry is to give groomers a place to learn, share, and grow that is both professional and focused, as well as relaxed and balanced.
“I don’t allow group ‘hen parties’ or cattiness at any meet or class—ever. We all vent from time to time but never about fellow groomers or industry professionals. I feel that type of interaction among groomers has been a negative influence on our industry for a very long time. This keeps us all from moving ahead, growing our personal potential, and seeing that each groomer almost always has something beautifully unique that we all can benefit from. Through the structure of the WAPPS, I have always tried to hold tight to my personal belief that it is best for any professional organization in our industry, especially because we are not governed and must rely on our own professional level to be exemplary of our entire industry, to be a constant source of positive support and at the forefront of educational opportunity. At every meet or class, I personally look forward just as much to getting to see everyone as I do to learning something new, and members tell me that they do, too.”
The group has nearly 500 members and boasts just as many groomers in salons within Wisconsin as those outside the state. There are international members as well, with countries such as Puerto Rico, Australia, Canada, Nova Scotia, Thailand, and the UK represented. Many of the members are very active, joining forces to do things like volunteering to clean up over 200 puppies rescued from a puppy mill and annually working together to collaborate with HAWS to help support and co-host an Extreme Rescue Makeover for dogs that are looking for forever homes.
Christein says, “I feel doing what I can to keep our association working and moving forward, and just in my everyday one on one interaction with fellow groomers—that this ripples out into the industry through those I can help. I believe I have a chance to generate positive things out into this world and to help nurture what is important so that others can possibly benefit. I can be a catalyst for the exchange of goodness and kindness to touch the lives of many people. It would be a waste to ever abuse or ignore that. Causing that ripple is a tremendous thing; no one ever really knows where it stops, and it is likely that it never does. Many stylists have affected my life and career, and I will always look up to them for that. They have changed me, and they have changed our industry forever with their skill, knowledge, and kindness. I only hope I have been that for someone as well.”