Vivian Nash embodies the truest representation of an industry Icon. There are few names in the pet grooming industry that hold a legacy like that of the Nash name and the pivotal role that Vivian Nash has had in the growth of the pet grooming industry.
As a world-renowned competitor, judge, educator and visionary, Vivian and the Nash Systems have helped to shape the grooming industry and bring education to the professional heights she has always dreamed of. And, as a former Nash academy graduate, I was especially excited to sit down with Vivian and have a candid conversation about her life and legacy.
Jonathan: Before we get into the Nash legacy, I’d like to talk a little about your roots in the grooming industry. Where and when did your journey in the world of pet grooming begin?
Vivian: I have always been a big dog lover and had different breeds, but when I rescued my Poodle, Mitzi, I was intrigued with the trim styles and had to learn how to groom her, and that was how it all began. I opened my home-grooming business after learning basics from my neighbor who bred Poodles. Later, I purchased a salon and eventually opened a small grooming school in Kentucky after finding out about my passion for teaching after training my employees.
Jonathan: So, you could say you fell in love with the pet grooming industry, and through the pet grooming industry, you met the love of your life, the one and only, John Nash. Tell me about how you two met and how you became the Nash power couple.
Vivian: I decided to go for International Groomer of the Year in 1984. I had competed in bigger shows and won Best in Show and Best All-Around, but heard about this international competition that was the most prestigious win of all, and I wanted it.
John Nash, owner of the Nash Academy, was my judge. I had heard a lot about him through Loretta Vogt Marchese when we traveled together as part of the first team of IPG Certifiers. I think it was love at first sight when he walked up to me and said, ‘Hello I am John Nash, your judge for the Poodle class…’ But wait, the story gets better, because after that wonderful ‘Hello,’ he placed me second! But guess who he placed first? Liz Paul! I thought I should have been first and had many opportunities to remind him over the years when asked how we met. He loved my story—especially the ending when I confirmed it was the only mistake he ever made. (Vivian winks.)
After working together for a short time, we realized we could make a difference in the industry because of our dedication to the profession, our love of dogs and the thrill of sharing our knowledge with others worldwide on the international stage. It was an amazing time and experience in our career.
Jonathan: So that’s where it all started. And the Nash name has become one the biggest names in pet grooming education. What was your driving force to take pet grooming education to a professional level?
Vivian: When I first entered the industry, being a pet groomer wasn’t looked upon as a ‘real profession’ and I wanted to change that. We did this by writing the book and setting the standard for excellent safety, sanitation, organization and maintenance in the salon. We made a difference because we did more than write policies and procedures—we practiced what we preached every day on the floor at Nash. To this day, we continue to fine-tune our salon operations manual and believe we have one of the best in the industry.
Jonathan: You truly have done some impressive things in the world of dogs. What are some of your proudest accomplishments within the pet grooming industry?
Vivian: I have to go back to winning the title of International Groomer of the Year in 1986 after three attempts. It was the biggest event in the world at that time, and to take the title was a dream come true. And of course opening Nash Academy Dog Grooming School in Kentucky and taking our curriculum online with our Groomers Reference in 2000 which led to approved training sites and schools using the Nash System worldwide. But one of my proudest was forming the IJA, International Judges Association for Dog Grooming Competitions, the first in the industry with a trim style by coat type certification, and we still use this system today.
Jonathan: Speaking of IJA, what was the inspiration for the Association’s foundation and how did it all come together?
Vivian: I competed and judged and understood the importance of having consistent rules, policies and procedures, as well as qualified judges. After judging shows with John, we realized how accurate and efficient panel-judging could be, as well as educational, so we created IJA, a panel-judging system with a competition ring that focuses on training with a trim style by coat type certification.
Jonathan: Building the Nash brand didn’t just involve you and John; it’s a family affair. Tell me about your family and life outside of pet grooming, or is it all intertwined?
Vivian: Nash will always be a family-owned business. Our lives are about our children, dogs, flowers and art. My son Shawn Henderson and daughter Tanya Slater grew up in the salon and later worked in the school, so they are familiar with all businesses. Tanya is prepared to take over when I retire. But I’m not sure when that will be because I love what I do and still have some things I want to accomplish!
Jonathan: If I know you even a little bit, I know you’re not ready to retire anytime soon. You’ve watched the industry grow and improve through many years. Where do you see the industry in the future?
Vivian: I see license and certification programs as well as state-approved schools in the future using multiple education programs and platforms. We need to support our schools to teach beginners with a standardized curriculum taught by qualified instructors to establish excellent handling and safety as well as technical skills.
After being in the school business for over 50 years, I understand the importance. It seems we are always chasing the horse after it is out of the gate to teach subjects and skills that should be in basic training. My goal for 2022 is to change that with helping salons achieve their school state approval.
Jonathan: Like I said, you’re a visionary. Thanks for sitting down with me and allowing me to share you’re incredible legacy. ✂️