Every groomer has a different story for how they ended up in this career path. Some have loved animals from a young age and always knew they wanted to work with them. Some had parents who were groomers and passed down their passion. And some, like Wahl Brand Ambassador Milena Kon, find that their love for the career and for the animals continues to call for them later in life, and they decide to answer. Two years into her career as a salesperson, Milena realized that she wanted more out of her everyday experience in life, and dived headfirst into the world of dog grooming.
Now, Milena is recognized as one of the most exciting and talented groomers in the country. She opened her own salon, Driving Me Knots, has expanded to an online boutique selling dog accessories, competes in professional grooming competitions and won Creative Groomer of the Year in 2018 and 2020, and was even recently featured on an Animal Planet special. Chasing her dream ended up being one of the best decisions she made. You may find yourself relating to Milena’s struggles and thoughts and wanting to pursue a possible career in the world of grooming. If so, this article is for you! We had the chance to interview Milena and hear about her story and the lessons she learned.
How did you decide to become a dog groomer?
"My last job was door to door sales with the cable company. I just decided to honestly follow my passion. The money was great, but it got to a point in my life that money’s not everything and I wasn’t doing something that I’m passionate about. I mean I’m passionate about sales, but I wanted to be passionate and wake up everyday and be happy. To wake up everyday and be happy to go to work, and use a skill at work, if that makes sense.
Basically I’m a graphic designer, that’s what I went to school for. I’ve always been a creative person and I’m very handy with my hands. And before all of this started, I had been grooming for about seven years, just because I didn’t have time to go to the groomer and I always felt like something was going to happen to my dog with somebody else. So I said to myself let me start grooming them! When I was in my cable job, I was already grooming my Schnauzer, and people always complimented him. He actually looked really nice. What made my decision was when I attended a dog grooming expo and I saw creative grooming on stage in competition. When I saw it, and I realized oh my god, I can be creative AND work with dogs at the same time, that’s what sealed the deal. So we decided to go with dog grooming and we researched between a shop and mobile, and we decided mobile.”
What kind of education or experience did you get when starting?
“At the beginning, I was winging every dog. I would get the customer and was googling and YouTubing how to groom that breed. I would watch people doing it, and then I would do it, and that’s how I gained experience and more skills with different breeds. And then it just went uphill from there. It’s funny, but it’s very me. I also did one of those online subscriptions for grooming, one of the legit grooming subscriptions thats out there. So I actually learned online and then getting customers, learning by yourself. After about two years, I did go to pet grooming school where I learned how to groom cats.”
As someone who changed their career path, what were the positives and negatives of pursuing dog grooming?
“There’s one disadvantage that it is a physical job, and if you don’t pace yourself you can get burned out quickly because it is physical. I think the biggest downside is the physical part of it and taking care of yourself. But it is a very lucrative job, you’re definitely going to make your money grooming, especially if you know how to price and you have the skill. You can back your pricing up with your skill. It’s definitely something that’s going to be lucrative. And I feel like I don’t work, to be honest. It’s my passion. Now, with the store it’s gotten even better, but back in the beginning I knew it was the right choice for me too.
What are some life skills that being a groomer helped you develop?
“Basically when you talk to a customer that is a new customer, you have to pitch it. You have to have a good pitch, because there’s so much out there that they can choose from. But your skills and knowing what to say and how to say it, that will put you on the next level. And knowing how to talk to a customer gives ease to that customer. So I absolutely think that my experience as a sales person gave me 3 different qualities. Know how to talk on the phone, know how to maintain the person, and know how to talk to them face and face, so definitely my experience helped with that and made me into a better groomer.”