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Our Team

 

Meet Our Staff

The staff at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming is committed to providing students with an unsurpassed learning experience. Each instructor is highly experienced in teaching adult learners. The curriculum is direct, focused, and easy to understand. Students will learn from one of the most established training centers in the country with a strong reputation for excellence.

Meet Our Founder - Melissa Verplank, CMG, CEO

Certified Master Groomer, Video Instructor, Curriculum Development, President & Founder of Paragon

Melissa Verplank has over 30 years of experience in the pet industry. Her mastery of grooming techniques has won her numerous awards at both national & international levels. She has owned and operated multiple businesses including:

  • A fleet of mobile grooming units that serviced the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area
  • A grooming salon that grew into The Paragon School of Pet Grooming
  • A luxury pet care facility called Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa
  • White Dog Enterprises which publishes her award winning books, Notes From the Grooming Table and Theory of Five along with other educational products for the pet professional.
  • Learn2GroomDogs.com, an on-line educational streaming video library for pet professionals.

She was involved in the ground level of the voluntary certification testing programs, earning her Certified Master Groomer title in the mid 1980s. Melissa was a member of the traveling team for GroomTeam USA – representing the United States in World Team Competition in France in the early 90s. Later, she was the GroomTeam USA Team Coordinator, served on the Board of Directors, and currently sits on the Advisory Board. She assisted in the start-up of the International Judges Association and is an approved grooming judge with the United Showmanagers Alliance. Ms. Verplank is a highly sought-after industry speaker, contest grooming judge, author, and a two-time Cardinal Crystal Achievement winner.

Melissa remains active and very involved in many areas of the pet industry. She and her husband, Marc, spend time on their expansive Black Falcon Farm, where they enjoy spending time in the saddle with their horses. Together, Melissa and Marc enjoy all types of outdoor adventures including trail riding, kayaking, hiking, and diving. Melissa also loves healthy gourmet cooking. They share their farm with other furry family members including Maremma Sheepdogs and cats.

Paragon Training Center

Lorri Keller, CMG
Director of Operations
Lorri graduated from Paragon in 1993. In her career spanning 25 years, she has worked in high end salons, as well as owned and operated her own salon. Lorri also worked in corporate grooming environments, running the district of Michigan and Indiana for PetSmart Grooming.

She earned her Certified Master Groomer status through International Professional Groomers, Inc. (IPG). Lorri is an award-winning stylist in Sporting and Terrier groups and has also done a bit of conformation showing.

Lorri is a firm believer and advocate of the benefits of education and has attended many professional workshops and seminars to continue to hone her skills. She has helped create curriculum and taught students at Paragon for almost a decade.
Lorri and her husband have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. They share their home with 2 Aussies and a Welsh Terrier. Her Aussies keep her young and you can often find her enjoying the outdoors and hiking.

Joe Zuccarello, MBA

VP of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development
Joe has been in the pet industry for almost 33 years. Joe started in the pet industry as a 13-year old bather/brusher in a small grooming shop in the St. Louis area. After a few years, Joe joined the team at one of the most prestigious multi-unit pet resorts, Kennelwood Pet Resorts. There, he helped develop several cutting-edge programs and services including Deluxe all-inclusive Suites boarding, SHED-X Treatments, Doggie Day Care, an in-house grooming training school, professional consulting division, and eventually the company’s franchise offering.

When he left Kennelwood as VP of Operations and Director of Franchising in 2008, he joined the sales and product development team at TropiClean Pet Products. There he enjoyed accomplishments such as explosive sales growth with retail partners such as Petco, PetSmart, and other large chains and Distributors. He also launched products in a new sales channel at Home Shopping Network (HSN) as a guest host appearing dozens of times on television teaching home shoppers about proper pet hygiene. Joe left TropiClean after nine years to join Melissa Verplank’s team of businesses and recognizes how important Melissa’s vision of education is to the professional pet services industry. His role as VP of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development is positioned perfectly to drive new services and products to deliver on Melissa’s dream of elevating the industry.

Joe holds a Master’s Degree in Business as well as the honor of being a sought-after speaker and business consultant. He also spent several years as a Senior Lecturer and Professor at a private University in St. Louis. Joe and his wife have two amazing adult sons. Joe and Deanna live in St. Louis and share their home with their Shih-Tzu “Vinnie” who has them wrapped around his paw for sure! 

Jennifer Lotterman, PDS, MPS, CFMG
Director of Education
Jennifer graduated from Paragon in 1993. In the past 25 years she has worked in high end salons, opened and owned her own salon, and has helped open and work for a non-profit dog and cat rescue.

Jennifer competed successfully in Sporting, Non-Sporting, and Terrier groups. In addition, she is certified with the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC) and earned her Pet Derma Tech Specialist and Master Pet Stylist through the organization. She has also attended the North American Cat Grooming Institute of America (NCGIA) and has received her Certified Feline Master Groomer certificate, making her one of the few groomers in the U.S. to certify with both cats and dogs. Jennifer rounded out her professional development by completing the Canine Massage therapy program through Zen Dog Canine Massage Therapy. She is a certified CPR instructor,  is certified in FEMA pet relief, and has been involved in launching a non-profit.

Jennifer shares her home with her husband, 3 children, and 5 furry friends she also considers her children. Jennifer enjoys volunteering at local organizations, reading books, crafts, and she has recently found her love for running and is training for her first ½ Marathon.

Colleen Johnson (CJ)
Account Manager
CJ is a new Michigander, having originally  lived in Wisconsin, and most recently hailing from Virginia Beach.  Her career change offered her an opportunity to return to the Midwest and to be closer to her family.

She brings significant professional experience to the Team.  CJ has excelled as an National Sales and Account Manger in the advertising industry where she specialized in branding and multimedia marketing.  She was also the Wholesale Representative providing education and product training to over 300 retail stores in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland.

CJ shares her home with her husband, daughter, and their 2 dogs and cats.  She loves home renovation and design, dancing, and motorcycling with her husband.

Sarah Sexton
Admissions and Enrollment Coordinator
Sarah’s love for animals started when she was growing up in Northern Michigan on her family’s small hobby farm. When she graduated high school, Sarah moved out to Southern California for the duration of her young adulthood. Sarah initially took interest in working for a growing marketing company but her love and compassion for animals lead her to begin working with dogs in 2008 at a high-volume salon outside of Los Angeles. Sarah started as the salon receptionist and found her way into the position of bather, then groomer.

Sarah graduated from Paragon in 2012. In 2014, she joined the Paragon customer service team. Sarah’s skillsets are diverse, which allows her to lend assistance to both the grooming and administrative aspects of Paragon. Most recently, Sarah has taken the leading role in our Admission Department. She now assists others in pursuing their career dreams.

Sarah has rescued her two dogs, Bowie and Zeke. She enjoys hiking, camping, visiting family up north, and working with challenging and geriatric dogs.

Hilaire Boelkins, CMG
Instructor
Hilaire has been in the grooming industry for almost 20 years. She is passionate about grooming and helping animals. Her teaching specialties include time management, proper pet handling skills, and a brilliant understanding of breed standards. Hil’s long time commitment to her students spans over a decade. In that time, she has continued her own education to ensure her methods impart the very latest techniques.

She enjoys grooming Terriers, cats, geriatric pets, and animals with special needs. Hilaire believes that love and compassion go a long way in the grooming field. This concept helps further develop compassion and empathy in her students, which improves the grooming experience for both the student and the pets entrusted to them.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading or watching anything that will further her knowledge of all animals. Hilaire shares her life with her fiancé Michael, a saucy Jack Russell named Luna, her cat, Ra, and two birds named Warner and Maximus.

Kelly Terpstra
Instructor
Kelly graduated from Paragon in 2013 and began working as a professional groomer that same week. Her love of pets and dedication to her craft helped shape her skills and endeared her to her clients. She continues to groom dogs professionally in her spare time to maintain her techniques and timing. This also enables her to continue to stay current on customer communication skills, which she uses as teaching moments with her students.

In June of 2016, Kelly began working with Paragon as an Assistant Grooming Instructor. She is currently working toward her NCMG with the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) and has certified with long legged Terriers. Earlier this year, Kelly continued her professional development and earned her pet CPR certification. She attends education events on a regular basis to continue to grow her skills that help our students succeed.

Kelly loves to groom Terriers, Yorkies, and Golden Retrievers. In her free time, she likes to travel and go hiking. She shares her home with her lab mix, Abby, and her cat, Tux.

Liz
Customer Service Expert/Instructor
Liz has always loved animals. She was raised on a farm and first joined the pet industry while she was still in high school. After working her senior year in a salon and boarding kennel, she began her education as a vet tech before starting a program with the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Liz graduated from Paragon in 2010 and worked for our sister company, Whisker Resort and Pet Spa in the grooming department. Liz was invited back to Paragon in 2012, where she taught until 2014.

Liz continued to grow and develop her professional grooming skills. She competed in grooming contests, taking third place as an Intermediate in the Potpourri Group. She has experienced working in different salons, which has given her a better understanding of the pet and grooming industry. She recently returned to Paragon as an Instructor and Customer Service Expert.

In 2012, Liz got married and started her family. She has two beautiful sons and shares her home with her family, dog, and cat.

Kara Adams
Customer Service Expert
Kara is currently attending Grand Valley State University where she is completing her Marketing and Business degree. Her goal is to use this education in the pet grooming industry. Combined with her previous work history in service-based businesses, Kara continues to hone her customer assistance skills to help our clientele and pets have the best possible experience.

Kara began working at Paragon in early 2018. Prior to her start as a Customer Service Expert, she spent time volunteering in the veterinary field. She has also been a dog sitter and has spent her spare time learning more about her new role in the pet industry.

Kara loves the outdoors and spending time with her pets. She is a fan of classic cars and enjoys gardening. When not at Paragon you can find her at antique car shows or studying for her degree. 

 

 

Video Instructors

Melissa Verplank, CMG, CEO
Certified Master Groomer, Video Instructor, Curriculum Development, President & Founder of Paragon
Melissa Verplank has over 30 years of experience in the pet industry. Her mastery of grooming techniques has won her numerous awards at both national & international levels.

She was at the ground level of the voluntary certification testing programs, earning her Certified Master Groomer title in the mid 1980s. Melissa was a member of the traveling team for GroomTeam USA – representing the United States in World Team Competition in France in the early 90s. Later, she was the GroomTeam USA Team Coordinator, served on the Board of Directors, and currently sits on the Advisory Board. She assisted in the start-up of the International Judges Association and is an approved grooming judge with the United Showmanagers Alliance. Ms. Verplank is highly sought-after industry speaker, contest grooming judge, author, and a two-time Cardinal Crystal Achievement winner.

Marc LaFleur, CMG
Certified Master Groomer, Video Instructor, & Dean of Students Emeritus
Marc LaFleur has over 23 years experience in the pet grooming field. He is a Certified Master Groomer, an award-winning contest stylist, and a mobile stylist. He also served as the Dean of Students at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Marc is very actively involved with Learn2GroomDogs.com as the videographer and production assistant. He is also an industry consultant.

Marc is married to Melissa Verplank and is active in all of her business pursuits. When Marc is not working, you can find him working with the horses he loves – Friesians. Marc and Melissa established Black Falcon Farms where they focus on promoting the enchanting Friesian horse. He is a great outdoorsman and an incredible outdoor cook, including Dutch oven cooking methods. Marc loves scuba diving, downhill skiing, boating, exploring the country, trail riding, and camping with horses.

Misty Fowler, CMG
Certified Master Groomer, Video Instructor
Misty Fowler has over 20 years of experience in the pet grooming industry. She is a Certified Master Groomer, an award winning stylist, a three- time member of GroomTeam USA’s top 10 groomers, and was a Lead Trainer at The Paragon Training Center. Currently she is an active, full-time stylist at Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa and is one of the most popular video trainers on Learn2GroomDogs.com. Her specialties include hand scissoring, breed profile trimming, speed, and efficiency.

Misty lives with her husband, Rick. They share their home with two standard poodles and a cat. When she is not working, Misty is an active runner and bicyclist, entering local running and biking events on a regular basis.

Jennifer Hecker, CMG
Certified Master Groomer, Video Instructor
Jennifer Hecker is a Paragon alumnus with over 15 years of experience in the pet grooming field. She is a Certified Master Groomer, an award-winning contest stylist, a Lead Trainer, an active pet stylist at Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa, and a high-level competitor in French Ring Sport with Giant Schnauzers. Jennifer participates in AKC conformation dog shows showing her Champion Dandi Dinmont Terriers. Her specialties include hand stripping, breed profile trimming, speed, efficiency, and mobile grooming.

Jennifer shares her home with multiple cats as well a rabbit and three dogs. When she is not grooming, she enjoys reading, traveling, ballroom dancing, gardening and all things “doggie.” She has competed and titled dogs in AKC Conformation, Obedience and Tracking as well as French Ring Sport, Mondioring, and Schutzhund.

 

Distance Learning Coaches

Lorri Keller, CMG
Distance Learning Coach
Lorri graduated from Paragon in 1993. In her career spanning 25 years, she has worked in high end salons, as well as owned and operated her own salon. Lorri also worked in corporate grooming environments, running the district of Michigan and Indiana for PetSmart Grooming.

She earned her Certified Master Groomer status through International Professional Groomers, Inc. (IPG). Lorri is an award-winning stylist in Sporting and Terrier groups and has also done a bit of conformation showing.

Lorri is a firm believer and advocate of the benefits of education and has attended many professional workshops and seminars to continue to hone her skills. She has helped create curriculum and taught students at Paragon for almost a decade.
Lorri and her husband have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. They share their home with 2 Aussies and a Welsh Terrier. Her Aussies keep her young and you can often find her enjoying the outdoors and hiking.

Jennifer Lotterman, PDS, MPS, CFMG
Distance Learning Coach
Jennifer graduated from Paragon in 1993. In the past 25 years she has worked in high end salons, opened and owned her own salon, and has helped open and work for a non-profit dog and cat rescue.

Jennifer competed successfully in Sporting, Non-Sporting, and Terrier groups. In addition, she is certified with the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC) and earned her Pet Derma Tech Specialist and Master Pet Stylist through the organization. She has also attended the North American Cat Grooming Institute of America (NCGIA) and has received her Certified Feline Master Groomer certificate, making her one of the few groomers in the U.S. to certify with both cats and dogs. Jennifer rounded out her professional development by completing the Canine Massage therapy program through Zen Dog Canine Massage Therapy.

Jennifer shares her home with her husband, 3 children, and 5 furry friends she also considers her children. Jennifer enjoys volunteering at local organizations, reading books, crafts, and she has recently found her love for running and is training for her first ½ Marathon.

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