Annette TuckerAnnette Tucker is a groomer at Bark Me Beautiful Pet Grooming Inc. Growing up, she loved dogs and dreamed of becoming a hairdresser. She merged those passions at age 50 to embark on a new career in the dog grooming industry. Through this change, Annette found excitement, passion, and rewarding work. She continues to invest in herself and further her education as a groomer.
Joe Zuccarello talks to certified groomer Annette Tucker of Bark Me Beautiful. Find out how Annette changed careers at age 50, what it took to get a job in the grooming industry, and how she’s taking charge of Bark Me Beautiful’s new mobile grooming division.
- Can I really change careers at age 50?
- What does it take to get up to speed on a different industry?
- How do I get a job in a dog grooming studio, and how do I build industry relationships?
- What role does continued education play in a career reset?
Tune in to find out.
Joe Zucarello: What’s up everyone? Joe Zucarello here and welcome to Hey Joe. A podcast brought to you by Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Check out our site at paragonpetschool.com for lots of really cool information on a variety of programs, products and to connect to educational resources, such as webinars, podcasts, current events, special news, certifications, and lots of other helpful information to help you grow yourself, your team, and of course your business. Let’s get started with this week’s episode.
Joe Zucarello: Hello, learn2groomdogs.com members. This is Joe Zucarello. I get to be the vice president at Paragon School of Pet Grooming and also learn2groomdogs.com. You might catch me on the JZ10s once a month. I produce a 10-minute coaching session with various different business and leadership and management and development topics and I also am your host of the Hey Joe podcast, on the paragonpetschool.com website and a variety of wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for Hey Joe or Hey Joe pet and you’ll definitely get to our podcast.
Joe Zucarello: So to all of our members out there, very first thing is up for all our learn2groomdogs.com members, thank you very much for being members. One of the highlights of my job is bringing stories and sharing experiences with you. And it just amazes me in the pet industry about how diverse we are. We come from a variety of different backgrounds and we also come from different educations and skill levels and such. But we also come from different generations.
Joe Zucarello: And I am joined today by Annette Tucker and Annette is going to share her story. She’s graciously allowed us to share a generational story, right? So at some point I’ll probably I’m going to ask you that question. It’s never polite to ask in other circles, but at one point in a few minutes, I’m going to ask your age. But tell us Annette, a little bit about your current role and what you’re doing and for how long you’ve been doing that.
Annette Tucker: Hi everyone. I’m Annette and I am currently working as a pet groomer at Bark Me Beautiful Pet Grooming in Longmont, Colorado. And I have been working with Bark Me Beautiful for almost two years now. I started there as a front desk associate as I was transitioning from employment at another facility and got on board with Bark Me Beautiful, which was my studio of choice after I finished school, it just took me a while to there.
Annette Tucker: I had eyeballed the owner, liked what she had going on, liked the reviews she was getting and decided that’s where I wanted to work, which is the city that I live in. So I took advantage of the job post she had for a front desk associate, just to get my foot in the door. And that worked out great because now I am one of her pet groomers and next week I’ll be starting as her first mobile groomer.
Joe Zucarello: That’s right. You are expanding and you’re going on the road.
Annette Tucker: We are.
Joe Zucarello: You know what? That says a lot for that employer, right? In that she actually created a salon and these are one of the things that we try to impress at Paragon and learn2groomdogs.com, is as much as we’d like to say we’re recruiting talent, the talent out there is also interviewing and watching what we’re doing. And you did that. She was your salon of choice, you said.
Annette Tucker: She was, absolutely was.
Joe Zucarello: Now are you going to all share in the duties of mobile? So each one of you take a day and a route or how’s that going to work?
Annette Tucker: Yeah, we’re figuring all of that out, yes. We just finally got our state approval on our mobile unit on Friday. So we’re taking a week to get into the unit and testing all of the systems out and everything, and we’ll be on the road next week. But our plan is that we’ll be starting out slowly, so two days a week on the road with mobile. And I have been identified as that person. So I really am working with Jane to get the mobile components of Bark Me Beautiful off the ground.
Annette Tucker: So I get to work directly with the customers. Right now, as we’re communicating with potential clients and getting them scheduled. I’ve been given the responsibility to do that, which really is an amazing thing for Jane to do, to hand over that reign to one of her employees, to really help her move this forward as she continues to manage our extremely busy studio that is based Longmont.
Joe Zucarello: I talk a lot of times about just how dense grooming options are for customers. In a typical suburban area, they’re only going to drive three maybe five miles. That’s a long distance. There’s a lot of choices in that short amount of distance and sometimes you’ve got to go out and get those customers and you guys are doing that.
Joe Zucarello: So you found a salon of your choice and you started as a front desk receptionist, and you blossom into that. So tell us a little bit about your experience and your history and your background before. Well, okay, hold on first. First off, I promised you I was going to ask you the taboo question, right? Annette Tucker, how old are you?
Annette Tucker: I am 53-years-old.
Joe Zucarello: All right. And 53 years young I would imagine.
Annette Tucker: I am 53 years young.
Joe Zucarello: The reason why I say that for all of our learn2groomdogs.com members out there is that this is focusing on one of our diverse elements of our industry and that is generational diversity. And we’re going to share with you, Annette’s going to share with you her background here in just a minute. But we’re going to tie it all together and she’s going to share with you some of the successes and the challenges and the surprises that have come along for her coming out of a whole career before grooming.
Joe Zucarello: So talk to us a little bit about, I know that you had spent 20 years doing something that you really enjoyed. What did you do before grooming?
Annette Tucker: Before grooming, I was in the field 4H youth development with the Cooperative Extension System and I had been working in that environment for 20 years in three different States. So I worked as a county level agent educator, so think county fair. And I’m the person that helped run that and put that altogether, 4H Clubs, FFA chapters, that type of environment. And so I did that in my hometown in a small town in Wisconsin for 13 years, and was very successful in my time and experience there.
Annette Tucker: I have two higher education degrees. I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration education and also a master’s degree in community education, which is really about engaging community, community development across the age groups from early childhood to senior level. So my focus area was really high school-aged students and adults and working with parents, working with community members, being part of community organizations and coalitions. And really working as a community leader to build support systems for young people as they were growing and developing.
Annette Tucker: And so over time as my career was developing and growing, which I’ve really loved. I was taking advantage of some opportunities that were presented to me as I was growing in the field and change to a different state. I started moving out West, so from Wisconsin to Nebraska. I worked in Nebraska for two years.
Joe Zucarello: I was going to say, I don’t know that I would consider Nebraska West, but I guess compared to Wisconsin.
Annette Tucker: From Wisconsin, it is West. When you’re on the Western edge of Nebraska right next to Wyoming [crosstalk 00:00:08:34]. And then you change time zones to halfway across the state. So I worked as a county agent plus had some state level responsibilities as well. So I was advancing in the roles and responsibilities that I had with Extension. And ultimately I ended up with a position at the state level at Hartman, Colorado. I’m on campus at Colorado State University providing some statewide leadership and support to county agents related to science, technology, engineering and math programming and afterschool programming.
Annette Tucker: So all of that in an 18 to 20-year period was great. However, it eventually started to kind of suck the life out of me. I was losing my enthusiasm and passion. I didn’t want to get up to go work in the morning. I was just tired of traveling and sitting in meetings then, and trying to solve all of the world’s problems. It just became overwhelming and not how I wanted to spend all of my days.
Annette Tucker: So living where I was in Colorado, I happened to drive past the community that had two dog grooming schools. Way back in time, that’s probably 15 years ago or so. I thought about dog grooming. I groomed my own dogs as an adult, I got a couple dogs that I would just home groom-
Joe Zucarello: You know how many stories I’ve heard? It all starts there. You just took a little longer. Most of them start like right away.
Annette Tucker: No, I was like, I will make my dog look pretty because when I was a kid I wanted to be a hairdresser. So I always wanted to work with my hands and do things like that. But at that time I didn’t have ready access to a grooming school. My personal life just really wasn’t in a place where I would, could really change my direction in my career. So that was just a fleeting moment that passed. And now we are here.
Annette Tucker: So as I was reconsidering again, what do I want to do with my life? And by this time I was 50. I was 50-years-old at this time when I left my 20-year career and took a significant pay cut to pursue something that I felt was going to give me fire and energy, and excitement again. And so I enrolled in one of the grooming school and here I am three years later.
Joe Zucarello: Wow and already realizing some successes, which you shared with us just a few minutes ago. When we talk about it at Paragon and at learn2groomdogs.com we talk about something called the career reset button and this trade, right? Because this is a, in many cases, a life skill, a trade. We are a trade school, right? So we provide education for a trade, whether it’s mechanic or plumber or electrician or whatever. Dog grooming is a trade, right? And you are the epitome of the career reset button, right? So you said, “I want to do something that fulfills me. I want to do something gives me that drive and that fire again.”
Joe Zucarello: So that’s really exciting. Really exciting to hear. So your inspiration, you said as a younger person, you thought about maybe being a beautician or being a hairstylist, right? For people. But it really was just driving past the grooming schools and that’s what put it in? Was there other inspiration? Well, of course grooming your own dog.
Annette Tucker: Right. But probably my crazy love for dogs. I’m crazy about dogs. Pass one on the street, “Ooh puppy. Oh look at the cute dog.” You say hello to the pets before you say hello to people, that kind of thing. And of course I have pets too. So it was like it was bringing those passions and directions together.
Joe Zucarello: Being in your previous career in the education space. I believe you can, you can appreciate what we do at Paragon and learn2groomdogs.com about continued education. So obviously you went to grooming school and grooming school ended after a handful of months. I would imagine you probably went full-time. I know you like any of the, you probably went head first and knee deep into it. But there was a certain amount of continuing education that you either while you might still take part in or definitely did after school. Tell us a little bit about your experience there.
Annette Tucker: Absolutely. So I graduated from my grooming school nine weeks after I started. It was a nine-week program. So it’s just the beginning cursory, here’s the intro. But they really encouraged us. You’re going to need to keep learning. You’re not done once you graduate here. Grooming is all about continuing to learn. You’re never going to stop, which totally is my philosophy and educational philosophy, lifelong learning. I am a lifelong learner and that is one of my foundational values. So of course I’m going to keep on learning. There’s so much to learn with grooming.
Annette Tucker: It’s like I’m not going to stop because I have a certificate that says I practiced for nine weeks. Then the day after we had our graduation, National Dog Groomers Assoc. of America actually had one of their certification workshops in Loveland at Dogs Own. So just down the street from the school that I went to, the other school was hosting a certification workshop and testing. So I signed up and went. So I graduated one day and the next day I was starting my continuing education already.
Joe Zucarello: Wow.
Annette Tucker: Yeah.
Joe Zucarello: So you went to the first day session then, right?
Annette Tucker: First day workshop session. Yeah. And then the second year, which would have been the following year, I also went to the workshop again and this was just before I started working at Bark Me Beautiful. So I actually met the owner at that very first workshop. Met her again as the second one and by last year, which would have been my third workshop attending is when I certified with NDGAA and sporting and non-sporting group. Woo.
Joe Zucarello: Good for you. Congratulations.
Annette Tucker: Thank you.
Joe Zucarello: That’s a lot to cover. That’s a lot of ground to cover in three years. You did talk about, I mean you were an avid consumer of education via books and online training. I know that obviously you’re a learn2groomdogs.com member and have been for quite some time.
Annette Tucker: Three years.
Joe Zucarello: So a three-year member, I mean since you graduated essentially.
Annette Tucker: Basically, yep. Yep. So within a couple months of graduating I knew that learn2groomdogs.com was going to be one of my enormous resources to keep me going. And so I got my membership and have maintained that membership since. So I’m in my third year of membership and it is absolutely one of the tools that helps me continue to grow and learn, especially since we don’t see all breeds every day in our studio. We get some unique breeds like Afghan Hound and I was going to be grooming an Afghan Hound in one day and I had never touched an Afghan Hound let alone had any really real idea about what you do with them.
Annette Tucker: Or like Irish terriers or Portuguese water dog, things like that. So you can only learn so much from manuals and books and I don’t necessarily want to go to all of the YouTube pieces that are out there. I come from an educational research-based background, so I really need to have resources that are valid and validated. And also essentially researched-based and are reliable in the industry.
Annette Tucker: So that too is what I get through learn2groomdogs.com and what Melissa provides, being that she obviously was the textbook [inaudible 00:17:11] to the grooming table as our resource for school. So one thing leads to the next, it’s like love that resource. What else do you have Melissa? Take me there. And then-
Joe Zucarello: Grooming is such a visual career, it’s such a visual. I always say groomers are artists. So visual, we’re in a highly visual type of career. We probably learn also visually. So that’s why watching those videos and things might’ve been super helpful to you and all of the training experts. I mean we’ve often heard people tell us, other members and their stories and such will tell us, “I go to trade shows and I watch a seminar here and a seminar there.” I get to bring all of those seminars essentially home in my pocket. They’re on my tablet or on my phone and I get to take advantage of, of all of those experts.
Joe Zucarello: So we appreciate you staying on board with learn2groomdogs.com and for as long as you have and we hope that we can continue to feed your educational hunger for several years still to come. As we talk about this industry as we were going through a little bit of show prep, one of the things you said is how much value you put in relationships and relationships with pet parents and the pets themselves and how that’s a driver for you.
Annette Tucker: It is. And that’s really one of the successes that I feel I have been able to accomplish over my few years as a groomer. Is that as a pet parents as parents bring their pets to us, the pets and pet parents are pretty interesting dynamic in the society these days. People are spending millions and billions of dollars in the industry and they also though are very particular about how their dog get groomed, the care they may get, what type of environment they’re going to be. They’re leaving their child two hours with us and they want to know that their pup is going to be safe and cared for and happy and safe.
Annette Tucker: And so coming from a field where developing relationships was critical for me as well, I feel that’s a skill I bring with me already. And that carries over into the relationships I’m building with my clients, with the pets and. The parents because having them feel comfortable with me as the individual who’s going to be working with their pet and loving their pet and snuggling their pet and having the patience-
Joe Zucarello: You don’t get anything done during the day, do you?
Annette Tucker: No, no. [inaudible 00:19:48] today and he just snuggles your shoulder and it’s like we have to snuggle before his bath. We have to snuggle before his cut. We snuggle after his cut. We have to snuggle and show him off to other parents that come in because they’re like, “Oh, he’s so cute.” So yeah, so his groom takes a little longer because there’s a little bit of extra love.
Joe Zucarello: Well, but you’re also sharing that with other people too. So building those relationships. So I think one of the things that you had shared with us was that’s a lot of the positive on the relationship. But you’ve also experienced being 53 now, right? And and certainly still have a lot by all looks of things you’ve got lots of energy to keep going for quite some time.
Joe Zucarello: But you talked about some challenges that you had being 50-years-old and starting grooming with other relationships, like maybe coworkers or other people in the grooming industry that might be maybe of a younger generation seeing an older groomer starting her career.
Annette Tucker: Yeah. So one of my first challenges, and I think this just across the board is not uncommon. Needing to find your home, the right fit for you. What is the salon or the studio or the shop that fits you? The people, the energy of the facility, the ownership, the management, the other folks that work there and finding what connects with you. So I worked at two other facilities before Bark Me Beautiful. And the first place I worked was a great place to be just right out of school. But it wasn’t by any means going to be a long-term situation for me. I knew it. I knew I from the beginning because it wasn’t a space that connected to my heart enough to go, “Oh yes, this is going to be my grooming home. This is where I will be for the next 15 years or whatever.”
Annette Tucker: And part of that is because I was significantly older than everybody else that works there. And so I was one, the newbie in the team, and two, I was more than twice the age of most of the other gals. And I had educated, I was in the workforce, I had some pretty high standards of myself and those around me. And just some expectations of the workplace and not all that really jived with some of the younger folks and things like that.
Annette Tucker: So I might take an issue directly to the owner as opposed to the 20-year-old front desk person who really wasn’t responsible for the concern I had. So there was some animosity for awhile about those things. It’s like, well, there’s protocol, there’s the right route to take and it doesn’t fit with everyone. And that’s difficult when your workplace doesn’t have the same value sets I guess as you do.
Joe Zucarello: Well, we talk a lot about culture and not saying that necessarily one group or one person is doing it wrong. I mean, there are some people that are doing it wrong. I mean, but that’s every career, every walk of life. There are people that just do it the wrong way, right? But in our industry, what I found in, I just started what my 35th year in this industry. And one of the things, most people come from a good place and most people come from a good center. But it doesn’t always mean that the culture is perfect for everybody involved.
Joe Zucarello: So to your point, I think when you were talking to me before you said your challenge was more you than them, right? Making sure that it fit for you. And I think that that’s a really important attribute and a lot of the words that you’re going to be sharing or that you are sharing actually with all of the other members, the learn2groomdogs.com members and our other audiences out there is, you’re very inspiring. But one of the things I think that that is important is making sure that you’re, you’re, you’re honest with yourself when you’re talking about joining cultures and, and, and being a team member.
Annette Tucker: Right. Yep. And I was there for three months and actually I was asked to leave by the owner. She realized too that it wasn’t going to be working out. And for me at 50-years-old, being let go from a job had never happened in my life. So talk about devastating and how am I going to get through this? This has never happened before and I’m three months into my newly chosen profession. But by that time I had already been job searching so I already had interviews lined up when I walked out the door that day. So I just had to take a little time to take her breath, regroup. Yep. Okay, here we go. And so then I was able to make some choices that were a little bit better for me.
Annette Tucker: Still not the perfect choices. I did find a place to be for the next six months and I was a single groomer at a boarding and daycare facility whose grooming staff has left them about four months earlier because there was new ownership and management. So they were starting over in their grooming department. And I think because I was older, I had experience, and I wasn’t a young person coming in that they felt that I would have some better ability to start to rebuild that department for them, which I did. I felt really great about it. And too though, this is where learn2groomdogs.com really was my best friend.
Joe Zucarello: You had nobody else there to partner with, right?
Annette Tucker: I had no one to ask. I had no one to give me direction and I needed you desperately and I had you. So that was amazing. That helps me through those six months with all of these breeds that I had never touched before. So too there was some cultural things with how some staff did their work and just how they interacted with clients and customer service that really did not sit well with how my approach is.
Annette Tucker: And I just didn’t want to continue to be connected with the business or staffing that wasn’t changing and treating their customers the way they needed to be. So that’s when I moved on and I chose to move on that time and that’s when I just so happened to be meeting someone and so the universe said, “It’s now is your time.”
Joe Zucarello: Nice. Nice.
Annette Tucker: And so now it’s been great. Great, great, great.
Joe Zucarello: Well and it’s fun to hear it. You’ve experienced successes in areas where other people might’ve seen them as challenges or surprises or even some failures. What a great maturity lesson that you’re passing along to some of the younger generation in our younger people, younger pet grooming professionals in our industry of saying, “Listen, just because it might feel like a failure doesn’t always mean that it absolutely is.” And you’d always say, “Well, one door closes, one door opens.”
Joe Zucarello: And you were let go for the first time in your life when you’re 50-years-old in a brand new profession. I mean, you can just tell you’re just beaming about what it is that you’re doing now. And then you’re going to go on the road. You’re going to be launching a new mobile business with your employer.
Joe Zucarello: So all of those things you never know, right? Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve. They may not have happened if you would have just tried to hammer through it and get through it and when it just didn’t feel right and it just wasn’t right. Don’t let a failure, it’s a momentary loss of success. It’s not necessarily, [crosstalk 00:28:04]. It’s just pausing success for a minute. So let’s talk for a moment. Obviously, there was a couple of things that you did in this change from your other career to this career that could be labeled investing in yourself, right? And obviously continuing your education as you continue to invest in yourself. But when you left that other career and you invested in going to grooming school, obviously that had some tuition costs and real money investment, right?
Joe Zucarello: But your other investment was, you took a substantial pay decrease in order to reset. Now for a lot of people they can’t do that. Some people they can do that in a career reset type of situation, whether it’s maybe their right size, downsize, outsize right source out, whatever their situation is, right? But when you talk about investing in yourself and and what you did, putting yourself through a new education, but definitely what you’re doing now in continuing your education investing in yourself. How important is investing to you and what would you, I know how important it is to you, but you can tell us again. And what would you say to other learn2groomdogs.com members or other just younger pet grooming professionals out there about pouring into yourself and investing in yourself.
Annette Tucker: You need to do that because you need to, one, take care of yourself. You are you. We all have just a limited amount of time here and we don’t know how long now that is going to be, which is part of do what makes you happy and don’t think that you need to be in a career or go to a college or have a profession because someone else thinks you need to do that unless it is going to make you happy. You need to do what’s making you happy. So make that be your first investment in yourself.
Annette Tucker: Investing in, well, your mental health, your sanity by being happy and surrounding yourself with people that are positive and can support and lead you towards your goals. Certainly there’ll will be naysayers, but know that there are others that are there to be your cheerleaders. And if it becomes the new Facebook friends you have at learn2groomdogs.com Facebook community. Let that be it then. But we all need to have that. So continuing your education, investing what resources you may have. Don’t let it break your bank. Do certainly what’s within your means. But know that you will grow when you invest in yourself.
Annette Tucker: So the time that it takes also you’ll be spending time outside of your paid time to develop yourself. So know what’s on your schedule the next day. What dog are you going to be grooming the next day? Maybe you do have a brand new breed on your schedule for tomorrow that you haven’t done. And do your homework the night before so that you can go in the next day confident about what that breed is and what you need to be doing with that breed.
Annette Tucker: I’m fortunate that I work with two nationally certified master groomers, so we have some in-house support to kind of give us like, “Okay, here’s my first Kerry Blue, I will do the main thing and then you come through and give me your take on everything.” So for me that’s how I’m fortunate but preparing ahead of time. Because then you’re able to talk more intelligently with the parents of this new breed. Is that a hand strip? Is it not? You don’t want to be saying weird things if they’re expecting like a pretty substantial breed standard service.
Annette Tucker: So being prepared. Some other things that are important for investing in yourself is your physical wellbeing. This is a really physically demanding job and so no matter what age you’re coming in doing some of that physical self-care is going to be important too. So whether it’s regular massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, whatever it is to take care of the parts of your body that are feeling the physical stress and strain from the type of work that we do.
Annette Tucker: So I’m an older person coming in. I’m got some natural aches and pains that are coming with my aging body. So I need to pay attention to that and to treat myself well after the end of my hard day. But I think with young people too, it’s never too early, don’t think because you can move and you can do all kinds of things that it’s not going to eventually take a toll on your body.
Joe Zucarello: We have a lot of our training experts that just really, really try to hammer that home. And you know what? The likelihood, I hope that if we can help one younger person out there realize that. We were all told, right? We were all told, “Well, you know what? You can do that when you’re 12 or 20 or 30 or 40.” Eventually things just start hurting where you didn’t think you had things that hurt, right?
Joe Zucarello: But to your point, physically and mentally. There’s so many times when we’ve talked to people about preparing for the next day even or preparing for the next year. We’re actually going to do, we’re doing a few parts of a generational series. You are one of them, but also Jeanine Palmiteer who is a younger groomer on the younger generational side of the profession. And she said, “I know that there’s an expiration date to this profession.” And she’s, I don’t know. I’ll ask her how old she is too. I see this must be a licensed that I get to ask women how old they are, right? If I were to guess, she’s probably some 20s or 30s, right?
Joe Zucarello: But she’s on the younger scale of our professional grooming spectrum and she already has learned that there’s an expiration date to her physical ability in this industry. And she’s already starting to think about what am I going to do with my experience when my hands can’t be in fur anymore or less time in fur. I’ve got to applaud people that think that far ahead whether it’s tomorrow, next month, next year, next decade, right?
Annette Tucker: Yep.
Joe Zucarello: Well, great. Annette, thank you so much for your time. I hope that the learn2groomdogs.com listeners out there or the members out there. Will probably put parts of this out to our podcast audience if you don’t mind. I think that’d be really cool. Because I just think it’s such a really great inspiring story. So anybody that’s either watching or hearing this story, I hope that you found some words that help inspire you and a net. Thank you very much. I want to hear about your mobile adventures. Give it a few months and then reach out to me and let me know how things are going for you.
Annette Tucker: We will do that. Thank you.
Joe Zucarello: All right. Take care, Annette. Thank you.
Annette Tucker: Thank you.