Five Years to the Top
As featured in the Groomer's Choice VIG Magazine: Vol 1, Ed 1, Spring 2023
“Believe in the me, that believes in you.” I say this frequently in my seminars and in the salon I co-own with Corina Stammworthy – The Laundromutt. It resonates with me because many groomers, including myself, say “I can't do what they do, because…” *Insert endless reasons here.* But there is always someone looking up at you saying the same thing.
My name is Macie Pisa. As a second-generation groomer, I grew up saying there was no way I was going to be a groomer. It seemed hard, stressful and messy. I wanted to be an interior decorator! I wanted to live in Seattle! I would be cool and artsy! Well, here I am in Buffalo, New York, doing exactly what I said I wouldn't. I love it, and I still get to be cool and artsy. I began grooming in 2014 after working two years as a bather for a local salon in Buffalo. I finally decided this was where I wanted to be. I was a cocky, know-it-all kid (some would say I still am), and I give a lot of credit to the owner of that salon for sticking it out, teaching me and giving me an excellent foundation.
She was a kind woman, always helping her community and offering her salon and staff to the city shelter anytime they had a dog in need. It was a great opportunity for me, as I decided to take one of those dogs on as a foster in hopes I could take him to my very first grooming contest. We went on to compete at Groom Expo in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in September 2014. We placed second in Entry, and I was hooked!
At PetQuest in 2015, I competed in Entry again with my 9-month-old, black Standard Poodle puppy, Vlad. We placed first, and I was on my way out of Entry! (There are three levels in competition grooming – Entry, Intermediate and Open, and it takes three first place wins to move to the next level.
PetQuest was also the first show Corina and I traveled to together, and it was the start of one of the best years of my life. I made lifelong friends, learned, traveled and had a blast. We stuck to the East Coast shows and ate bags of salad, cups of noodles, PBJs and stayed at some questionable hotels. I'm pretty sure we split tacos and margaritas after my placement at that show.
It is expensive to travel all the time. Plus, Corina and I had a baby salon at home to take care of, but we had so much fun it was worth it! That first year we learned how important making friends and splitting the cost of all the expenses was. By March of 2016, I had made my three first place wins, and I was in Intermediate. Then in September of 2016, I was nominated for Up-and-Coming Groomer of the Year AND had made it into Open with the big kids, ready to earn some points!
The New England Grooming Show was next, and that's where I decided GroomTeam was going to be my goal. I hadn't dared to think I was capable of making it. But it was my first Open show, and I received my first points, seven points on my Bedlington Terrier.
Seven points. It doesn't seem like much, but it put me on the scoreboard. What is the scoreboard? It's a list of every competitor that has earned points in that calendar year. It's kind of a big deal, especially the first time you make it. And I was No. 20! I became determined to get to the top 10 – the cut off for who gets their GroomTeam jacket and who doesn't.
The next year was interesting. When you are in the lower levels, you hear about the drama and the stress of Open, but it's easy to stay out of it and keep things exciting. At my first show of 2017 – my second ever show in Open – I was told I had only made it this far because I was pretty and that I wasn't ready. It was a big blow to my confidence and a rude awakening of my new REAL world of competitive dog grooming. I started to hear more criticism and become paranoid about my skills. I started to wonder if this was really for me. I stopped having fun and ended the year with three points and a lot of frustration.
In 2018, I decided to take time for myself and took the year off. But I didn't stop grooming. I practiced, learned and watched from the internet as my friends did amazing things. I started to really miss being out there. I missed the rush, the stress, the excitement; and I missed my friends! When competing, you make friends from all over the country, and you see them pretty regularly at shows. It's special to have people around you who understand your drive and passion for such a bizarre and niche sport. Yes, I said it – SPORT!
I came back in 2019, and I came back strong. I was determined to make the top 10! I wasn't going to let other people ruin my fun. So, Corina and I packed up the dogs and hit the contest circuit. We taught classes and started trying to get more time to enjoy the places we visited. It was a great year filled with amazing dogs, and I ended the year in the TOP FIVE! I had surpassed my goal and was going to receive my jacket.
I had so much fun competing against so many amazing groomers and pushing myself to see how far I could get. It felt so good to prove to myself and to the people that told me I couldn't that I absolutely could! In March of 2020, I received my team jacket and my official recognition as a member of GroomTeam USA. Making it onto GroomTeam isn't the end all. It's a constant struggle to stay on top. Every year everyone grows and improves, and the competition gets more challenging. It's great encouragement to continue learning.
But why? Why do we do it? Many competitors strive to be on GroomTeam as a mark of validity as an instructor. We see it as a way for people to know that we know what we're talking about.
It's more than just that. There's something amazing about being the best, about having proof that all your hard work was for something. That out of everyone in your country who competed, you were at the top. You get to the top 10, and then you start to dream bigger – you start to realize there's another level and you could be the best in the world.
And that is where they get you. Where you get sucked in forever. Where you can never slack or you'll lose – not an actual game, but the game you play with yourself where you can never fall behind. There's always another dog, another breed, another trim.
It's not an easy goal, and it's not an easy life; but we wouldn't want it if it was easy.