Since taking Marion’s first pop-up business class in 2012, Tosha Thompson has continued to grow her pet grooming business, and has taken her skills to the international level winning awards in the process.
The Rufflections owner scored several awards at the International Judges of America competition in South Korea in April. It was the first international event for the IJA Live Dog Team whose members from all over the United States qualified as a team last November.
“It was amazing,” said Thompson, who began competing three years ago. Competition takes place with both live dogs and model (lifelike) dogs that are groomed just like a live dog. This was her first international competition. Just this year she placed in competition in Atlanta in March and is traveling to New Orleans this month, to Missouri in July and Pittsburgh in November.
The Korean Kennel Club sponsored the competition and Thompson received sponsorship for the trip from the Glade Spring Veterinary Clinic, Rhonda and Ken Snider, and Nancy Livesay. Sponsorships are always welcome for her competitions.
The U.S. team members groomed dogs chosen for them in the South Korean competition.
“We got the dogs about an hour before the competition,” Thompson said. She got a Bichon named Milky and won second in freestyle competition creating what is called Asian Fusion - popular in Asia because of the creativity of the cut that depends on the length of the coat - and coming soon to American dogs. She also took second in the confirmation ring with a Golden Retriever named Bori.
Thompson said the South Koreans have high standards of grooming, stricter schooling for groomers, and it is a respected profession. She spent some time in their schools and was impressed.
“My own standards are high,” she said. “We are an AKC safety certified salon.”
Thompson said she values a good reputation in the community and strives to provide quality services.
“There are a lot of issues in the grooming industry because it’s not regulated,” she said. “I believe groomers should be held to a higher standard, so I opened my own business. The main thing that sets us apart is that we take it upon ourselves to do what would be required if grooming was regulated. Our clients trust us to take care of their babies, and we make sure we live up to that trust.”
The IJA was founded by Vivian Nash through the Nash Academy in Kentucky, Thompson said. Nash is a leader in the industry and an amazing visionary who believes this unregulated industry needs regulations, so the more trained operators there are, the better.
Regulations and more schools are needed for pet groomers, Thompson said. “It’s up to groomers to set the standards.”
Her staff members are all CPR certified and interested in continuing their education. “Anybody can pick up a pair of clippers and call themselves a groomer. It is very important to us that we do things the right way. We take safety very seriously,” she said.
Thompson said she loves what she does and she got into grooming competition as “a way to better myself.”
“Once I got into competition, I got bit by the bug and been doing it ever since,” Thompson said. “I have wonderful employees that take care of the business when I’m away.”
One of her employees has placed in “rescue rodeo,” where groomers are given dogs from rescue for timed competition.
Thompson was impressed with the whole South Korean experience.
“South Korea is very clean. The people are extremely friendly,” she said. “There are coffee shops everywhere, which is kind of my addiction.”
“The competition was wonderful,” she said. “Probably the highlight of my career. Placing in international competition was incredible.”
“I have been so blessed in both my personal and my professional life,” Thompson wrote on her business Facebook page in April. “Coming to South Korea and competing as part of the IJA International Team has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.”
Rufflections provides full-service grooming, obedience classes, overnight and day boarding, and sells toys, supplements, supplies, clothes and accessories. De-shedding services are also available.
For additional information and pictures from the competition, check out www.facebook.com/rufflectionspetgrooming.