Ambitious, award-winning and internationally-certified dog groomer, Erana, helps take dogs from “drab to fab” with the techniques she learnt working with celebrities and their dogs in Hollywood. But for Erana, grooming goes way beyond looks, she’s passionate about the bond and trust she fosters between her dogs – taking them from anxious to zen.
After twelve years working with and learning from some of the best US groomers, Erana and her family – including their gorgeous Pomeranian fluffball, Tiki – packed their bags and headed home to New Zealand for a slower pace. She’s brought back the skills, resilience, and grit she developed in Hollywood to establish and grow her own successful Auckland-based dog grooming salon, Hollywoof Grooming.
Erana’s expertise, unwavering standards, and undeniable passion for high-quality dog grooming makes her the perfect fit for smith&burton.
She shares her story with us here.
Erana, take us back to the start of your dog grooming career. What was the pivotal moment for you?
Many years ago, I was a hairdresser and salon owner. One of my clients was a dog groomer and she was chatting to me about what she did. I thought that sounds cool – like hairdressing but for dogs. So she said come and train with me – and I’ll pay you to train.
I did that part-time. Fast forward a few years, and I moved to LA and worked in a Hollywood grooming salon. I learnt from the best in the industry. I had celebrity clients – it was very exciting.
I spent twelve years in LA, learning and becoming internationally certified and then decided to move back to New Zealand.
What was the motivation for moving back to New Zealand?
I wanted a slower pace of life. LA was getting a bit hectic for us. I have a daughter so decided to bring us back here.
When I got back – in 2018 – I saw there was a gap in the market for dog grooming, especially experienced groomers.
So, we packed everything up and came back to New Zealand and brought the skills and knowledge I learnt in Hollywood home.
What was that like starting your own salon in New Zealand?
I started in my parents’ garage! But it’s grown a lot. I used to travel for the first year and a half – before my husband and daughter moved down. I came back to New Zealand by myself and set up the salon.
I’d groom a few dogs and then fly back and forth between LA and New Zealand every few weeks. I had my clients in New Zealand on an eight-week schedule.
I would groom for 14 days straight and then fly back to LA and groom there. I did this because I wanted to build up my client base before I moved my family to New Zealand.
My business grew virtually through word of mouth and social media.
So are you now permanently based in New Zealand?
Yes, I’ve been in Auckland since just before the pandemic. We were lucky because we sold our house in LA just before the pandemic.
What was it like working at Hollywood’s most prestigious dog grooming salons?
It was fun! There was never a dull moment with the people I worked with and the clientele. It was definitely an experience I don’t regret – it moulded me into who I am today and gave me the tough skin I needed to run my own business. Hollywood is amazing, but it's also a tough area because people have high standards and you’re working at a fast pace. Our salon only closed three days a year and sometimes we would be grooming 14 days straight.
Sounds like you had to go all in!
Yes, long hours and lots of dogs. But it taught me a lot that helped with starting my own business.
When I felt ready to start my own grooming salon, I knew I could take on pretty much anything.
LA was amazing too – the people I worked with were so fun and full of life. We kept each other entertained – they are some of the best groomers in America. Some of them have gone on to be celebrated groomers or starred on grooming shows on Animal Planet.
I feel honoured to have been taught by those people.
What was it like working with celebrities and their dogs?
It was really cool. I don't get starstruck with celebrities.
We'd have to shut the salon sometimes for certain celebrities, so they were the only ones there. But it was an experience I wouldn't change for anything. It definitely shaped me into a good, strong groomer.
I got certified in LA as well with an international professional grooming association.
I have stories – many stories!
Did you see a particular type of dog in the Hollywood salon?
Lots of handbag dogs, lots of people wanting fun things like colours or mohawks. But mostly there were a lot of rescue dogs as LA is hugely into rescuing and re-homing dogs. So that was really nice to see and sad sometimes too. Sometimes dogs come in with a missing ear or leg and you know they’ve had a rough start.
Grooming can be an emotional job.
Dogs in LA have more rights than people! They get to go into shopping malls, restaurants, in the cabin on domestic flights, and on buses and trains.
That’s a huge difference between LA and New Zealand. In LA they are put on a pedestal which is one reason I think I gravitated towards living there. The love they have for their dogs is pretty incredible.
Have you always loved animals? Did you grow up around dogs?
A hundred percent. Since day one.
We didn’t have a family dog until I was in my late teens. We had horses, guinea pigs, fish, cats – you name it.
A dog was the last pet to come into our family. But I grew up around dogs as my auntie had them, so I've got lots of photos of me with them.
Tell us about your family dog.
She was a Ridgeback Lab and German Shepherd mix who came into our lives at a special time. We had a family tragedy and so one of our family friends thought, they need a dog. I feel like that dog was one of my mum's saving graces because she helped pull Mum out of her depression.
Her name was Honey – she was beautiful. She stayed with us for about 14 years. She didn't require any grooming as such, no haircuts. She was our only family dog until I got my own dogs.
Animals come into your life and they’re very healing. In LA lots of people have emotional support dogs to help them cope with anxiety, panic attacks, and emotional troubles and traumas. Animals heal us, especially dogs.
What kind of dog do you have now?
I have a Pomeranian, called Tiki. We got him in LA, but he was part of the family, so we flew him to New Zealand with us. He’s nine years old and been with us since my daughter was in nappies.
I love Pomeranians – they’re full of sass! I've had a couple before.
Tiki’s been having baths with smith&burton products, which has been really good for his coat.
What would you say has been your proudest career moment?
The main one was getting the courage to sell my hair salon and move halfway across the world to start pursuing my grooming career. Also getting certified.
A close second would be starting up Hollywoof Grooming from nothing – and watching it become a success. Moving from one grooming table and me – in the middle of my parent’s garage – to five grooming tables and five staff.
I’ve also won several competitions and awards.
Hollywoof must stand out for what you learnt in LA and the calibre of your work there?
My New Zealand clients say “Wow, is that what it's supposed to look like? My dog's never looked this good before.”
I think people are starting to realise the difference between an experienced groomer versus a not so experienced groomer. I think that stands out most to people. I don't do many coloured grooms or anything too crazy as most of my clients want a pretty standard haircut, but that’s changing slowly.
Sometimes I add my suggestions and ask them if they want to try something cool and fun. Some let me go for it. I think I attract more avant-garde types of people who are a bit more out there.
I have a Pekingese that comes in and has his tail coloured pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. I think the name Hollywoof and my background attracts that kind of attention.
I'm an American-trained groomer, and that’s worked in my favour.
What do you love most about your job?
Initially it was about transforming a dog from drab to fab and watching the owner's reaction – seeing how happy the dog and the owner is. They can’t believe how happy the dog is when they pick it up.
Now it’s more about rehabilitating dogs with anxiety or behavioural issues with the groomer.
I have a dog that comes in that hates his nails being done. His owner tells me no one can do his nails, the vet has to muzzle him or put him to sleep to cut them.
And I'm their last hope. Working with that dog over time, I’ve seen him gradually get better and more trusting, to the point where he lets me do his nails, no problem.
Seeing that change is why I do this job. I do it to build that relationship and trust with a dog. Once a biter, no longer a biter. I love connecting with the animal and working with them and not against them – creating that bond and trust.
Once I've won them over and have their trust, there's nothing more rewarding.
What a relief for the dog and the owner.
Yes, the relief they no longer have to worry about taking their dog to the groomer or having to put their dog under sedation to have its nails done. The happiness of the dog and owner is why I do it.
You need passion for dog grooming because it can be a stressful job – mentally and physically – and it's full of ups and downs.
What are your ambitions for Hollywoof?
Hollywoof Grooming Academy. I want to start focusing on training more groomers and upskilling groomers properly. If I can train more groomers, how I was trained, that would be beneficial for the grooming industry here not just me.
Is there anything you find challenging about your role?
It is pretty tough on your body. It’s important for people to know when they start grooming they have to be physically strong and healthy. Have a good diet, take care of yourself with yoga and stretching because it's not a job that's forgiving on your body.
What are some of the most common issues you see with dogs around grooming, particularly in New Zealand and in your salon?
Lots of dogs coming in with anxiety about the grooming process, but mainly the drying process, and cutting nails.
Why is regular high-quality grooming so important?
It’s important for your dog's health, skin, and coat. Lack of grooming can cause all sorts of skin issues and health problems for your dog. A high quality groom not only looks good, but it lasts longer too.
A good well done groom will last eight weeks, and it will still look good. Having a groomer that knows what they're doing is important because we cover every single area of the dog, from nose to tail. When we are drying, we find things the vet or owner might not find – things like lumps, abscesses, ear infections, teeth or foot problems.
Having a good groomer can make you aware of anything that looks different or abnormal. We look out for your dog’s wellbeing.
Do you have tips for home grooming and what to do between appointments?
Lots of brushing and combing. Don't wash your dog too much – and if you’re going to wash your dog make sure you use a good shampoo and condition and dry them quickly.
Don't just wash, towel, dry and then leave because that's going to matt the dog.
People tend to take their dog to the beach several times a week and wash their dog every time afterwards. But it can create matting if they don’t wash, brush and dry properly.
It can create a huge matted mess that ends up having to be shaved off.
I ask my clients: how dirty is your dog from the beach? Could you let them dry for a bit and then brush everything out?
That's another thing I want to do – a seminar for people on how to care for their dog’s coat at home between grooms.
What does it mean to you to become an ambassador for smith&burton?
I've used hundreds of shampoos and conditioners, and lots of people approach me with shampoos, especially all-natural shampoos.
Before smith&burton, no natural shampoos could cut it for me in the salon because they just didn’t clean properly. And it's very important in the salon that those dogs’ coats get clean, and they're not left dirty or greasy because it makes cutting their hair extremely difficult for us.
I've had a lot of all-natural dog grooming products come my way. I have shampoos I liked to use in the States, but they’re hard to get here.
So when I received the smith&burton collection I was shocked that the shampoos lathered properly and my dog was actually squeaky clean afterwards.
Which smith&burton collection do you love the most?
smith&burton Nourishing Shampoo and Nourishing Conditioner are the main ones we use because they help with most of the coat types we see every day – Poodle coats and double coats.
I use the Soothing Collection for myself because I have oily hair. The Soothing range is great for greasy coats like Cavaliers.
My daughter uses the Hydrating Collection.
The products look beautiful on the shelf – they are classy and high-end which is what I’m about.
I'm stoked I was asked to try smith&burton, the whole salon’s switched to smith&burton and we sell the range too.
Do you have any standout ingredients?
Mānuka Honey is a no-brainer. It’s anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial.
I love the Chamomile Flower Extract and Kawakawa Leaf Extract because they’re both so soothing. Kawakawa is an amazing Māori medicinal plant that is good for so many things internally and externally. Those are probably the main three ingredients I love.
What will you be doing as smith&burton’s grooming ambassador?
I will be doing lots of videos on how to use the smith&burton range, maybe even some videos on me washing my own hair. Lots of promoting on social media. I do lots of my advertising on TikTok – educating the public and groomers.
I belong to several groomers’ pages so whenever somebody has questions about a shampoo or detangler, I encourage them to try smith&burton.
I’m also going to SuperZoo in Las Vegas and will help to get smith&burton products to my American friends and their salons.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
Because my job is so physical, I love to relax. I love doing jigsaw puzzles with a good tequila.
I go to the gym and do workout classes three days a week to keep me physically strong.
I love to travel and head over to America a lot to grooming expos.
I feel honoured to be part of a brand that has so much passion and quality behind it. High-quality grooming is so important for the health and wellbeing of our dogs which makes me so proud to be working with smith&burton, a New Zealand company who love dogs and has the same high standards as I do. I also love that smith&burton works for the whole family - from me, my daughter and our fluffball, Tiki.
Want to find out more about smith&burton or Hollywoof Grooming?
If you are a groomer and would like to trial smith&burton products or open a wholesale account visit www.wholesale-smithandburton.com and fill in the Application Form in the footer or email email@example.com. If you want to find out more about the smith&burton range visit us here: www.smithandburton.com