A Whangārei local with a background in languages, Bek is a diehard Scottie fan, award-winning groomer, and the founder of The Grooming Lounge & Daycare. The doggy daycare is a haven for smaller, older dogs who aren’t keen on rough and tumble and would rather spend their days napping on a colourful couch or lounging in the large garden. Her calm, professional and crate-free grooming salon creates an open and comfortable experience for both dogs and owners alike.
Bek is without doubt a superwoman and we’re beyond excited to have her as a smith&burton grooming ambassador. In fact, we started producing five litre variants for groomers and breeders after Bek told us our range is exactly what groomers need. Bek’s love for dogs, her pride in what she does, and advocacy for natural, cruelty-free grooming products makes her a perfect fit for smith&burton.
Here, she shares her story.
Bek, tell us a bit about your background and how you got into dog grooming?
My background is actually in languages: interpreting and translation, which is pretty different to working with dogs every day! I originally started dog grooming when I moved back to Whangārei after university and travelling. My parents owned a pet shop that needed a dog groomer and Dad told me I should go for it. So, I went to an academy in Auckland and ended up falling in love with it. I have been grooming for five years now and have owned my own business for 1.5 years after my family moved on from the pet shop.
Tell us about the academy, what was that like?
It’s not running anymore but it was a grooming school where you’d go for three weeks and do an intensive Monday to Friday 9 to 5 course. It was two students and one teacher, and we would go over all the different breed styles. It was good – eye opening!
Then I went back for another three-week advanced course where we learnt how to do more specialised trims.
What was it about those early days that got you hooked on grooming?
I’ve never been a book person. I’m more of a practical person. Grooming is such a hands-on, creative job. That was the drawcard. Every dog is so different, no groom is the same. You’ve got to change things all the time – adapt to different temperaments and groom types. So having a job with that variety was attractive.
And I think everyone who works with dogs will say the same thing: I’ve always loved dogs and grew up with them! I grew up in the country and my parents exposed me to caring for animals from a young age – you name it, we've had it! Dad was the dog lover: German Shepherds, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, Dachshunds and all the pound rescues as well. We’ve had a lot of dogs over the years, so I was exposed to many breeds and temperaments.
How did the pet shop transition to your grooming salon and doggy day care?
The girls that worked in the retail and daycare space of the shop, I brought them with me. They mostly work in the daycare now but two of them are trained to bathe dogs and I’ve also taught them how to do de-sheds, nail trims, sanitary areas and paw pad trims but I’m still currently the only “groomer”.
When I opened The Grooming Lounge & Daycare, I did the grooming and daycare straight off the bat. We already had quite a customer base from the previous daycare so all I did was reduce it down to the small and medium breeds and invited everyone to come along. Our last day of the pet shop was 31st of October 2020 and our first day opening The Grooming Lounge & Daycare was November 2nd 2020, we had a month to do the building fit-out – it was pretty crazy!
How have you designed the doggy day care?
I’ve never liked the idea of concrete floors, big wire mesh fences or crates. So, it’s designed to be quite different. It’s open plan with vinyl flooring and couches, and roller doors that open to the outside area with special canine artificial grass. We have a big garden with tunnels and platforms and other fun things for them to play on.
It’s a nice environment to work in and the dogs vibe off the people. I try and think from the perspective of the dog owner – would I be comfortable sending my dogs here?
And my dogs do go here (laughs). It’s nice for them to have a place they can go to where at the end of the day they don’t smell, they are clean, they haven’t been running around in their own filth. Some daycares can get so messy and I wanted a place that was more upmarket but still affordable. We tend to see a lot of the smaller fluffy dogs and older dogs because it’s chilled out.
There’s a real market for daycare for smaller breeds because most daycares take everything. A lot of owners aren’t comfortable with their small dogs being in with large breeds. They want a place where their dog feels completely safe.
You have two Scottish Terriers of your own. We’d love to hear about them!
Scottish Terriers have always been my diehard heart breed. I love Scotties so much, it’s hard to articulate why but I do. Since I was a little kid, I knew I would one day have a boy called Macintosh. Thanks to a couple of great breeders, in 2020 I was fortunate enough to be chosen to take my first Scottie home, a girl called Quinn from an all-female litter. Six months later, I brought home her full brother Macintosh who completed my Scottie dream!
I now have a Scottie in my logo too and they’re the centre of everything I do.
Quinn and Macintosh are total opposites of each other. Quinn is very affectionate, more reserved and quite lazy, although she loves to hunt rabbits. Macintosh is like a tornado that doesn’t stop – he’s energetic, toy obsessed, less affectionate, but loves a cuddle from his mama on his terms. He thinks he’s the size of a Rottweiler. Little dog, huge attitude.
I’m biased but they’re awesome dogs.
Scotties need to be groomed every six to eight weeks. The cool thing is Quinn and Macintosh’s siblings are in the same area and their mum is up here too, so I groom all of them. They get to see each other all the time.
I’m also the Northland Rep for the West Highland White & Scottish Terrier Club. We host events at the daycare and have get togethers which is always fun.
You’ve been grooming for five years. What would you say has been your proudest career moment in that time?
That’s a hard one. There’s a few. Definitely opening my own business is up there, but also passing my Master Groomer certificates and placing well in competitions, particularly under judges that I look up to.
Master grooming is a commitment. It’s a five-to-six-year certificate. It starts off with salon proficiency for example, teddy bear trims, mixed breed. Then as you advance, you get a terrier certificate, then gun dog, poodles and then finally bichon. They really make sure you learn everything about every breed. There’s a practical and a theory. The bichon theory can be up to six hours long – an extensive exam.
I’ve done three out of the five. I was due to do the fourth one in July but I have a baby on the way!
You were a finalist in the More FM Customer Choice Awards in 2021. What was that experience like?
We were very excited to have been nominated and then in the finals. It meant a lot to me and the rest of the girls as the awards relied solely on customers voting for their business of choice. The fact our customers went out of their way to nominate and vote for us reinforces that we are on the right track and our customers are happy. That’s very important to me.
I’m really proud that our team was thought of so highly. It was humbling and makes you feel like all that hard work is worth it. I can’t remember how many people voted but it was a lot.
We didn’t win but we were stoked to get to the finals! It was awesome for our first year in business to get that recognition.
And you compete at grooming competitions too. What’s that like?
I was adamant that I wasn't going to do competitions because I don’t like to put myself out there that much. But I did my first one and got really addicted to it and now I’ve done every single one that I can. My first one was in 2019. It’s such a cool experience, you get to travel and meet judges that have been groomers for years and years. Each judge specialises in something different and you really want to do well because you look up to them.
What do you love most about your job? What do you find rewarding?
Easily the dogs and their owners. We have been so fortunate to have formed an amazing customer base with customers who have become like family over the years! We know a lot about each other, and we have known most of the dogs since they were puppies. We’ve watched their families grow and we’ve formed genuine and loving relationships with the dogs and owners. You can’t beat a happy dog and a happy owner. It’s the best!
Because we’ve known a lot of our grooming and daycare dogs from when they were 16-week-old puppies, we’ve seen them through all their changes and different situations. It means the dogs are coming to a place they’re familiar with. For them grooming is not really an event or something stressful, it’s just a part of their life and they enjoy coming which is the main thing.
Is there anything you find challenging about your role?
Separating work from home. Work is everything to me especially because it’s something I’ve built from the ground up. It’s hard not to be thinking about it all the time, ways we can improve, marketing, staff, the list goes on.
This year, as we near the completion of the building we are in, I have taken a step back to make sure there is a healthy balance. I think that’s the only thing that stops burnout and keeps the passion for what you do alive.
Are there breeds or sizes of dogs you specialise in?
For grooming, we take all breeds and sizes. Daycare is different, we only take the small to medium sized breeds – the largest breed we’ll take is English Cocker Spaniel size. We are the only ones in Whangārei who do this, and it works great for us.
Our daycare group is not a rough and tumble group – they prefer to play gently and nap during the day. Some breeds like Staffies won’t work well in our daycare because they are high energy and don’t fit in with the group dynamics. We like to try and keep our daycare nice and quiet, so our timid and more reserved dogs feel comfortable.
We also have a large number of older dogs too. The oldest dog we had was 19, and we have many dogs that are 14 upwards. It’s a good space for them because they can’t stay at home – they might be incontinent, get stressed or have other issues so our daycare works really well for them. They can sleep all day if they want to or chill out in the sun.
What are the most common issues you see with dogs around grooming?
Skin and coat health. Lots of dogs with environmental or other allergies. We see some matted dogs but not as often as we used to as educating owners has been really effective. They are few and far between as most of our clients are now on schedules of eight weeks or less and book a year in advance.
Do you have any top tips for home grooming and what we can do in between grooming appointments for a happy healthy dog?
Proper brushing and washing will help keep your dog in good shape and health between regular grooms. Using top quality products like smith&burton makes a world of difference for making brushing and washing easy to do at home.
What does it mean to you to be an ambassador for smith&burton?
Saying “yes” to becoming a smith&burton grooming ambassador was a no brainer for me. I found smith&burton through a Facebook page during the first lockdown – I read their website, back to front and back again. I was excited to see a New Zealand-owned company making honest, top-quality products. Once I was able to try it out for myself, it opened my eyes to the quality of work I could produce in my salon with the right products, while, at the same time, benefiting my clients. I would never support anything I didn’t 100% believe in myself and it’s safe to say I love love LOVE smith&burton.
Why is regular, high-quality grooming so important?
Skin and coat health is hugely important and regular, high-quality grooming is so much more than just a haircut. Groomers see things that might be missed otherwise. Lumps and bumps, beginnings of infections, that kind of thing. Then you add the coat maintenance and keeping dogs matt free which in turn means they are not in pain from being left too long, and keeping their eyes and ears nice and clean. Every step of a groom is important to the overall health and happiness of each dog.
What are your favourite smith&burton products and why?
If I absolutely had to choose, it would have to be the Nourishing Collection and the Heal & Protect Soothe Balm. The Nourishing Collection is hydrating, and it works on every coat type, leaving the skin and coat feeling, looking and smelling so good.
The Heal & Protect Soothe Balm is amazing because it’s another all-rounder and it doubles as a great human lip balm too. You can use it on dry paw pads, chapped noses, scrapes or abrasions, the list goes on. It’s a fantastic product that works!
What are some of the standout ingredients for you in the smith&burton collection?
Mānuka Honey because of its health boosting, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Kōwhai extract for its cleansing and soothing properties. New Zealand Sea Kelp for its hydrating properties. There’s just so many. You can’t beat the native ingredients that we have on our doorstep that have been used for years in natural healing.
smith&burton ticks all the boxes. Other brands refuse to disclose their ingredients lists. What I like about smith&burton is it’s all there. All the ingredients are listed on the website. Everything is completely transparent.
Before I used smith&burton, if a client came back to me because their dog had itchy skin and they’d itched themselves raw and created a secondary infection, I was unable to answer what had caused the reaction. Since I’ve switched to smith&burton, I’ve had zero complaints about itchy dogs which is outstanding. Before I would have the odd dog who would end up at the vet because they reacted to the synthetic perfumes and parabens. smith&burton doesn’t have those nasties and their products are naturally effective, perform to a professional salon level and haven’t been tested on animals.
What differences have you noticed since exclusively using smith&burton products?
I have a Chow Chow who’s been coming to me for nearly two years. When he started coming to me, he was shaved and covered in hot spots and had allergies. We put him onto the smith&burton Soothing Collection. He now comes in every five weeks for a de-shed, his coat’s almost completely grown back, and he doesn’t get hot spots anymore. I solely put that down to washing him in smith&burton Dermal Relief 2-in-1 Conditioning Shampoo and then the Soothing Shampoo and Soothing Conditioner. That’s all we did. He’s on the same diet and in the same environment. And he’s off his vet medication too. Such a turnaround.
Switching to smith&burton has been a life saver for me as a groomer. I’ve used other brands and I’m allergic to everything. I used to have to wash dogs with plastic gloves. It was really horrible because my skin would get really tight and cracked. But you can’t get anything clean when you’re wearing plastic gloves. The smith&burton products don’t irritate me at all – I love that I don’t need the gloves anymore.
I openly tell my customers I use smith&burton on myself. When you look at the ingredients you can see it’s better than regular human shampoos and conditioners. It’s clean and there’s no SLS and SLES, parabens, PEGs, silicon, petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances, or other nasties. It’s made me question other products I use on myself and around the house. It’s been a game changer.
That’s amazing! What will you be doing as smith&burton’s grooming ambassador?
Really encouraging people to rethink what they use on their dogs. Are the products tested on animals? Full of SLS and SLES (the nasty sulphates), parabens, and synthetics? Are you using human products on your dog? I have a huge obsession for supporting New Zealand businesses and smith&burton ticks all the boxes: cruelty-free, no nasties and pH balanced for dogs!
I’m proud to be involved in new product development around specific coat and breed types. I’ll also advocate for the brand and help answer questions for groomers because I know about the different ingredients and their effects.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
I enjoy taking my Scotties on adventures with my husband. Matapōuri beach on the east coast is our favourite spot. At the end of the beach there’s a little alcove where my dogs can hoon and swim. It’s the best. I also love competing in grooming competitions and pottering around outside at home with my family and animals.
I’m thrilled to be shouting from the rooftops about the difference finely crafted, natural, cruelty-free, professional groomer grade products can make to the skin, coat and general wellbeing of our pets. That’s why I’m proud to be working with smith&burton, a New Zealand company who love dogs and New Zealand native ingredients as much as I do.
Want to find out more about smith&burton or The Grooming Lounge & Daycare?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to find out more about the smith&burton range visit us here: www.smithandburton.com