The article below appeared in the September 2012 issue of WNC Woman Magazine in Asheville, NC and features CFMG and graduate of the National Cat Groomers School, Kim Burress. To see the article as it appears in the WNC Woman Magazine, click here.
We want to thank Kerry Daniel for writing such an excellent article and WNC Woman for publishing it. Thank you to Kim Burress for continuing to do such a fantastic job of saving the world one cat at a time!
At Last…The Purrfectly Coifed Cat!
Kim Burress’s “Calling All Cats” Brings Mobile Spa Services to Asheville Area Felines
By Kerry Lee Daniel
When it comes to providing unique services for cats, a savvy business person today must think “outside the box.” And that’s exactly what Kim Burress does with “Calling All Cats,” a mobile pet-grooming service exclusively for those of the feline persuasion.
“There are a number of pet grooming establishments in the Asheville-Hendersonville area; however, none are feline exclusive,” says Kim. I offer a full range of mobile cat grooming services—from bathing to full makeovers–in a gentle, relaxing atmosphere, and my clients never leave the comfort of their own yard.”
She’s a one-woman show I witnessed for myself. Though she uses her voice to whisper calming words into tufted ears, she otherwise performs her magic unassisted and without sedation. It’s quite a feat for a woman who’s been in business less than a year and whose previous experience was grooming greenery.
For several decades Kim donned work gloves and hat and wielded shovels and shears, building a satisfying career in horticulture and landscaping. All the while she absorbed vast knowledge and experience. Her talent helped her create beautiful tapestries from gifts of the soil while honing the ability to work well with others. Ultimately she landed a supervisory position at a local resort. Then the economy collapsed.
In February 2011, Kim was laid off. It was a scary, uncertain time for her, but she was determined not to be discouraged. And she definitely would not be a victim. Weary of working for others, and realizing how few good paying jobs there were in her field, she decided it was time to take the supreme leap of faith she’d often dreamed of and start a business of her own.
First Breathe, And then Make a Plan
“At first, I wasn’t sure what being my own boss would look like; I was uncertain what kind of work I would do. I wasn’t physically able to do landscaping anymore…my body just wouldn’t take that kind of daily abuse. Yet I knew I wanted to be outside, doing something creative with my hands. That’s the kind of work that feeds my soul.”
Several friends of Kim’s operated a successful dog and cat grooming business in Huntsville, Alabama. They encouraged her to explore the world of grooming. Kim loved animals and wanted to work for herself, so bathing and trimming four-legged critters couldn’t be much different than clipping and watering plants and shrubs.
After careful research, she learned that none of the pet groomers in the Asheville/Hendersonville area specialize in cats. To be fair, a few offer cat grooming services, but they make it clear they’re more of a “doggie” place. Kim loves cats and strongly believes that kitties benefit–physically and emotionally– from receiving spa services too. To assure her clients a relaxing experience, she would bring her service right to their door. Kim had found a niche!
Back to the Books
Next, she attended an intensive two-week course at the National Cat Groomers Institute of America in Greenville, SC, where she learned how to groom each specific breed of cat. She also learned safety and feline first aid, as well as the fundamentals of operating a grooming business. When the course was over, she successfully passed the nine required written and practical exams. In June 2011, just four months after losing her job, she graduated and received her Feline Master Groomer certification. Now all she needed was wheels—and her first cat—and she’d be in business.
After much research, Kim located a used trailer rig in Indiana. It was fully equipped with grooming table, bathing tub and water tank, dryer, vacuum, built-in cabinets, air conditioner, heater, and generator—everything she needed. Her brother Keith, who with their parents operates a small engine repair and sales business in Landrum, SC, drove with her to check it out. Their road trip reminded her of her first time behind the wheel when she was only twelve. “I took my parents’ 4-door Ford LTD out for a drive with two of my young neighbor friends piled in the front seat,” Kim says. “That was my first big adventure. What was I thinking! I lived to tell about it, though, and I think that same spunk and fearlessness has kept me moving down the road all my life.” Indeed, the trip to Indiana was a sign that all the pieces were coming together to assure Kim that her new career path—the biggest adventure of her life so far– was a perfect fit.
Henry & Louie
In the fall of 2011 Kim Burress pulled her rig into a high mountain driveway and greeted her first clients, Henry and Louie, two domestic short-hair brothers. Kim groomed Louie first, trimming his nails, cleaning his eyes and ears, then bathing and blow-drying him. When she finished, she helped Louie into his carrier and took him to the house where his Mom was waiting. Next, it was Henry’s turn. She hadn’t walked more than a few steps out the front door with him when Henry busted through the carrier door and disappeared into the woods. “We called and called, and he wouldn’t come back,” she says.
Kim was devastated and ready to call it quits with her new business when two days later Henry showed up, unscathed. “How that boy survived, declawed, in a woods full of bears, raccoons and other critters, we’ll never know.” Lucky for Kim, Henry’s Mom was very understanding and scheduled another appointment for Henry and Louie six weeks later. Today the “boys” are regular clients in her growing business, and they seem to really enjoy their spa treatments.
It was a huge lesson for Kim. Now she double checks for safety and security, and hasn’t lost another cat since Henry’s great escape.
No Problem Cats…Well, Maybe One
Aside from Henry, Kim’s grooming experiences have been uneventful for the most part. There was a tiny Persian kitten that wailed and flailed herself into such a dither that Kim had to return her, unwashed and unfluffed, to her owner. It was one situation where sedation was best for the cat.
Kim’s been bitten and badly scratched a few times; it goes with the territory. She quickly learned, though, never to let her clients think she’s afraid of them. “Once they sense your fear, you lose complete control, which can end in disaster,” she says.
I was certain Kim’s talent and patience would be put to the test when I hired her to work her topiary magic on my persnickety cat, Teddy. Teddy, a Norwegian Forest boy with long, thick cotton candy-like fur is not interested in personal grooming. I’m not keen on grooming him either after he clawed me several times, nearly shredding my hand. He even managed to wiggle out of his Hannibal Lechter style head gear and sink his teeth into my arm. But something had to be done. His fur was badly matted beneath his arms, restricting his movement so he could no longer jump on the bed or scale tall buildings in a single bound, without pain. So when a friend told me about her kitty’s positive experience with Calling All Cats, I was elated. I immediately called Kim.
Despite my warnings, Kim was sure she could work with Teddy. On the day of his appointment, she pulled her rig into the driveway and came inside to meet “The Beast.” I wanted her to shave him down for the summer, leaving just his head fur and plume-like tail intact, with boots all the way around. She calls it a modified Lion Cut.
I had dressed for the occasion in head-to-toe padded clothing, ready to assist her, but Kim assured me she could manage on her own. She did agree to call me from the trailer, though, if Teddy got out of hand. So I planted myself at the living room window, waited for the phone to ring, and expected to see the rig bouncing up and down in the driveway, while Teddy melted down inside it. But to my surprise there was total stillness. An hour later Kim brought him back inside, opened the door to his carrier, and let my handsome, newly coifed Teddy strut around the living room.
It was happy moment for all of us.
The Life of a Cat Whisperer
After Kim worked her magic on Teddy, I was impressed and eager to share her story. After all, how many people are lucky enough to know a real-life cat whisperer? My failed attempts grooming Teddy by myself taught me this: the only thing in life more difficult than herding cats is grooming cats. And here was a woman who accomplishes the impossible on a regular basis. So I was delighted when Kim agreed to let me shadow her for a day and write her story.
During our time together I met the infamous Henry (his brother was feeling under the weather that day, so Henry went solo). Just as Kim put the finishing touches on Henry’s fresh “do”, he let loose with a stream of pee that rivaled the force of a white water river. He’d obviously been saving it up for days, just for Kim.
After we sanitized and fluffed Henry and the trailer, our time together was nearly over. I rode shot-gun with Kim back to her home where I would finish gathering information. I was certain we’d be greeted there by a house full of loving cats, just waiting to be petted and pampered. But it turns out…are you ready for this? Kim is temporarily cat-less. She and her four-year-old spaniel mix, Wild Man Sam, are patiently waiting for a long-haired kitten to find its way to their door and into their hearts. And they hope that day is soon.
Meantime, Kim and Wild Man Sam, spend their free time walking and hiking the beautiful Asheville trails together. They also enjoy camping, playing in the yard, and planning the new kitten nursery.
Kim Burress loves her new life. She points to her expanding client list as proof that her intuition about the Asheville area was spot on; it’s a great place to grow her dream. “I love the freedom this gives me—to work my own schedule, to build my own business in a way that feels right for me. But the best part is the gratification of creating with my hands and working with pets and people I enjoy,” she says.
Finding time to market her business is her biggest challenge. Right now most of her clients find their way to her by word of mouth, one happy cat owner telling another. She also networks with members of pet sitting organizations, and through volunteer work with the Asheville Humane Society. If the purrs and smiles from cats and their humans are an indication, the buzz is working. Kim’s excellent adventure is really revving up.
The author Collette once wrote, “By associating with the cat, one only risks becoming richer.” Calling All Cats is helping to build success and financial security for its courageous and feisty owner. But the most treasured riches her business brings are those that nourish her soul.
Kim has a few words of wisdom and encouragement for others who have lost their jobs and are thinking of starting a business of their own. “Don’t be discouraged by the dismal economy. Take some time to catch your breath. Take a week or two just to breathe, to meditate, to dream. If you dream of re-inventing yourself, give full energy to that dream and never, ever give up. Remember that you have talents, abilities and gifts that are yours alone, and they are meant to be shared with people who need and appreciate them. Figure out what those gifts are and how you can nurture them and bring them to life. Open your mind, body and spirit to endless possibilities. As the old saying goes, ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’ For me it was a cat door.”
Kerry Lee Daniel is a writer and a dreamer. She currently is working with her muse to find the rabbit hole that leads to her next great adventure. firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2012 Kerry Lee Daniel
Reprinted by permission