At Last… the Purrfectly Coifed Cat: Kim Burress
By Kerry Lee Daniel
When it comes to providing unique services for cats, a savvy business person must think “outside the box.” And that’s exactly what Kim Burress did when she created “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 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 whispers 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, and Kim was laid off.
It was a scary, uncertain time for her, but she was determined to find her way. Weary of working for others, and realizing how few good paying jobs there were in her field, she decided to take a giant leap of faith 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, what work I could do. I wasn’t physically able to landscape anymore. Yet I wanted to be outside, doing something creative with my hands.”
Several of Kim’s friends who operated a successful pet grooming business in Alabama encouraged her to become a groomer. Kim loves animals, so bathing and trimming critters wouldn’t be much different than clipping and watering plants and shrubs.
Kim’s research showed that dogs were well covered in the Asheville/Hendersonville area, but no one specialized in cats. She loves kitties and strongly believes they benefit –physically and emotionally—from spa services too. So she would bring her services right to their door. Kim had found a niche!
The next few months were a blur of activity. Kim attended the National Cat Groomers Institute of America in Greenville, SC, where she learned how to groom each specific breed of cat. She also studied safety and feline first aid. In June 2011 she graduated and received her Feline Master Groomer Certification. All she needed was a trailer rig—and her first customer—and she’d be in business.
A retired groomer in the Midwest had a fully equipped trailer for sale. So Kim and her brother, Keith, drove to Indiana 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. “It was my first big adventure. What was I thinking! I lived to tell about it, though, and I think that same 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—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 to his waiting mom. Next, it was Henry’s turn. Kim 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 woods full of bears, raccoons and other critters, we’ll never know.” Lucky for Kim, Henry’s Mom was understanding and scheduled another appointment for Henry and Louie six weeks later. Today the “boys” are regular clients in her growing business, and they truly enjoy their spa treatments.
It was a huge lesson for Kim. Now she double checks carrier latches, and hasn’t lost a cat since Henry’s great escape.
No Problem Cats…Well, Maybe One
Aside from Henry, Kim’s grooming experiences have been mostly uneventful. 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.
Kim’s been scratched and bitten a few times, but she learned early on not to let the kitties think she’s afraid. “If they sense fear, it can end in disaster.”
I was certain Kim’s talent and patience would be tested when I hired her to work her topiary magic on my persnickety cat, Teddy, a Norwegian Forest boy with long, thick cotton candy-like fur. He is not interested in personal grooming. I’m not keen on grooming him either after he clawed me several times, shredding my hand. He even wiggled out of his Hannibal Lechter style head gear and sunk his teeth into my arm. Yet something had to be done. His fur was matted beneath his arms, restricting his movement so he couldn’t 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 immediately called Kim.
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. It’s called 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.
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 a stream of pee that rivaled the force of a 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 to finish gathering information. I was certain we’d be greeted by a house full of loving cats, just waiting to be petted and pampered. But it turns out…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.
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 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 a big 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. (And see her ad on page 9.) 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 encouragement for others who have lost their jobs and are thinking of starting a business of their own. “Take a week or two just to breathe, to meditate, to dream. If you want to re-invent yourself, give full energy to that dream and never, ever give up. Remember that you have talents 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.”
You can contact Kim Burress at 828-329-0299; or visit www.callingallcatsnc.com.
Kerry Lee Daniel is a writer and a dreamer. Currently, she and her muse are exploring the rabbit hole that will lead to their next great adventure. firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2012 Kerry Lee Daniel