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A Hairy Situation (with a happy ending)

As a child, Jessica Knoepfler was very introverted. She was uncomfortable in most social situations and went out of her way to avoid talking to people. It was only when Jessica persuaded her parents to buy and bring home their first dog, Abby, did her parents notice a change in their daughter. “Abby really brought Jessica out of her shell,” said Jessica’s father, Joel. “Soon everything was about dogs - Jessica spent much of her time with Abby, she did research on breeds and even presented a periodic chart of dogs to her classmates - something very out of character for Jess.” By the ninth grade, Jessica was already sure she wanted a career working with dogs.

Jessica struggles with short-term memory. She requires repetition with new concepts to store information into her long-term memory, so the path to a career in dog grooming was not an easy one. After high school, Jessica was hired by two big box corporations in the Twin Cities to go through their grooming school and eventually work for them. She was terminated from the first one just before the end of her 90 day probationary period. She worked almost three years at the second and participated in their groomer’s training but unfortunately was only assigned to bathe dogs and not given the opportunity to groom. Both of these companies expected their groomers to whip through eight dogs per day and Jess wasn’t fast enough. There was also considerable turnover in their management, which didn’t help her situation. The truth was, Jessica was capable of doing a great job - she just needed more time to learn.

Jessica did not give up on her dream, so the next step was to enroll in another grooming school. She trained at Rio Gran and only weeks after completing her training, she was hired by the owner of Just Paws in Lilydale. “Working for Brenda was the turning point for Jess,” said Jessica’s mother, Janet. “Brenda was patient and willing to mentor Jessica. She had suggestions on accommodations to help Jess through her learning period such as using a whiteboard to write instructions out for her daily cuts.” Jessica was happy and finally felt that she had found her place.

Two years after Jessica was hired, a co-worker purchased the salon from Brenda. This change was unfortunate because it wasn’t long after the purchase that the new owner stopped showing up to work, started missing appointments and barely communicated with the staff. Jessica took responsibility for the everyday running of the business. Along with grooming several dogs per day, Jessica began making the appointments, keeping up the shop, ordering supplies, and cleaning. While the situation started off as an incredibly stressful one for her, it was during this time that Jessica began to really shine. She always had a sense of responsibility and a great work ethic, but this situation forced her to break out of her shell in order to save the business.

In May of 2015, Jessica’s parents became official owners of Just Paws. “Jess has proven herself as responsible and committed, and we wanted to provide an opportunity for our daughter to continue to thrive.” Jessica and her parents recently hired a second groomer to help Jess out at the salon. “If her teachers saw her today, they wouldn’t believe it was her,” says Janet. “She has come so far!” Many times it’s about finding the right business or person to give you the opportunity you need to show your skill, passion and commitment. Just Paws gave her the opportunity to do what she had been dreaming of since the beginning of high school. “When she was given this chance to fulfill her grooming dream,” said Joel, “Jessica’s confidence grew in all facets of her life.

This article by Kelly Ann Merchant was first published in the June 2015 issue of One Step Ahead (page 5), the monthly newsletter of Kaposia Inc., a customized employment program based in Little Canada, MN.

By: Kelly Ann Merchant

 
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