Tucked away in a tranquil residential estate off Dairy Farm Road is a pet grooming salon called Ruff Cuts. It may seem like an unlikely location to start a business, but this is where owner Christine Seah feels right at home.
“This is a dog-friendly community, and even the security guards bring their dogs here to be groomed,” the pet groomer says of the estate, where she’s been based since mid-2020.
Christine has been in the pet grooming industry for around five years, but this was not where she started her career. In fact, she had spent over a decade in the food and beverage (F&B) industry before making
the switch to pet grooming.
Starting her F&B journey at the tender age of 15, Christine worked
as a cafe barista up until her polytechnic days. She then went on to attend culinary school to sharpen her skills while juggling part-time work as a chef.
It was a six-month stint
at local cocktail bar that gave her a leg up in the industry. “They made me an offer to open a café, which I ran for about three years.” Christine also had her “claim to fame” during that time: creating a unique shimmery,
light blue beverage that went viral in 2017.
Things seemed to be going swimmingly for the young business owner, but it was then that she began to rethink her career trajectory. “For
anyone in F&B, their aspiration would be to run their own place, make their own mark, have a signature creation – and that’s precisely what I did. After being in the industry for 11 years, I felt that I had achieved every milestone
I had set out to,” she recalls. “So, at that point, I asked myself: where do I go from here?”
As a hands-on person, Christine realised that her next steps would lead her towards the corporate side of the business, which she was not keen to pursue. It was then she decided that “it was time to close the chapter and start a new one”.
(Photo by Type A)
For someone who dedicated a third of her life to the culinary arts, joining the pet industry would seem impossible. However, Christine saw it differently. “It felt quite natural at that time, because this industry was so new to me, and I was open
to trying anything new as well.”
Aside from her affinity for dogs, she also has a personal reason for making the career switch. “My late father used to work as a
dog trainer. In some ways, I felt that I could learn something more about him by being in that same industry as well.”
Exploring new paw-tential
Christine had initially set her sights on being a dog trainer like her father, but being new to the pet industry meant that she also wanted to “learn about every single aspect” of it. She did part-time
and freelance work for two years, trying out different fields, ranging from dog walking to dog daycare.
While working as a trainer’s apprentice, it was pet grooming that
eventually “presented itself as an opportunity”.
“I realised that it’s easy to find a dog trainer who can work with aggressive dogs, but it is near impossible
to find a groomer who is willing to work with these dogs, and manage them well too. Since I already had background knowledge in dog training, I thought pet grooming would be a pretty cool niche. So, I ended up joining a grooming school to explore
this further, and it has worked out really well.”
Despite coming from a completely different industry, Christine acknowledges that certain skills developed during her F&B
stint – such as multitasking and responding quickly in situations – have translated well into her current profession. “Meal service can be extremely fast paced, so it’s about staying calm, knowing how to organise things mentally,
and getting everything done at once. So that has helped a lot, especially when we are juggling multiple dogs with different needs.”
Finding personal fulfilment
Christine’s pet grooming salon is not your average outfit; in their words, there are “no dogs too ruff, gruff, or tuff” for them.
Here, Christine and her dedicated team of groomers focus on special canine needs, such as dogs with physical impairments or behavioural issues. “Every dog needs to be handled in their own unique way,” she says. “There are many
dogs that get rejected by other grooming salons for various reasons, which cause their owners to be at their wits’ end.”
(Photo by Type A)
To that end, she hopes that the dogs she works with can eventually ‘graduate’ and be able to visit other groomers. “My goal is to lead the pet industry by example and show that it is possible to work with these ‘challenging’
For Christine, being in the pet industry is “a million times more rewarding” than the F&B industry. She adds that while grooming may seem trivial, the
most fulfilling part about her job is helping people foster better relationships with their dogs. “To me, this is why I do it.”
Pursuing a different path
Christine has two pieces of advice for those considering a career switch.
“First, do your homework, be objective and really consider if it
makes sense to change careers and how it may impact your life. Skills and knowledge may be transferable, but you would need to think about whether you'd be able to support yourself, or if it is worth your time. Be prudent about it, and do not just
jump in purely based on blind passion.”
(Photo by Type A)
“It’s also important to be humble because you are going to be starting from scratch if you change industries. If you have to start as a part timer to really see how everything is done from the ground level up, I would strongly advise doing
– Christine Seah, 31, owner of Ruff Cuts