Melissa Verplank – Certified Master Stylist
Over 30 years experience in the professional pet grooming industry
Melissa Verplank is a Certified Master Stylist and long time business owner. Currently she operates three pet related companies, a luxury boarding facility called Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa and two companies that are involved with educating the professional pet groomer and stylist; The Paragon School, Inc. and White Dog Enterprises, Inc. With years of real life experience, she brings a wealth of practical everyday experience to the forefront for aspiring and existing professional pet stylists.
Melissa Verplank began her career with pets in 1977 as a kennel assistant. By 1979, she was bathing and grooming pets in a large boarding kennel environment. In 1983, Melissa moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan and established Four Paws Mobile Grooming with one mobile grooming unit. Within four years that business has swelled to a fleet of six mobile units plus a salon based operation in Grandville, which later went on to be The Paragon School in 1992. In 1985, Melissa stepped into the professional pet styling arena and became a Certified Master Stylist under IPG voluntary testing organizations. By 1990, she had won or placed in national grooming competitions, she ranked as one of the six top stylists in the United States. 1991 she earned the right to be a member of GroomTeam USA through her award winning grooming to representing the United States in world team competition in France where the Untied States secured the silver medal in team competition.
After her success in the contest area, Melissa went on to become a respected judge and speaker at industry functions. From 1997 – 1998 she was the Coordinator for GroomTeam USA and sat on the GroomTeam Board of Directors from 2004-2006. In 1999 she assisted with the formation of the International Judges Association. She is a two time Cardinal Crystal Award winner; in 1997 with the ‘Congeniality Award’ and in 2004 as ‘Journalist of the Year’ for her technical training book, ‘Notes From the Grooming Table.’ This book was also a nominee in 2004 by the Dog Writers Association of America in the category of general reference books. Most recent;y, Melissa has earned the 2016 Barkleigh Honors Awards for the Second Edition of ‘Notes From the Grooming Table’ and the Learn2GroomDogs.com website (which has won three years in a row).
Melissa is focused on curriculum development, long term planning for the school and creating new education material for White Dog Enterprises. Based on Melissa’s progressive attitude within the pet styling industry, The Paragon School has become one of the largest and most respected training centers for professional pet styling in the United States. White Dog Enterprises is rapidly being recognized at the company to watch for up-to-date educational material geared towards the professional pet stylist.
Melissa’s driving force lies in the roots passed down through generations of highly successful local business leaders within her family and an inherent love of animals. These factors along with a two year stint at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, was where she learned to apply the principles of Outward Bound, of which the entire curriculum was based upon. Today, Melissa relies on these key factors as she helps motivate others on their road of personal success.
When Melissa is not working within the realms of Paragon, she and her husband, Marc LaFleur (also a Certified Master Groomer with IPG) have created Black Falcon Farms, where they raise Friesian horses. Their four legged family includes three Maremma Sheepdogs, five cats, seven horses, plus an array of chickens.