When Carla Reid signed up for Grace Hill Women’s Business Centers’ Business Development Class she really had no intention of opening a business—ever. With her background and passion in social services, her goal was to open a non-profit entity to offer men in the community employment training and computer skills classes to help them find work. Maybe in the distant future she could build a reputation and get client referrals from area agencies. But after a friend mentioned the business development class, she was curious and signed up.
Thanks to the class, and help from the SBA Microloan program, she’s turned her dream to help her clients into a for-profit business.
Carla’s space in south St. Louis features hardwood floors and trendy exposed brick walls, soft jazz music and sports on the TV. Make no mistake, it’s a place where a guy can be a guy, while getting sweetly pampered. Elevated Men’s Salon’s offers haircuts, shaves, manicures, pedicures, facials and more. Conversation flows freely, not just about the Rams or the Cardinals; they come for a chance to learn about local organizations that need their help. They leave their chair not just looking sharp, but with a pamphlet in their palm and a promise to do their part in the community.
The idea to tie together social entrepreneurship and for-profit business was planted by Arthur Porter, a former Facilitator with Grace Hill, who taught Carla’s class. With funds tight for area non-profits, he suggested she try to find a way to work with the same clientele in a for-profit business.
“A light bulb lit up,” Carla said. She got excellent advice from her classmates, who served as both support group and sounding board as she moved forward.
Carla also got help from Eddie Davis, her Business Development Counselor at Grace Hill. Eddie assisted Carla in writing her business plan and helped Carla get a $9,000 SBA microloan, thanks to Justine Peterson, an organization which gives people opportunities to create new futures for themselves and their families by helping them become and stay homeowners, start and run successful businesses, access education, begin and manage personal savings programs. She’s also poured money into her business from her regular job as a Disaster Case Manager with a local charitable organization.
She opened the doors to Elevated Men’s Salon May 12, 2012, and hopes to turn her first profit in March 2013.
She’s not a barber and sometimes doesn’t speak the same language as her four independent contractors, but she’s got three barbers for that. She’s also picked up a stylist/manager who styles hair for women in an area of the shop with a separate entrance for them as the women don’t want the men to see them when they’re not at their best.
Carla takes care of shop business in the evenings and on Saturday—doing the books, keeping up the website, working with social media, chatting with clients, sweeping, holding a set of clippers, whatever needs doing.
“Despite all the challenges, I feel the business is already a success,” Carla said. “I’m impacting the community in a positive way by getting men more engaged.”
Having grown up with a loving father in her life, and now a single mother whose child has an uninvolved male parent, Carla understands how crucial male role models are. She requires her employees to participate in at least two charity events per year. They’ve participated in Community Cuts for Kids with other stylists and barbers and continue to work with Big Brother/Big Sisters and stay involved with the Vashon-Jeff-Vander-Lou Initiative which facilitates development and improvement in the quality of life for neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis, MO. Carla works with her alderwoman on local projects to improve their neighborhood.
She’s also inspiring her employees to look beyond her salon; one barber is in business school, two of them aspire to have salons of their own, and another wants to open a tattoo parlor. Carla has pushed herself, too--she is working to overcome her fear of public speaking and has spoken on a panel on women’s business ownership and plans to take the Public Speaking Workshop at Grace Hill.
Carla hopes eventually to move to a larger space that would allow for a masseuse and to open other locations. She wants the experience to be something men look forward to and enjoy (and feel they deserve) just as women enjoy a “spa day”. But if none of that happens and even if she closed the shop tomorrow, “I would consider my business a success because I have found a way to inspire and empower men,” she said. Some clients make a point of coming into the shop just to talk to her and thank her for the experience.
She’s getting referrals, too. Women are referring their significant others and family members and sending their men in for a little pampering. As a result, she’s made her community a better place than she found it.
“I would never be here without Grace Hill, SBA, and Justine Petersen,” she said. “Live your dream.”
Elevated Men’s Salon, LLC, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They are located at 2758 Lafayette Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 63104. They can be reached at 314-664-6746, email@example.com, or on their website at http://www.elevatedman.net/contact.html.
Grace Hill Women’s Business Center is located at 2125 Bissell, St. Louis, Missouri, 63107. They can be reached at 314-584-6840. If you’re interested in the next Business Development Class, contact Falencia Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website address is http://www.gracehill.org/content/GraceHillWomensBusinessCenter.php. If you’re interested in an SBA microloan through Justine Petersen or any of their other services, their website is http://www.justinepetersen.org/ or you may call 314-533-2411.
SBA’s St. Louis District Office can be reached at 314-539-6600 or at http://www.sba.gov/mo/stlouis.