Free advising helps spa owners polish their business acumen
By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC
LYNNWOOD, Wash. – As a manicurist working out of her home, Trieva Katsandres walked her clients to the car so she could fasten their seat belts, thus protecting their still-fragile nail polish.
“It didn’t cost me anything but it made a big difference,” she said.
For more than 20 years, that attention to detail, plus one thing and another, made it difficult for her to expand beyond being a sole proprietor. But when the recession hit in 2007, she and her husband lost their home, which meant she lost her workspace.
It was a disaster she now regards as one of the best things that could have happened.
New partner, more space
Katsandres was forced to lease a workspace/treatment room, which led to a partnership with client Maysaa Abouhamze, a recent college graduate with a degree in social work with an emphasis on managing nonprofits.
“One day she said, ‘I would love to work in a place like this,’ and I said, ‘I would love to have a day off,’” Katsandres said.
In time they realized they had complementary professional skills and seemed to click personally: “Our tolerance for inconsistency and bad service is very low,” Katsandres said.
In 2012, with more clients than they could handle, they decided to expand from a single treatment room in an office building to a full spa in Lynnwood. In 2013, Abouhamze bought into the business and over the next two years the partners built sales to nearly $1 million. Trieva’s Spa and Boutique was voted Best in Western Washington by Seattle A-List.
Katsandres self-financed the Lynnwood spa, but in 2014 when they decided to expand again they needed capital. That’s when they began meeting with Peter Quist, a business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Everett, Wash.
SBDC better than expensive consultation
The Washington SBDC (http://wsbdc.org/) is a network of more than two dozen business advisors working in communities across the state to help business owners start, grow or transition a business. The Washington SBDC is hosted by Washington State University and receives funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBDC advising is confidential, one-on-one and is provided at no cost to the client.
“I didn’t think the advising was going to be as professional as it was,” Abouhamze said. “It was actually more valuable than people we have paid thousands and thousands of dollars to” for business consulting services.
Quist helped them through the pros and cons of buying an existing business or building their own. He also helped them strengthen their business plan and do the financial projections that were critical to a strong loan application. Two months later they had a $150,000 SBA loan and were able to move forward on opening a second spa near Northgate Mall.
Ongoing relationships as businesses grow
In 2015, the partners began meeting with Jennifer Shelton, who joined the SBDC in Everett when Quist retired. She has helped them work on cash flow, employee management, business valuation and growth strategies.
When she and Abouhamze bring Shelton their ideas for how to grow the business, Katsandres said, Shelton is “like a kid in a candy shop.” The SBDC is a cheerleader for taking the next step, she said, but also provides an experienced, objective sounding board with no agenda besides client success.
“At the SBDC, we have ongoing relationships with clients where they often come back a year later, two years later – whenever they are ready to take the next step,” Shelton said.
SBDC advisors must go through a certification process to ensure they can be effective advisors for a broad range of business issues, whether a client is a first-time owner or a seasoned entrepreneur. Beyond that, Shelton said, clients have access to the diverse experiences and expertise of more than two dozen SBDC advisors across the state, as well as their access to other resources.
“We don’t do the work for our clients, but we provide them with information and resources so they can move forward,” she said.
News media contacts:
Trieva Katsandres, Trieva’s Spa and Boutique, firstname.lastname@example.org
Maysaa Abouhamze, Trieva’s Spa and Boutique, email@example.com
Jennifer Shelton, Washington SBDC in Everett, Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org