Lipstick Jungle part of Women’s Entrepreneurship InitiativePublished 5:03pm Sunday, May 9, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
When it comes to being a small business owner, looking for insight, advice or a fresh take on day to day operations is often welcome by a culture of owners who wear many hats, shoulder many responsibilities and who, despite tough economic conditions, have a personal stake in seeing their business succeed.
A new program, funded by a specialized grant at St. Mary’s College in South Bend Ind., is providing a new avenue for women who are also small business owners to get just that: advice and a few new ideas to keep their businesses viable.
One business owner currently working on cultivating those benefits of the program is Susan Sakara and Lipstick Jungle Spa located on Main Street in Niles.
“I was part of a group of women business owners,” who “fit the bill” of what business students at St. Mary’s College were looking for, Sakara said.
What they were looking for were businesses run by women for their Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative program.
The program was made possible by a 2009 grant by the Small Business Administration.
Fourth year business students at the college “serve as consultants to a handful of local women-owned businesses” as described in the program’s outline which also states the hope of turning the course into one regularly available during spring semester.
“I thought it would be a great experience in getting that generation’s point of view as far as how to market to clients (and) where to market to clients,” Sakara said.
The generation she’s talking about is the 20-30 year old demographic, like Rosemary Ansel the lead student consultant on this project.
“We went through the process of asking questions, really get to know her business well,” Ansel said. The students tried to “pinpoint some problems that we saw,” and develop solutions to be implemented in the store to “make the store more successful.”
“Some of them she was able to make right away,” Ansel said of the new ideas proposed to Sakara. “She’s begun implementing them now and hopefully she’ll see a return on those next year.”
After 15 years in the medial and resort spa industry Sakara opened Lipstick Jungle Spa with a mission, she told the Star in 2008, “to bring the opportunity and experience of a real spa and real treatments to the area at a cost that people can afford.”
She went on to create a business of multiple employees and an extensive offering of spa services and expanded her treatment rooms to suit her clients.
“I would say our success is based on the fact that we care about our clients,” Sakara said at the time. “And we only do what we feel is best.”
Small business owners can have so many things to do, Ansel said, involved in so many particulars of the day to day operations that some things can be overlooked or just put off until the owner has time to focus on them.
“Our biggest push was to focus on our client,” she said. “To see her business in different segments. She had a very good handle on her business itself.”
Sakara said she’s already installed a new software program and pushed for all of her employees to be licensed in all areas so each can perform any of her spa’s services based on the suggestions her student consultants proposed.
“It probably gave me a chance to reflect on my business,” she said. “They brought up several points such as certain record keeping and client tracking…”
The suggestions come as Lipstick Jungle celebrates staying strong in tough times.
“We actually expanded,” Sakara said. “I think what we’ve done is expand our hours, we’ve kept our prices low and we’ve tried to keep our customer service high. We had our best year ever in 2009.”
For more information about Lipstick Jungle Spa, visit www.lipstickjunglespa.com.