Women In Business Entrepreneurs – Taking The Risks In Hopes Of Reaping The Rewards

By George Economides - Publisher

May 8, 2012 - The local economy is not that much different than the national outlook: with so many mixed signals, it’s still a week-to-week, month-to-month guessing game if we’re moving in the right direction or stagnant, waiting for that big bounce to occur. It is especially stressful for small business owners, who often do not have the cash flow to withstand economic roller-coaster rides.

Over the years, many people agree that women small business owners have had to work a little harder than their male counterparts to be accepted and successful, especially during these economic times where access to capital is tough, adding customers remains a challenge and juggling family responsibilities is difficult. Still, there are numerous success stories, including right here in Long Beach, where it seems that not only are more and more women taking that step into entrepreneurship, but they’re meeting the challenges head on.


In the second of a four-part 2012 series of interviews with women small business owners, the Long Beach Business Journal again posed the question, “What is your biggest challenge moving your business forward?” Fifteen women are profiled, some in business less than a year; others for a decade or longer. No matter how difficult the challenges, they seem unanimous in that they made the right decision to be entrepreneurs. They recognize the risks in order to reap the rewards.

The following local women shared their stories with Business Journal Staff Writer Tiffany Rider. The interviews are presented in alphabetical order by name of business. The third in the series of women small business owner profiles will appear in the July 17 issue of the Business Journal.

View All Fifteen Profiles:

 

Cindy Loeffler
Alamitos Bay Yarn Company

Selling yarn is just the beginning of the programs and services offered at Alamitos Bay Yarn Company, according to owner Cindy Loeffler. A former marketing director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Loeffler decided she needed a change of pace. As a knitter since the age of eight, she became frustrated with the high turnover rate of local knit shops. In September 2000, with the help of silent partners Elizabeth Hancock, Fran Conley and Judy Edson, and working partnter Judy Kilpatrick, Loeffler opened her shop at a time when knitting and needlepoint were resurging in popularity.

 

 

Knit shops are destination locations, so the fact that the shop is in Alamitos Bay Landing – in the southeast corner of the city – hasn’t impacted her regular client base. “Knitters find knit shops,” she said. Loeffler describes the yarn company as a very intense customer service related business. “Selling yarn is just the beginning, but helping them through projects is a great part of it,” she said. Classes and special workshops with teachers visiting from around the world enhance the store’s service oriented approach.

When the recession hit, the yarn company experienced slower growth rather than a slowdown because, “people might give up buying a new car or going on a trip, but they’re not going to give up their hobby,” she said. What is the greatest challenge to growing her business? As with many retail operations, it is competition from online stores that sell yarn. “The biggest challenge is educating the new knitter, or all these young new knitters, that if they want to have the bricks and mortar stores here to help them; to come in and feel and touch the yarn and see the colors, [they need to buy from us],” she said. The business does have a Web site, www.yarncompany.com, but does not sell products online.

“All of these young knitters are so excited about the yarn, but because they are so programmed now to do as much as they can online” they tend to buy online, she continued. “[With a] bricks and mortar store, we have the overhead compared to people who can just have a warehouse full of yarn and sell online. At the same time, all our local customers appreciate what we offer here. We keep them because they know if they don’t buy the yarn here and support us, then we’re not going to be here to help them.”

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Stephanie Blakeslee
Art Du Vin

A 10-year veteran in the food and beverage industry, Art Du Vin owner Stephanie Blakeslee opened her wine bar in September 2009 – near the bottom of the Great Recession. “I never really experienced the downswing of the recession because I opened right at rock bottom, and my theory is that if I can handle it during the recession, then I will respect the really hard times and will not take for granted the [good] times in the future,” Blakeslee said. “. . . there were so many wine bars that went under during the recession, but I think building a really local, tight knit clientele and having reasonable prices has kept me in the game.”

 

 

Art Du Vin is connected to the iconic Art Theatre of Long Beach on Retro Row. A self-proclaimed wine connoisseur, Blakeslee began working “in wine” in her home state of Minnesota. When she came to California, she soon found a job as a supervisor at the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel. Since then, Blakeslee has managed several restaurants. “I learned everything I know about wine through experience, other people and education programs provided by the different restaurants and hotels,” she said.

All of the wines offered at Art Du Vin are hand selected, and the list is ever changing. Blakeslee crafts artisan meat and cheese plates as well, with locally purchased products from Belmont Shore businesses Venissimo Cheese and Angelo’s Italian Deli.

While theatre guests occasionally pop into the hole-in-the-wall wine bar, Blakeslee said the majority of her customers are local residents. “I’m really limited by space, and I really want to keep this wine bar forever because it is my heart; I don’t ever want to move it,” Blakeslee said. Expanding her business requires finding the right location, saving the money and making time to manage another wine bar.

She refuses to work with partners because she has seen many partnerships fail in the restaurant and bar industry. “I have nights where there are 15 to 20 people at the bar, and it’s packed,” Blakeslee said. “I would like to have the space to accommodate more people, but I’m just trying to get to that point where I have enough capital to set up another business. It seems impossible sometimes, but I’ll get there.”

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Debbie Rosetti-Colacion
Blackbird Café

Debbie Rosetti-Colacion has always wanted to own her own restaurant. On July 7, 2011, her dream came true with the opening of Blackbird Café.

 

 

Rosetti-Colacion was formerly involved in a restaurant partnership in Huntington Beach, which was officially dissolved April 20, 2011. When she discovered the California Heights location in Long Beach, she knew right away that it was the perfect place for her restaurant. “I love Long Beach. When I came across this location and this space, I just jumped on it,” she said. “It was a great opportunity, and I was thrilled to finally be able to do what I wanted to do how I wanted to do it.”

Blackbird Café offers breakfast items and Mexican food dishes for lunch. Everything is made from scratch, Rosetti-Colacion said, and each menu item is high in flavor with no preservatives. “Everybody can eat here,” she said. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available.

Since opening, Rosetti-Colacion said she has been trying to take things one day at a time. She is currently working to get permits for patio seating, and is looking to add beer and wine to the menu. “I’d like to open for dinner in a year or a year and a half from now,” she said. It’s too soon, she said, to start looking for a second location. She also keeps up with food trends, and has incorporated meat analog products like soy chorizo into some of the breakfast items. “People are enthusiastic about it,” she said.

Along with the challenges that come with being a new business, Rosetti-Colacion has observed how tight the credit market has become. “I’m noticing getting credit as a challenge for the business,” she said. “You can’t get the perks that businesses that have been here for a while have.”

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Laura Claveran
Claveran Law Firm

For more than 20 years, Laura Claveran has been serving the Long Beach community by using the law to carry out justice.

 

 

Her business, Claveran Law Firm, was formerly on 7th Street. After a three-year hiatus from 2003 to 2006, Claveran returned to work and in 2008 reopened at her current location. The focus of Claveran’s practice is estate planning, including wills, trusts, asset protection planning and business formation. She also works cases for personal and business bankruptcy, as well as immigration.

Claveran said she became an attorney because she enjoys helping people and likes the challenge of keeping up with new legislation and regulations. “It’s like playing chess,” she said. “You always have to figure out how to make the moves, and what the best moves are for your clients.”

Running her own practice provides Claveran the freedom to make decisions quickly. While she is on her own, Claveran has always been a part of various councils, organizations and the local bar associations to maintain relationships with lawyers. Those relationships are a network of resources, she said. “You’re never really by yourself [that way],” she said. “You always have access to other legal minds and legal opinions. I enjoy that.”

The bankruptcy side of her practice has kept Claveran very busy. “We’re bombarded,” she said. “I take a great deal of pleasure in helping clients save their homes and giving them an opportunity to have a fresh start, as the bankruptcy laws were intended to do.”

The biggest challenge facing her business and her clients is the current state of the economy. “We live in an environment of uncertainty,” she said. “It’s difficult to make clients realize that there is an urgency for them to plan. The estate tax laws are going to change come December 31, 2012. We’re going to have a whole new set of taxes and regulations. There’s going to be an increase in estate taxes from 35 percent to as much as 45 or 50 percent. There are a lot of strategies clients can use to cut back on their taxations.”

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Renee Kim
Cookies By Design

With clients ranging form ARCO to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to the Playboy Mansion, Cookies By Design franchisee Renee Kim and her staff create unique sweets for any occasion.

 

 

“It’s fun and rewarding to work with the customer to figure out what they want, what colors they want to incorporate and to show them a cookie,” Kim said. Cookies by Design has been in business since 1998; Kim bought the franchise business in 2005. As the owner, Kim wears many hats: bookkeeper, baker, janitor, delivery driver and office manager.

The business delivers cookie gifts, such as cookie bouquets, all over the Southland for various events, holidays, corporate gatherings and weddings. The company also makes custom individual orders for birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers and more. Orders can be made online at cookiesbydesign.com, or clients can come into the bakery and work directly with the bakers on custom designs.

Kim considers the Cookies by Design products luxury gift items, being hand made from scratch and customized to order. “They are laborious to make. We do everything by hand. . . . It’s still difficult for many customers to get around the prices,” she said. In addition, because her business is a franchise, it is sometimes difficult for Kim to maneuver around corporate interests.

“Being in the gifting business where we do deliveries, I can have commercials and I can have advertisements and I can market here and there, but what ends up happening is that a customer I touch in Long Beach might order something that goes to New York City or Miami or Dallas,” Kim said. “I think that’s part of what is challenging – being in the network that I belong to in terms of being a franchise as opposed to if I had a [independent] clothing shop or a bakery.”

Another challenge for Kim’s business is that, in general, customers are demanding faster, more immediate service. “When we make a very laborious product where we have to bake, then decorate, then assemble and finally coordinate delivery, it’s harder to make it happen,” Kim said. “Still, our goal is always to say yes.”

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Deborah Golian Castro
Creative Productions

In following the mantra, “Creativity with Purpose,” self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur Deborah Golian Castro has evolved her marketing and media business as technology drives the future of communication.

 

 

Castro’s entrepreneurial career began when she purchased a business franchise named Success Motivation Institute as a full-time, 19-year-old college student. In the 1990s, Castro founded her agency, Creative Productions, as a sole proprietorship. The company expanded in 2001 and has since grown to a multi-million dollar business. Under her leadership and passion for innovative marketing, Creative Productions has won more than 150 awards for video, Web development, e-mail, advertising and other marketing strategies, with unmatched returns on investment in each award category.

The company offers media and communications services to a variety of clients, including Toyota Motor Sales, Metrolink, Southern California Gas Company, American Honda and others. A full list of clients and services is online at www.creativeproductions.com.

Technology is an integral part of the business and allows the marketing and promotions firm to increase clients’ customer engagement and retention. According to Castro, technology simplifies the task because media platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow for the opportunity to measure such engagement.

Creative Productions was primarily focused on clients in the automotive industry, until the impacts of the economic downturn hit the sector in 2008. Rather than focus on losses, Castro focused on the core of her business and took a progressive approach by entering into new markets – healthcare, transportation and energy – and adding services.

“As Jim Collins [business author and teacher] says, preserve your core essence, your core ideology and your core business in terms of philosophy and vision, while at the same time, stimulate progress,” Castro said. “That means you have to continue to innovate. You have to continue to be out there in the marketplace looking for the next big thing or the trends coming. That is a challenge, being in our business, because we have to be two or three steps ahead of what is coming.”

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Regina Walter
Grounds Bakery Café

Regina Walter has always enjoyed being in and around kitchens. The kitchen at her local business, Grounds Bakery & Café, has been serving up fresh baked goods and deli options to her customers for the past 19 years. Since its opening in 1993, Grounds has operated from its Spring Street location. The café and bakery offers breakfast pastries and lunch items, such as sandwiches, salads and soups.

 

 

In owning a small business, Walter said she faces several challenges. “Because we are a small, family owned company, particularly for me because I am from Brazil, people don’t respect me,” she said. “Even with the volume that we have with one store, some people look at you and say, you are not Panera Bread or Albertsons that has 1,000 stores. Whatever we have, we will give to you.”

Walters said opening up another store is not possible for her because, “there is no way to have another Regina to run the other one.” Now, when customers ask her about opening another shop, she suggests they talk to her about opening a franchise. “I can tell you right now, it’s a lot of work because we basically have a 24-hour operation,” she said. “We make all of the dough here during the day and we bake everything during the night.”

Grounds also caters for local companies, with the City of Long Beach being one of its most loyal clients. “The City of Long Beach is a really good customer. Almost all of the departments have accounts here,”

Walter said. “We have a really good relationship with them. We always try, even in the last minute, to fulfill the order and have whatever they need for their meetings.” For more information about Grounds, visit www.groundscafe.com.

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Annie Clavel
Les Jolis Trésors

French artist Annie Clavel brings together her art and that of other local artists to her gallery and workshop, Les Jolis Trésors, to celebrate the diversity of life in Long Beach.

 

 

Les Jolis Trésors, which translates to “beautiful treasures,” hosted its grand opening in December 2009. The gallery displays contemporary art, including paintings, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics and more. Clavel, a former mathematics teacher, has traveled to and lived in several countries with her husband Gilles. The two fell in love with Long Beach and its diversity. “We like to live in different countries so we can know different people and different cultures,” Clavel said. “Long Beach is the best thing for different culture. That’s why we applied for a visa for a gallery, because I am a painter and I love art.”

Clavel said she would like to expand her business and sell more of her art. “I love, also, to sell the other artists’ – most of them are my friends,” she said. “I am looking also to do shows other places than my gallery so people know us better, not only in Long Beach.” The challenge to that is keeping up with the day-to-day business marketing, coupled with the minimal foot traffic she sees at her location on Broadway.

“The challenge is to arrive at the place where we break even, because now we are not. We are losing money,” Clavel said. “It’s very difficult now to sell art. But I do art lessons in the gallery too. We try to find different things so we can increase our sales. We do all the marketing. It’s very hard for us. It is a challenge, but we love it.”

Les Jolis Trésors has tried selling art online through its Web site, www.agtresors.com, but stopped due to time constraints. “It is difficult to do everything ourselves,” Clavel said. She hopes to sell items online again soon.

Even so, Clavel said she and her husband love living in Long Beach and being on Broadway. “At least we have Café Piccolo next door, which is good for us. And it is good for them too, because our visitors go there, too.”

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Karen Hewus
Look Graphics

Fortune told Karen Hewus that she had an opportunity to bring a new twist to the graphics industry in Long Beach.

 

 

Hewus was eating at Chen’s Restaurant in Long Beach one day and opened her after-meal fortune cookie. The fortune inside confirmed her instinct to move on from working for other graphics and printing companies and open her own business.

“I really wanted to be able to provide my community with a really good service and product which seemed difficult to do working at other places that didn’t have the same values or experiences or talent in terms of the design,” Hewus said. “I just wanted to bring something to the Long Beach community that wasn’t quite there.”

Hewus opened Look Graphics in early 2006. The graphics company offers vehicle graphics, such as car wraps, as well as vinyl graphics, full color logos and magnetic signs. “Since I opened, the first couple of years were pretty good for the business,” Hewus said. “I was really positive and I got a lot of new clients.” A full list of services is online at www.lookgraphics.net.

Her biggest challenge to growing Look Graphics is keeping business flowing through the difficult economy, since most of her clients are other small businesses that are hurting. “There are really a lot of things that get rolled into challenges,” she said. “Even when business is slow, you still have expenses. . . . Even when I’ve attempted to do some advertising or marketing, the fact of the matter is it’s been tough to get people to spend money. [But] I see the economy turning around.”

To keep business flowing, Hewus is planning to enter a new market with Look Graphics – electronically lit signage that is applied to a vehicle. “Vehicle graphics is pretty huge with us,” she said. “We are attempting to provide a really great service for our local community and operate on a really local level. We have a pretty large client base, which includes a lot of companies in the port and all of the business districts in Long Beach.”

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Shelley Anders
Primal Flower

A non-traditional flower shop opened a year ago in Long Beach’s East Village Arts District, offering a supply of eco-friendly blossoms.

 

 

Shelley Anders, a transplant from Texas, opened Primal Flower in Long Beach’s East Village Arts District on July 8, 2011. Anders brings a “warm, feminine, southern touch” to her designs, with 25 years of experience in the floral industry as a professional floral designer.

When she moved to Long Beach, Anders realized the city could use a higher end, eco-friendly boutique florist. Primal Flower fills that niche, offering California native grown flowers in recycled, repurposed containers with artistic flair, she said. The niche flower shop is not traditional in that it has no large cooler and carries no imported perennials. Primal Flower specializes in what Anders calls “vintage romantic garden style arrangements.”

Jeremy West, Anders’ partner and co-owner of Primal Flower, produces steel galvanized flowers and unique hanging floral containers for indoor and outdoor use. His art, along with art from other local producers, is consigned at Primal Flower. Such items include artisan jewelry, hand knits and finger crocheted items, “so long as they work with the aesthetic of the store,” Anders said.

The biggest challenge for Primal Flower is to stay true to its original mission of being an all-organic flower shop, with all plants being organic and sustainably grown. Because demand is still building for organic flowers, growers are still producing flowers using pesticides and synthetic plant fertilizers like Miracle Grow. “If there’s no demand, growers won’t grow,” she said.

Anders said her business offers daily deliveries and can cater to weddings, events and parties – the biggest part of her business. Because Anders does not want to purchase imported glass, Primal Flower takes donations of old vases or jars to use as vintage flower containers. Primal Flower will offer store credit as part of its vase exchange program. For more information, visit http://primalflower.com.

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Susie Edwards
Pudgy Beads

Pudgy Beads, which has one of the largest collections of vintage beads in the United States, is based right here in Long Beach. Open since 2004, the company offers beads that date between 1940 and 1960, as well as semi-precious beads, freshwater pearls, gold and sterling silver bindings – basically anything necessary to put together a beautiful necklace. Owner Susie Edwards is a jewelry designer whose products have been carried at name brand stores like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks. Over the years, Edwards’ bead collection grew to a point where she decided to open a small storefront to sell excess inventory.

 

 

“The company started as a joke,” Edwards said. “We gave it a funny name, because we weren’t really serious, but it turned out to be a real business.” Pudgy Beads first opened at a location near 7th Street and Redondo Avenue. The business has been at its current location on Wardlow Road for nearly eight years. In addition to jewelry-making items, Pudgy Beads offers workshops and classes, including some advanced classes – from basic beading and pearl knotting to soldering jewelry and using metal clay heated in a kiln.

Prior to the recession, most of Pudgy Beads’ customers beaded for a hobby. Today, Edwards said only about 30 percent bead for a hobby; most are creating jewelry to sell as a way to earn extra income. “Our customer base kind of flipped a little bit,” she said.

Edwards said she was looking to expand in Long Beach to a smaller space in a higher traffic area before the recession hit. “Because of where we are, we are destination driven; people are coming specifically for us. We get no extra overflow,” she said. “We were thinking about doing a smaller location in a higher traffic area, but then the recession made us re-think if it was the right time.”

One of the obstacles for advancing the business is finding the right space. Rents are expensive in high-traffic areas, she said, but foot traffic is important for evolving the business beyond being a destination. The other challenge, she said, is competing against online bead retailers. While Pudgy Beads started out as an online business in 1998 at www.pudgybeads.com, the Web site is now used to show inventory rather than make sales. Edwards said the business is in the process of revamping the site.

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Barbara A. James, D.D.S.
Renaissance Dental Group

Practicing since 1988, Dr. Barbara James has made a tireless effort to diffuse the fears that people have about dentistry and encourage regular treatment to improve their health.

 

 

“A challenge I have had as a dentist in general is that you have to dispel the fear that people have about dentistry and try and convince them that their dental health is just as important as their overall physical health,” she said. “It really shouldn’t be separated; they are one in the same. That being said, a lot of what I have to do in dentistry involves convincing patients to come in, get that initial checkup and get their treatment done.”

James, who first practiced dentistry in North Long Beach, moved to Bixby Knolls in 2009 and opened Renaissance Dental Group on her own. Opening a business during the recession plays into the challenge of getting patients in, James said, “especially when their finances may not always allow them to do that.” To assist with that, James’ practice offers flexible ways to finance dental treatment. The practice accepts most major dental insurance, and can also accept Care Credit – a line of credit to take care of health-related bills.

According to James, the business has had to utilize more marketing tools, such as direct mail and public speaking, to help increase its visibility. “We are not as visible as we were in North Long Beach,” she said. “But the Bixby Knolls [Business Improvement] Association is good about keeping you informed about what’s going on in the area and allowing you to have your business on their Web site.”

In addition, the medical offices in and around the Bixby Knolls area provide an opportunity for James to network and receive referrals. “One of my goals is to try and have a practice with some specialists in the office so we won’t have to refer patients out,” Jones said. “At this point in time, though, I am the only doctor on staff.” The group also has three dental hygienists and three dental assistants. She is currently being trained in oral appliances for patients with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder marked by abnormal breathing.

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Jacqueline Jones
Renew Body & Skin Centré

Jacqueline Jones discovered massage as a form of relaxation to get through a difficult time in her life, and has used that discovery to create a business of health and wellness for Long Beach residents and tourists.

 

 

Jones’ background is engineering; she worked in aerospace for years as an engineer. When she was faced with divorce and the need to care for her then-two-year-old child, Jones said she knew she “had to do something different.” Already a licensed cosmetologist, Jones decided to go to massage school to study the method of healing that helped her through her divorce and to make a career change that would allow her to spend more time with her child.

After massage school, she got a job at ReNew Body & Skin Centré, a small spa at Shoreline Village in Downtown Long Beach. She was open with her new employers, telling them that she was not interested in working for them long-term and wanted to someday own her own business. Luckily, the owners were looking to retire, she said, and Jones was given the first opportunity to purchase the business.

Jones bought the spa in 2007 and offers a whole line of spa services, from massage to facials, hair removal and micro current – a trend in anti-aging and alternative to injections or surgery. Today, Jones said her biggest challenge is gaining access to capital.

“I think the financial part is probably the biggest obstacle,” she said. “When it comes to hiring people, you have to have them on for a while and you have to pay them. That can be a little expensive. It’s mostly the finances that hold [the business] back. I took over at a time when the economy was really bad. People tell me, ‘If you go through that you can survive anything now.’ [But] with the downturn in the economy, we’re waiting, on hold.”

Most of Jones’ clients are tourists. “If we had to rely on the locals, we might not be able to survive,” she said. To bring in more local clients, Jones offers discounts to students and to anyone over age 59. For more information, visit www.renewbodyandskin.com.

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Arlene Freeman
2nd Street Beauty

Arlene Freeman discovered a way to merge her passion for cosmetics and customer service when she and her family opened their first beauty store in 1994.

 

 

Freeman and her husband, Rick, had been working in the beauty industry for years as The Freeman Cosmetic Corporation, focusing on the manufacturing and branding of the Freeman beauty products. When the family moved to Long Beach in the early 1990s, she saw an opportunity to get into the retail beauty store business in Belmont Shore. By 1994, Freeman opened 2nd Street Beauty at 4910 E. 2nd St.

“We discovered a real passion for retail,” Freeman said. “We worked from opening to close, seven days a week, for the first five years, helping customers find solutions for hair and skin care needs. It is exciting and satisfying when customers stop by or call to tell us how happy they were with our suggestions, because we [then] know we made a difference.”

Since the first 2nd Street Beauty opened, the business has expanded to five locations – four in the Long Beach area with about 50 employees and 14 independent professional hair stylists. The fifth location is in the Woodbury Town Center in Irvine. “We are looking to expand this year in the Long Beach area with at least one new store and continue to bring in the newest and best beauty products available for our customers,” Freeman said.

Freeman’s enthusiasm for specialized skin care led her to pursue new concepts and products, spending most of her free time researching and working with manufacturers over those first several years. Her biggest challenge is advancing the product offerings by bringing on new product lines.

“Before we add any new items, we test them thoroughly. I, and some of our key team members, [act] as test ‘guinea pigs,’” she said. “It takes quite a long time before we bring in a new skin or cosmetic line, as we want to make sure that what we carry are the right products for our customers.”

Freeman said 2nd Street Beauty remains a family business, with Rick managing all purchasing for the business and their daughter, Nicole, handling all day-to-day store management and social media marketing. The trio attend about 15 trade shows a year, “to source new products and trends for us to bring to our stores,” she said.

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Kim Joms
Top Line Nails & Spa

Top Line Nails & Spa offers its guests a little tender loving care and pampering, according to owner Kim Joms.

 

 

Freeman and her husband, Rick, had been working in the beauty industry for years as The Freeman Cosmetic Corporation, focusing on the manufacturing and branding of the Freeman beauty products. When the family moved to Long Beach in the early 1990s, she saw an opportunity to get into the retail beauty store business in Belmont Shore. By 1994, Freeman opened 2nd Street Beauty at 4910 E. 2nd St.

Joms, who took over the business at Marina Pacifica mall two years ago, manages the salon and is a licensed cosmetologist. Joms earned her license in the 1990s after several years working as an inspector in the aerospace industry. “I realized I really like working with people, and that I would like to have my own business,” she said.

The small salon offers manicures, pedicures and facials, and recently added foot and shoulder massage services.

Before she came to Long Beach, Joms owned a hair and nail salon in Hawthorne for 10 years. “This business has been here for a long time and has been through many different owners. I like the location and I like the Long Beach area, so I thought I would try to see how things go,” Joms said. “It hasn’t been great, but we have tried many different things . . . We try to do a lot more to promote different nail polish colors. Also, I try to offer wedding specials.”

While she has tried different ways to promote the business, Joms thinks a big part of Top Line’s struggle is the state of the economy and a lack of discretionary spending for the services she offers. In addition, the contract Top Line has with the shopping center does not allow the business to have a sign outside, according to Joms. “When people drive by, they don’t know we’re here,” she said. “They said they will try to get more signs, but they have to go through the city.”

She added that, “In this kind of business, you have people who come and go. You constantly have to have new clients to survive. We’re just tucked away here, so it’s kind of hard. That’s why we’ve tried to do a number of things. This kind of business relies on word-of-mouth.”

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