When Lindsey Jennings graduated from cosmetology school at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota, she fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a cosmetologist. Jennings started her career in the salon of the local J.C. Penney department store. She worked there for five years before learning the store was closing. Although she was an experienced cosmetologist, she faced the prospect of unemployment.
Nearby, the owner of a hair salon in a neighboring community retired and was looking to rent her space. The owner, as luck would have it, was a friend of Jennings' mother. The opportunity proved irresistible and couldn't have come at a better time. Jennings decided to take a leap of faith and start her own business.
The building required minor upgrades, and Jennings needed to secure financing to get her business up and going. With the help of a local banker, she created a business plan and cash-flow projections for the business venture.
To secure financing, the banker recommended Jennings talk to NeighborWorks network member GROW South Dakota to see if it could offer an affordable financing package. GROW South Dakota specializes in housing, community building and economic development. Jennings says she was nervous about applying for a business loan, but the process went smoothly.
"Lindsey's story is a great example of business entrepreneurship," says Mark Nelson, loan officer for GROW South Dakota. "Although she was unfamiliar with the process of starting a business or obtaining business financing, she become more confident as the process went on. I am proud to be a part of helping Lindsey succeed."
The hard work paid off, and Jennings finally was able to fulfill her big dream: owning her own salon.
"I was excited when I got to announce the opening of the Beauty Barn, but it was nerve-wracking to start my own business—in part because I had moved from a large community to a smaller one," Jennings recalls.
After the salon was open for a couple of months, Jennings said the business venture has been worth it.
"The community has been really supportive of my new business," she says, adding that in addition to serving the community, she is becoming more active in helping it grow and succeed.
The one piece of advice she would give to new business owners is to hire an experienced bookkeeper. Jennings says that hiring a bookkeeper has allowed her to focus on providing the best customer experience she can.