WomenVenture Entrepreneur of the Month for February
Launched in 2009, Rue 48 was Susan Johnson’s lifelong dream. As a medical social worker who always wanted to cut hair, her first leap of faith was switching careers. Then, after seven years of stylist and managerial experience in Aveda salons, she decided it was time to open a shop that would reflect her own vision—an environmentally friendly, local salon, with a focus on building strong relationships in the community.
To prepare for the next phase of her journey, Susan went back to school and researched every aspect of the salon industry. She first heard about WomenVenture from one of her clients. Susan wrote a business plan on her own and then met with a WomenVenture consultant, hoping to get a loan. “Once I worked everything out on paper, and read it over and over again, I knew it was a viable concept—that process really helped me to believe in myself,” she said. Six months after developing and fine-tuning her plan, Susan received bank funding and a WomenVenture loan to open her salon in the bustling business community at 48th and Chicago in Minneapolis.
In her first year in business, Susan overcame extreme adversity, including her husband’s job loss and a death in the family. “It is hard to be away from work when you are a small business owner—you are always on call,” she said. “Your employees can only do so much.” But through it all, she managed to push forward and continued to focus on the salon.
Today, with a staff of 15, Susan attributes Rue 48’s success to the retention and happiness of her stylists, and the satisfaction of the clients. “I love seeing what comes out of the stylist’s chairs,” said Susan. She attracts new clients by using email marketing, social media, special offers and contests.
As an Aveda salon, the support and ongoing education Susan receives from Aveda keeps her up-to-date and knowledgeable in a competitive market. She is grateful to WomenVenture for providing the additional tools she needed to launch and grow her business. “My experience with the agency was great and I will continue to use WomenVenture as a resource,” Susan said.
“Being a small business owner has given me the freedom to be who I am. Seeing where I came from and believing that I will continue to achieve success is very rewarding.”
To learn more about Susan’s business, visit Rue 48.com