2018 Young Entrepreneur of the Year

WomenVenture loan client, Katie Steller, owner of Steller Hair Company, has been named the 2018 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Minnesota District Office of the Small Business Administration

Katie Steller became an entrepreneur because she saw a problem in the salon industry and felt compelled to lead by example and create the change she wished to see. In 2013, she and her then husband, Mike, decided to open their own salon—one that puts the employees first—and turned to WomenVenture for guidance, as well as a small business loan. In June of 2013, Steller Hair Company opened its doors with 5 salon chairs and a team of 5. Within the first 4 months, the business was already turning a profit. Since founding her salon 4.5 years ago, Katie has steadily grown Steller Hair Company into a well-known business in her community. She and her staff provide exceptional hair and makeup services for individuals, as well as for photoshoots, commercials, and fashion events.

Katie has faced numerous challenges in her young life. She spent much of her childhood battling the debilitating effects of an autoimmune disorder, which caused her to miss out on activities, endure numerous medical procedures, and drop out of school twice. When her medications became ineffective, she started losing all of her hair and ultimately had to have her large intestine removed. A trip to a salon proved to be life changing for Katie – it made her feel normal again and she discovered her true vocation and a desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

Katie channeled her passion and determination into her business. In 2014, she was named WomenVenure’s Emerging Business Award winner. In 2015, Minnesota Business Magazine named her one of their Young Entrepreneurs under 35. That same year, however, Katie needed to seek treatment for some mental health issues and in 2016, Katie’s husband left the business and they soon got a divorce. This was a trying time for Katie, both emotionally and professionally. Mike had been handling all of the finances for Steller Hair, while Katie ran the other parts of the business. Katie had to quickly learn how to manage the books, payroll, and more. She also needed to buy back her husband’s share of the salon. She again turned to WomenVenture for technical assistance and guidance. With one-on-one consulting, Katie was able to learn QuickBooks and get a firm grasp on her business’ finances. Despite these setbacks, her business has thrived.

Part of Katie’s success is her commitment to her staff and to her community. She makes sure that her staff earns living wages and she fosters an environment that makes them feel respected and valued. Katie does not hesitate when it comes to donating services, products, time, and energy to support others. To celebrate Steller’s first anniversary, she organized an event that provided hair services to 40 homeless women. Last fall, she launched The Steller Kindness Project, which is designed to share and celebrate the stories of people who are quietly engaging in acts of kindness. Katie believes that in every interaction there is an opportunity to create an impact and help others. She feels that Steller Hair Company is successful because of the community that has been created by its existence. For Katie, business is clearly “steller.”

In recognition of her hard work, innovative ideas, and dedication to her community, the Small Business Administration (SBA) Minnesota District Office has named Katie Steller the 2018 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.