Winner of 2016 Faces of Entrepreneurship Award
2012 was a rough year for Rebecca Weston. Not only did she turn 50, an often dreaded milestone in anyone’s life, but the coffee shop she’d been managing for years shut down.
Living in Siskiyou County, a beautiful, rural area with sparse industry in Northern California, few businesses and even fewer available jobs, Weston needed a new plan, and she needed it fast.
After a lot of prayers, Rebecca made the decision to visit a beauty school in Redding for aesthetics. Though she wrestled with the idea of going back to school and retraining in something new at her age, things continued to fall into place.
Within a week she was enrolled in school. By 2013 she had her aesthetician’s license and a job at Sacred Mountain Spa in Mt. Shasta. Rebecca had turned her crisis into an opportunity and ended up with a job she loved.
At the end of 2013, the next opportunity presented itself. The spa’s owner asked Rebecca if she’d like to buy the business. She explained she’d been thinking about selling and after having watched Weston for a year, she believed she had the people skills and the drive to take the business and make it something more.
Once again, things began clicking into place. A loyal client graciously and excitedly loaned Rebecca the down payment for the spa, and the prior owner carried the remainder of the loan.
Rebecca had been a business owner before, but in order to succeed as a sole proprietor as well as an aesthetician, she wanted more education in marketing and how to successfully run a profitable business.
So Rebecca enrolled in business classes through the Jefferson Economic Development Institute (JEDI), a small business development center serving rural Northern California counties.
“I really feel that without them and their support I would not have done as well as I am doing,” she said. “JEDI has been like a silent partner to me with all of the support they have provided.”
Just how well is she doing? Her first year the business brought in $209,000, and at the end of 2015, the business brought in $313,000, almost a 67% increase. The next year, she increased sales by another 33%. In 2017 and 2018, despite the chaos brought on by wildfires in the area, the spa weathered the storm. “This fall has been great, we’ve been really busy to where on weekends we have waiting lists,” she said back in December. “So that’s a big plus.”
The training she got through JEDI not only taught her the business and computer skills she needed, but it also gave her access to a matched-savings program that allowed her to buy a pricy piece of equipment for facials that raised her revenue by about 20 percent.
Weston has a devoted local following, about 60-70 percent of her business, thanks to an innovative program offering discounts for regular massage and facials to area residents.
Serving a growing number of bridal parties thanks to the area’s growing wedding industry, Rebecca renovated and built an addition to accommodate two new hair and two new nail stations in order to meet the growing demand from bridal parties. She also hired three more people to service all these clients.
When she bought Sacred Mountain Spa it was her and five massage therapists. Now she has twelve independent contractors and three part-time receptionists. But to her, they are a lot more than that. “I have one person that does social media, I have one that does our ordering, and then one that makes sure we’re in compliance with both state board and labor board,” she explains. Having staff with that kind of expertise allows Rebecca to focus on serving her growing number of clients. “I have a fabulous staff. They help the business be successful.”
She’s also stepped up her presence in the community, now that she’s in a position to give back. She joined the Women in Business Network, at one point serving as vice president. She remains on the Board and regularly donates to local non-profits and school fundraisers.
Despite being so busy, Rebecca still takes time to develop her skills and continues taking classes at JEDI, especially webinars that help expand her business offerings. “We’re always working to bring new services in,” she tells us. “Personally as an aesthetician, I like to bring new tools in to help, especially anti-aging tools. We just brought in red, blue, and green LED to help with different skin types. We are always looking to expand and to make things better and nicer for the clients.”
She credits a lot of her success to other people, from the loans to the business classes and her team.
“I have the best staff; they truly are amazing!” she says. “We all genuinely care for people, and that is felt by each person who comes through our door.”
Written by Cassandra Stern, a freelance writer from Albany, CA.