Erin Burmeister, the owner of Sanctuary Salon in Kewaunee, had been in business for seven years when she heard the building where she leased was up for sale.
“It was a unique situation,” Burmeister said. “I already had the business, but was afraid of what might happen if the building was sold to someone else. I just needed to figure out how to buy it.”
The business was successful, but she didn’t have the down payment lenders were requesting. In talking over her dilemma with a client, it was suggested that she contact the Kewaunee Economic Development office.
“I was completely desperate at this point and knew if I didn’t figure something out, I was going to lose the opportunity," Burmeister said. "Jennifer Brown (executive director of Kewaunee Economic Development) said she might be able to help us. I had worked with her in the past, and she thought WWBIC (Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation) would be my best option.”
She was put in touch with Tim Majcen, Green Bay SCORE mentor, who talked about the advantages of WWBIC in last week’s column. Recently retired from his role with WWBIC, Majcen knew the benefits of the program and how it could help people like Burmeister.
Majcen helped her apply for WWBIC financing that would work in conjunction with a commercial loan from the Bank of Luxemburg. John Price of the bank worked with Majcen in meshing the loans.
“John and Tim were amazing advocates for me,” Burmeister said. “John took it upon himself to wade through the confusing parts of the loan and figure out how we could progress. The bank has the major part of the loan.”
WWBIC provided two separate loans, and the bank provided a third. Burmeister has three loans to pay each month, but says it is a simple matter of completing three transactions. She chose to obtain most of the funding from the bank because the interest rate was lower.
In addition, part of the WWBIC loan requires monthly paperwork and bank statements to show that she is creating an income. And, with the loyal customers and strong following that Sanctuary Salon has, that isn’t an issue.
Burmeister has won numerous Kewaunee County customer service awards, and says she loves being in a small community.
“Everyone knows who you are and word of mouth becomes huge advertising," she said. "I post before and after photos on social media and people try to guess who’s in the photos."
These photos wouldn’t work in a large community, but in Kewaunee where people all seem to be acquainted, it has been incredibly effective marketing. Burmeister asks clients if they will allow her to post photos, and most agree. The photos are posted without showing the person’s face, and that has followers watching the posts and trying to put a name to the post.
As her clientele continues to grow, Burmeister focuses on listening to customers and treating everyone the way she would want to be treated. Along with the other two stylists, there is an attitude of becoming like family to their customers.
“It is interesting, being in a small community, how you get to know the families," she said. "You’ve watched their kids grow up, and you learn about their different personalities and how to take a step back at certain times and when you can help. It is always about putting your customers first and yourself second.”
This also applies to building ownership, and Burmeister is conscientious about putting the bank payments above personal expenditures. She works 10-hour days and says you never know when there will be an unexpected expense. When that happens, she says she just adjusts her lifestyle. She is grateful for the role that WWBIC played.
“It was my only option, but it worked out so seamlessly for me that I didn’t have to fight to figure something out," Burmeister said. "I am a firm believer in listening to your gut and not having a fear of failure. My advice to others is to go for it."
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.