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Entrepreneur Profile , Susan Miller

Susan Miller retired in 2003 after a 24-year career at a technology company. The same year, she thought it would be nice to earn a cosmetology license at Palomar College and work a couple of hours a week.

A year later, Miller found herself in a business partnership with two of her daughters , Kathy Perreault and Christine Alvarado , when she opened Bella D’ora Spa & Salon in Carlsbad.

In 2006, the spa reported nearly $1 million in revenue, a success that Miller attributes to the type of service the staff of 35 offers each guest. Bella D’ora, which means “beautiful hour,” offers a full range of services from facial treatments and massages to fitness classes and personal training.


VITALS

Name: Susan Miller.

Title: Chief executive officer.

Company: Bella D’ora Spa & Salon.

Company address: 2386 Faraday Ave., No. 125, Carlsbad.

Company phone: (760) 438-7404.

Year founded: 2004.

Prior business experience: I worked for 3M for 24 years in the electronics division.

Average hours worked weekly: 50.

Source of startup capital: Private funds pooled from four partners, including two daughters.

2006 revenue: $972,000.

2005 revenue: $691,000.

Number of employees: 35.

Web site: www.belladoraspa.com.


BACKGROUND

Birthplace: Los Angeles.

Education: Bishop Conaty Catholic Girls High School.

Age: 67.

Current residence: San Marcos.

Family: Six children, 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Hobbies: Spending time with grandchildren, gardening, Scrabble, bridge.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Reason for getting into business: I always wanted to touch people’s lives by nurturing them and providing services and information that would help them live better lives.

How I plan to grow the business: With ongoing education for staff and management and by employing state-of-the-art technologies in customer care.

Biggest plus of business ownership: A sense of accomplishment at the end of the day; helping our clients look and be their best.

Biggest drawback: Endless workdays.

Biggest business strength: The commitment to educating our guests as to what they need , and developing new treatments and services to address those needs.

Biggest business weakness: I’m too kind. I have a hard time saying no.

Biggest risk: Never retiring.

Smartest business decision: Partnering with my daughters.

Biggest business mistake: Initially, not being clear on how we were going to be differentiated from other spas. As a result, we made some hiring decisions in the beginning that we would not make today. Our current staff reflects our understanding of ourselves and our differentiations.

Toughest career decision: Leaving retirement to start the spa.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Continuing to motivate the staff.

The most important part of my business: Taking care of each and every guest; making them feel welcome, relaxed and provide healing, rejuvenation and contentment.

My business works best when: The team interaction is flowing; the busier we are, the better we flow.

Best way to stay competitive: Stay on top of new trends, offer exemplary customer service each and every day, and continue to offer the best treatments using the latest technologies given by service providers that have a love and passion for what they do.

How I measure success: When I hear a customer say, “That was the best spa service I have ever received,” and then re-book.


GOALS

Goals yet to be achieved: To have the staff fully booked every day with every employee working for the betterment of the team and earning a great salary.

My five-year business plan: To be known as the best spa for facials and massage in the county.

I would sell my business only if: I retire a second time.

Guiding principles I will continue to follow: Commitment, family and faith. We are in the business of caring for people and teaching them how to practice healing care on themselves and others. I believe that if you help others, the day will come when you, too, are helped. We all have responsibility of caring for one another and the Earth, using eco-friendly products/clothing when possible, and treating one another with respect.

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