Body Paradise: Building A Dream
By: Lisa Loewen
Scott and Bridgett Umscheid, owners of Body Paradise, a full-service salon in Topeka, acted on a dream 10 years ago and are building a future together as entrepreneurs.
Born and raised in Topeka, Scott has worked in construction and carpentry his entire life. Bridgett, who has also called Topeka home for most of her life, has spent her entire 20-year career as a hair stylist at Body Paradise salon.
The couple, who met through mutual friends, have been married for 18 years and have three sons: Andrew (15), Isaac (11) and Ian (6 mos.). Little did they know, when they met 20 years ago, that one day they would own their own business and control their own destiny.
Laying the Foundation
As a young couple just starting their lives together, they didn’t have an easy road to follow. Scott was building his career as a carpenter, and Bridgett had only just begun to build her clientele as a hair stylist. Because the nature of the salon business doesn’t allow for regular paychecks in the beginning, money was a little tight.
“I was broke when Scott and I got married,” Bridgett laughs. “He certainly didn’t marry me for the money.”
She gradually built her client base, creating not only a loyal following, but also a consistent income. Having spent her entire career with Body Paradise, Bridgett viewed the salon as almost a second home. So when the opportunity to buy the business from the previous owner came knocking 10 years ago, she couldn’t say no. But she couldn’t say yes either.
Scott was actually the one who jumped behind the idea and pushed her to take the risk.
While Bridgett looked at the business from a stylist’s perspective, Scott looked at it from a carpenter’s point of view.
“I looked around the salon and saw numerous things I could build or renovate to make it better,” Scott says. “I knew in my heart we could make it work.”
Bridgett was more concerned with the logistics of running the business. She had a 6-year-old and 2-year-old at the time. She wanted to be fair to the other stylists at the salon, but she also wanted to be fair to herself.
Scott laid out the argument of using this opportunity to make their own future because no one else would do it for them.
So with his gentle push, Bridgett became an entrepreneur.
It wasn’t quite that simple, however. Purchasing a business requires capital—something they were short on at the time.
“One bank turned us down flat,” Bridgette says. “The other offered us a ridiculous interest rate.”
So they turned to Envista for help.
It only made sense. Scott has been banking with the credit union since he was 10 years old, and Bridgett opened her first business account there in 1997.
“It has been through a few iterations since then,” Scott said. “But the credit union has always had my back.”
With sound advice from Envista regarding whether they should build capital or pay down loans, as well as an affordable interest rate on a small business loan, the couple found themselves the proud owners of Body Paradise.
With that ownership came a different perspective on employee growth and development.
“When we get a new stylist, we actually start them out as commission and then protect them for an entire year,” Bridgett says. “We give them every new customer that walks through the door to help them build the clientele they need to be successful. We see it as an investment in them.”
The salon has 10 booth runners at the moment. Because each person leases his or her own space in the salon, employees benefit from an incredible level of flexibility. And they all take pride in building the business as a team.
“We work together really well,” Bridgett says. “We’ve been together so long that we joke that we fight like sisters.”
The longest running employee has been with the salon for 23 years, the newest for a year and a half.
Forming a Vision
But Scott and Bridgett’s dream wasn’t finished yet. They had always wanted to own their own building, to have something to call their own. Once again, opportunity came knocking.
The former Daylight Donuts building at 240 SW Gage came onto the market. Scott knew he could fix it up. Bridgett knew it was a great location. The only obstacle? Once again it was a matter of money.
So again, they turned to Envista Credit Union.
As many small businesses are painfully aware, obtaining financing in the past few years has been increasingly difficult. And the business model at Body Paradise doesn’t necessarily lend itself to stability.
“Because the girls in the salon are independent contractors, there is no guarantee that anyone is going to stay,” Bridgett says. “The bank sees that as an incredible risk.”
When Scott and Bridgett met with Erik Evans, manager of member business services at Envista, they weren’t quite sure what to expect. But they had their fingers crossed. They weren’t disappointed.
“Erik fought for us,” Bridgett says. “He convinced the credit union to take a chance on us for a loan.”
Envista agreed to lend them the money they needed to purchase the building.
“Without someone believing in us, we might not have gotten this chance,” Scott says.
Constructing a Future
Once they purchased the building, then they proceeded to demolish it, basically renovating it from the ground up.
“It was a family nights and weekends project for about a year,” Bridgett says.
Scott’s expertise as a carpenter and his ability to do much of the renovation himself probably saved them in excess of $100,000 that they would otherwise have spent on labor. The boys helped out where they could and Bridgett was putting ceiling tiles up a week before giving birth to Ian.
Body Paradise moved into its new location in September 2016.
Everything you see in this salon I have probably built,” Scott says.
Literally, from demolishing the old interior, to framing the new one—drywall, cabinetry, tile, trim—Scott’s hands have been involved in every aspect of the salon.
The Umscheids will tell you that the blood, sweat and tears have all been worth it. However, business ownership does come with its downsides at times.
The biggest struggle with being entrepreneurs, they admit, is the time they have to devote to the business.
“Something breaks, you get the phone calls,” Scott says.
“On the flip side,” Bridgette adds, “It’s on us, so when things do break, we know they are going to get fixed—Right, Scott?”
Even though Scott and Bridgett find themselves still working nights and weekends at times, they view business ownership as a good life lesson for their kids.
“Life unfortunately has sacrifices,” Bridgett says. “But those sacrifices pay off. And that’s a huge lesson for our children to learn.”
And it means spending some quality time together.
“This is literally a family business,” Scott says. “The kids were out here with sledge hammers tearing down walls and carrying materials.”
A grin lights up his face.
“It makes it sound kind of like a sweat shop doesn’t it?”
When Scott and Bridgett look around at everything they have accomplished, they can’t help but smile at their own little piece of “paradise.”
“I can walk into work every day and be really happy with my job,” Bridgett says. “That makes every struggle we have been through worth it.”
Photo by David Vincent
Article by Lisa Loewen
Lisa Loewen teaches journalism at the University of Kansas since 2004 and is editor-in-chief of TK Business Magazine. Her extensive writing experience includes magazine, newspaper and broadcast, advertising copy for print and television, as well as academic articles.