Adding laminate flooring and apple green paint to a storage closet can give an entrepreneurial dream wings. The makeover that took place earlier this month at the Superior Business Center Inc. and brought two new retail shops -- Dream Nuage and Rissa's Cottage -- to the business incubator facility at 1423 N. Eighth St.
Last week, the space was filled with an assortment of organic body products, hand-sewn pillows, table runners and napkins, vintage purses, wall art, knit scarves, furniture and jewelry.
"The lip butters sell like mad," said Jennifer Johnson, owner of Dream Nuage and self-professed lip balm freak. The recent University of Wisconsin-Superior graduate had been making candles off and on for years. So she decided to craft her own organic lotions, bath soaks and lip butter.
"I liked organic products and started reformulating recipes," Johnson said. "I just want people to be healthier."
There are no chemicals, dyes or preservatives in any of her products. A peek at the label of Dream Nuage's mocha mint lip butter shows a short list of ingredients topped by sweet almond oil, beeswax and cocoa butter. Other flavors for the lips include candy cane, pumpkin spice and chai tea.
Rissa's Cottage showcases the fabric works of Denise McDonald, who has been sewing since she was a teen, starting with an old treadle machine.
"I love her pillows," Johnson said. "The colors and different shapes go in anybody's home."
The two entrepreneurs promise one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts and reasonable prices.
"Buy something no one else would have," McDonald said. "Keep us here; keep us local."
The dual shop is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday in Suite 115 of the center. In honor of Small Business Saturday, the store will open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday. On both Friday and Saturday, visitors can register to win a basket of goodies and enjoy refreshments.
The two crafty women worked together for years at the Christopher & Banks clothing store in Duluth's Miller Hill Mall. They each work part-time at Belknap Liquor, as well. McDonald credited business services coordinator Lynn Johnson with the Superior Business Center and Michelle Hostetler with the Development Association for helping them turn their homemade products into a business.
"We're tiptoeing through, we'll see how it goes," McDonald said.
The women came to the Superior Business Center in September for a session on writing a business plan, Lynn Johnson said, and the center was able to offer them a good starting lease amount for a year on the former utility room.
"It's a small enough space to start retail in and grow from there," Lynn Johnson said.
The Superior Business Center has been helping grow business in Superior and Douglas County since 1989. The site offers office space, manufacturing/warehouse space and a commercial kitchen for rent.
"We want to help people start or expand businesses," Lynn Johnson said. "Our main goal is to move them out into the marketplace."
Many successful businesses have been launched from the incubator, including Exodus Machines, Genesis Attachments, Northern Water Smokehaus and Business North. Most businesses remain in a center for three to five years before getting a storefront of their own, Lynn Johnson said. But she has high hopes for Dream Nuage and Rissa's Cottage.
"I believe these wonderful ladies will be out quicker," she said. "They just needed confidence."
Two more businesses are coming to the center soon. Hill Creek Marketing of Poplar will be making the move to the center in December and another start-up is expected to open shop at the site in February.
Lynn Johnson has plans to increase the public profile of the business center, from bi-yearly business plan boot camps to opening a culinary resource center that caters to the community.
"I want to remind people it's here," she said, "Get people in, let them know what it is and that it's available for them."
For more information on the Superior Business Center, visit www.superiorbusinesscenter.com/. More information on Dream Nuage and Rissa's Cottage are available through their Facebook pages.