One new business leads to another

Jolene Timmers opened her own business, Serenity Spa, last March. Before the year was out, the Superior woman and her husband had launched a second business, Timmers Rentals, to keep the building where the spa is located afloat.


Jolene Timmers opened her own business, Serenity Spa, last March. Before the year was out, the Superior woman and her husband had launched a second business, Timmers Rentals, to keep the building where the spa is located afloat.

"I bought the building to save my business," she said. "Now I've got to fill the building." Ever since starting the spa, she said, it's been "like a never-ending track."

Serenity Spa opened March 1, 2010, offering a full range of services, from massage and manicures to facials and body treatments.

"We're here to pamper you, make you feel like a million dollars," Timmers said. "That personal touch is the big thing." She said community support for the spa has been phenomenal, and former clients followed her to the new site

Two months after welcoming her first customer, however, Timmers learned that the building owner was facing foreclosure.


The Superior woman had invested more than $50,000 into building improvements for the new spa. Relocating, she said, wasn't an option. Instead, she and her husband became building owners with support from the business community.

"It's amazing, you start asking questions people will help you, tell you how to get the answers and tell you where to go to get the answers," Timmers said.

The couple closed on the property at 1705 Tower Ave. on Dec. 1. Two months later, Karen Korhonen American Family Insurance Agency moved out of the building. The couple is now seeking renters for that office space as well as two large warehouse/garages.

Key players in Timmers' quest to buy the building were business developer Mike Lattery with the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund (NEF) and Kaye Tenerelli, executive director of the Business Improvement District (BID) and Superior Choice Credit Union.

The NEF, developed to help people start and grow successful, locally owned small businesses, was particularly helpful.

"They have some excellent classes and advice to walk you through something like this because it was, I had no idea," Timmers said.

Everyone who works at the entrepreneur fund owns or has owned a small business, Lattery said. They've been through the process - from wondering if a business idea will work all the way through to finding exit strategies for closing one down. And they're willing to guide others through that same process. Timmers came to him at the dreaming stage, wondering if it was possible to buy the building. He encouraged her to treat it like buying a stand-alone, separate business.

"She went through the process of coming up with a plan," Lattery said.


Originally, she planned to purchase the building through her spa business.

"There were a few banks who wouldn't even give me the loan because my Serenity Spa was so new," she said. "So then we had to revamp the whole business plan." In fact, she ended up writing two plans - one for the property rental business, another for the spa.

"I'm proud of Jolene," Lattery said. "She did a great job of writing a plan and she did a great job of understanding the business."

A plan helps prospective owners secure funding, but it also provides a blueprint, a map to guide the business to success. They are open documents that change over time, Lattery said.

The best business planning classes in the area, he said, are available through the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Small Business Development Center. The people who go through that class, he said, do their homework and create quality plans.

He also encouraged those seeking to open a business to consider a number of location options, instead of settling on just one.

For Timmers, the building at 1705 Tower Ave. was the best choice. She and her husband found the financial backing they needed at SCCU. They were able to roll both the improvements she had made for the spa as well as needed building improvements -- like a soon-to-be-installed new roof -- into the loan. Timmers also applied for an $8,000 matching grant from the BID for the roof. She hopes to apply for matching BID grants for landscaping and architect work as well.

The BID Design Committee awarded 27 grants totaling $72,500 to local businesses in 2010. Every dollar in grant money spent nets another 8 to 15 dollars of investment by businesses, Tenerelli said.


"We're leveraging dollars, always leveraging dollars," she said.

The committee offers design help and can often make suggestions that lower the cost of improvements, she said. They also offer matching sign grants, commercial restoration grants, design assistance grants and grants for Back Door Project art along Tower Avenue.

Timmers came to the BID with a unique predicament, Tenerelli said. Usually BID staff know ahead of time when a building is going to change hands.

"We try to be as aware as we can be," Tenerelli said. "When they're ready we're there to help them."

There is plenty of interest in small business start-ups in the Northland. Lattery said he gets a couple visits a day from prospective business owners looking for advice. In addition, current business owners stop in to discuss their business with someone impartial. NEF is one of many local resources available to turn a business dream into reality.

For Timmers, help from these organizations was crucial.

"The community, you'd be amazed at when you start talking to business owners how helpful they are," she said.

For more information on the space available for rent at 1705 Tower Ave., contact Consulting, Management & Realty Associates, (218) 727-0064 or look the space up online at . Timmers Rentals will build out the space to suit clients.


To make an appointment with Serenity Spa, call (715) 392-3017.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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