(This is the fourth in a series of articles featuring award-winning businesses that Community Futures North Cariboo has been proud to support.)
Community Futures does more than help start new businesses. They also work with existing businesses to take advantage of new opportunities; businesses like Spa Rivier.
Donna Jacobsen, owner of Spa Rivier, has grown her business from a small hair salon to a full-service spa and boutique employing 10 people in downtown Quesnel. In October 2018, she was named Business Person of the Year at the annual Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards in recognition of her business achievements. She is also the president of the Quesnel Downtown Association.
“It was a great honour to be recognized,” she says. “We’ve been helping women celebrate their beauty for close to 35 years.”
Growing and running a small business is no easy feat, particularly in today’s tough retail environment. Donna realized early on that to be successful, she needed to continuously adapt her products and services to meet the changing demands of her customers. Over the years she has expanded her business to include a range of health and wellness programs, including massage therapy, skin care, day spa and now boutique.
She first approached Community Futures North Cariboo in 2011 for financing to modernize her business and take it to the next level. She had started her hair salon, Quesnel Hair Plus, in 1985, and wanted to keep up with the latest trends in the beauty industry.
“Community Futures was instrumental in helping me with that,” she says.
She approached them again a few years later to take advantage of an opportunity to move her business to its current location on Reid Street. The new space allowed her to consolidate her hair salon and spa into one large main floor in the heart of Quesnel’s busiest shopping district. “Without Community Futures help I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” says Donna.
So when she was thinking of branching out into retail, she turned to Community Futures North Cariboo for some advice. Space next door to the spa had become available during the summer of the 2017 wildfires, and it was an opportunity too good to pass up. “It was quite large,” says Donna. “At first, I thought it was more than I could manage, but I sat down with Community Futures and they helped me work out a plan.”
Donna discovered that she qualified for a training subsidy through the Wildfire Business Transition Project, a Community Futures program that had been established to assist businesses impacted by the 2017 wildfires. The funding allowed her to hire an experienced retail consultant and business coach to work with her on expanding her boutique.
“Running a store is very different from being a hair stylist,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about retailing when I started.”
The retail business coach was able to guide her through the various stages of setting up the boutique from store layout and choosing the right type of products to merchandising and marketing.
“It’s a learning curve,” says Donna. “Once I started seeing all the possibilities, that was a turning point. And I have to tell you, there’s not a day that goes by when people don’t come into the store and thank me for opening it. Because we don’t have a lot of women’s specialty stores in Quesnel.”
And the business has grown. Donna brought her daughter, Donna McCulloch, on board as co-owner to help run the business, and she has hired another person who will be responsible for the company’s website and social media accounts. And she still consults with the retail business coach. “How can you go wrong? Everybody that you bring on your team has access to that expert. She helped with all the sales training. I could never have done that,” says Donna. “Retail sales is a different concept, so it’s been awesome having that support.”
Hours and location for Spa Rivier
Spa Rivier is located at 353 Reid Street in downtown Quesnel, BC. It’s open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 12 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Closed Sundays and Wednesdays. Tel. (259) 992-8084. Website: http://sparivier.ca/