The Entrepreneurs

It is a great undertaking, all right — starting your own business, taking it from dream to inception, and it requires a special kind of person to be a true entrepreneur. We spoke to several successful San Antonio entrepreneurs and asked them to share bits of wisdom that they‘ve picked up along the way.

Kathleen Sommers, Owner/designer Kathleen Sommers Retail Store and Kathleen Sommers Designs (wholesale) 33 years in business

Tell us about your store—and your business in general. My Kathleen Sommers retail store sells an eclectic mix of clothing, jewelry, accessories, bath/body products and gifts. I also own and operate a manufacturing facility that creates and manufactures the Kathleen Sommers wholesale line sold nationwide.

How did you get started in this career?

I started making bikinis, caftans and evening wear in Acapulco, in the early ‘70s. Later, I returned to the United States and started making a line of skirts and dresses that was carried in stores in New Mexico. I moved to San Antonio in 1977. In 1979 I opened a retail store, pioneering here on Main Street, and also expanded my line of sportswear to sell nationwide.

Why do you feel your company has enjoyed such tremendous success?

Over the years I learned to be true to myself, which directed my buying as well as my designing. I look for products that are unique — things that make me smile. The Kathleen Sommers line is easy to wear and fits our relaxed environment here in San Antonio, not to mention our South Texas weather. How can other women learn from what you’ve done so far? Be true to yourself. I don’t try to figure out the customer. I buy/design what I like.

What does a typical day look like in your world?

It is quite changeable. I do try to spend the mornings at the wholesale company while attending to design and production of the products, and then in the afternoons I handle merchandising, making the “buys” and attending to the customers.

What is one bit of advice you got or you’d give another woman who wants to start her own business?

Get your experience and make your mistakes on someone else’s dime, and start out with an accountant on day one.

What has been your biggest challenge in this career?

The Big Box stores dictate prices and markdowns. It is hard to find a pair of white pants in the summer. By June the big stores are already into deep markdowns. It is hard to compete, so it is better to find and buy unique items. In the wholesale business, it is hard to compete with the stream of goods made off-shore. The Kathleen Sommers line is made here in San Antonio.

Who or what inspires you most?

Seeing young people who dare to be different and who are willing to risk ridicule to do what pleases them the most.

Laura Nicosia, Franchise owner ShelfGenie of San Antonio 3.5 years in business Tell us about your business.

ShelfGenie designs, builds and installs custom glide-out shelving for existing cabinets in kitchens, utility rooms and bathrooms. Our designers work with each customer to create a plan that gives them more space, easier access and better organization — a truly permanent solution for the customer’s storage needs.

How did you get started in this career?

I suppose I’ve had more than one career. I started working in the banking industry after graduating from college, stayed home for a number of years after my two daughters were born and was busy at that time doing volunteer work and raising my girls. When they grew older, I re-entered the workforce at our family-owned staffing firm. We sold the business in 2008 and began looking for other opportunities. My husband, Rick, and I discovered ShelfGenie with the help of a franchise broker. We were impressed by the product, the business plan and the people. We purchased the San Antonio territory in July 2009.

Why do you think that your product is so popular?

It meets the needs of customers who are frustrated with inaccessible and poorly organized cabinets. They often have physical challenges that keep them from reaching the items they need daily. A ShelfGenie solution allows them to function better and stay in their homes longer. The quality of our product is outstanding. We use top-of-the-line materials and are able to offer a lifetime warranty on products and installation. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t want “Glide-Outs.”

How can other women learn from what you’ve done so far?

Find something you are passionate about! I am fortunate to have found a business for which I have a passion. I find it fulfilling to work with a customer to provide a solution that makes his or her life easier.

What does a typical day look like in your world?

“Typical” does not describe many of my workdays. I like the variety and flexibility of my work. Some days are spent with customers, while others are spent training designers or networking with other business owners. The routine duties associated with running a business take time, as does business travel for regional and franchise advisory council meetings.

What is one bit of advice you got or you’d give another woman who wants to start her own business?

Balance is important. A business consumes a lot of your time (more than you think), and when you are the owner, you often bring it home with you. Schedule your time so important areas are not shortchanged. Family, friends, and downtime are important too.

What has been your biggest challenge in this career?

Launching the business, starting from scratch and learning by experience.

What do you do off the clock, just for fun? I love to cook, which is handy since I spend much of my time in customer kitchens and know how to organize them.

What’s your one weakness or guilty pleasure? Anything involving Texas A&M. I love watching the Aggies play football. This has been a good year for us.

If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently? I wouldn’t change a thing. Carol Bly, Owner and founder Purity Botanicals Organic Beauty Bar and Spa 7 years in business How did you get started?

As a teen and through my 30s I suffered from a very severe and disfiguring case of cystic acne that multiple doctors could not help. I was on every form of medication and had tried everything but still found no relief. At 35 I decided to take matters into my own hands. I studied under an herbalist and shaman for three years while creating my own makeup and skin care in order to calm my skin issues. To my amazement it worked completely, and I am now acne-free and am sharing my knowledge with San Antonio.

Why do you think that your product is such a success?

It works wonders and helps all skin types return to a healthy state. We have dozens of success stories from people with many different skin afflictions, including acne, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea and many others.

What does a typical day look like in your world?

I am always developing and researching products, and that takes up a good part of my day. During business hours I help my aestheticians identify and treat clients with their skin issues, and then there’s always paperwork and such.

What is one bit of advice you got or you’d give another woman who wants to start her own business?

Don’t be afraid to go for it. If you feel you have a great idea, run with it.

What has been your biggest challenge in this career?

Marketing — getting the word out.

What has been your biggest joy?

Seeing clients who have suffered with issues all their lives end up with healthy, beautiful skin.

If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?

Listen more carefully to my instincts.

What does entrepreneur mean to you?

It means chasing your dreams and finally catching them.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I would like to see our products in spas and stores all over the country so that we can help more people. Then I would like to see myself on a beach somewhere in Bora Bora!

Mallory Moorman and Kourtney Kanaly, Owners, managing partners Smart Barre San Antonio 1 year in business Describe your business.

We own and operate Smart Barre San Antonio, a “barre” fitness studio for women.

How did you get started in this career?

MM: Kourtney was one of the first clients of the original Smart Barre in Fort Worth and spent a year developing a relationship with the founder, Allison Poston, just through taking classes. Upon moving from Fort Worth, Allison and Kourtney joked about opening a second location, and realized it was a very real possibility. KK: San Antonio seemed like the best place to open, and that’s where Mallory came in. A native of San Antonio and one of the owners of 5 Broads Off Broadway, a furniture store in Alamo Heights, she knew the community and already had experience as a small business owner.

Why do you think that your company is such a success? MM:

Good news travels fast. Our focus from inception of Smart Barre San Antonio was to bring this method that we felt compelled to share with a community that didn’t have access to anything like it. We have a beautiful spa-like space, and the results you achieve from taking Smart Barre are amazing. KK: Smart Barre is unique. It’s a women-only club that provides a product with real, desirable and attainable results, all while developing an environment where women look forward to retreating.

How can other women learn from what you’ve done so far — any pearls of wisdom to impart?

MM: Kourtney and I are fairly young entrepreneurs — 25 and 27 years old — so women can definitely learn that you don’t have to be a certain age to be ready to have your own business as long as you are thoughtful in your approach, remain organized and are always ready to give wholeheartedly to your business. KK: Don’t let uncertainties or associated risk discourage you. Rather, let them motivate you to dig deeper and ask all the questions.

What does a typical day look like for you two?

MM: My alarm clock goes off at 4:45 a.m., we open up the studio at 5:30 a.m., and classes start at 6 a.m. From 6 a.m. until noon we keep busy with clients, various administrative tasks, phone calls, accounting, sourcing new instructors, marketing, tidying and lots of vacuuming, etc. By noon it feels like we‘ve had a full day. Then we enjoy a healthful lunch and we take showers. Currently we are trying to grow Smart Barre, so often enough our afternoons are filled with meetings with our silent but very helpful partners, Johnny Moorman (husband) and Taylor Little (fiancé), as well as on conference calls with the founder of Smart Barre. Classes start back up in the afternoon and go until about 8 p.m. We are lucky to have each other and a dependable group of instructors to divvy up the schedule a bit.

What is one bit of advice you got or you’d give another woman who wants to start her own business? MM:

Don’t underestimate the commitment that you need to make to your business, because if a day feels very long already and then you get thrown a curveball, it will just take so much more out of you. Keep a positive attitude, and surround yourself with supportive people. KK: Always know your exit strategy first. It’s important to understand the entire life cycle of your business before you start.

What has been your biggest joy? MM:

Creating a business that makes other people happy. They are happy to be in the studio and happy with the results and their bodies. Their energy rubs off on us every day, and we consider ourselves very fortunate for that. KK: Watching our clients’ bodies change in ways they never before could achieve. There’s nothing better than hearing about their happiness, whether it’s through Facebook posts, a husband’s comments or just straight client feedback telling us that Smart Barre has truly changed someone’s life.

Why San Antonio? MM:

I’m from San Antonio, so the thought of bringing a new business concept back to the city I grew up in was very appealing to me. I am also one of the owners, with my sister-in-law, Amelita Mauze, in the furniture store 5 Broads Off Broadway, so San Antonio has proven to be a fun place to have a business. I hope this is just the beginning for me and for other young entrepreneurs who have great ideas for ways to continue to improve the already great city of San Antonio. KK: This form of exercise has spread like wildfire across the nation, and it was time that the women of San Antonio got to participate in something about which everyone else has been raving.

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