How this couple runs a mobile spa while raising six kids

Welcome to Money Conversations, a series where we interview people about their relationships with money, their relationships with each other, and how they communicate these relationships to each other.

Nia Brown is the 30-year-old founder PrincessMe, a small business owned by a black woman that offers parties and services such as spa packages for children. Her husband, Brandy, is a 34-year-old freelance accountant who applies his skills to running a family business.

In addition to managing and growing a six-figure spa business, Nia and Brandi also homeschool their six children, ages 2 to 14.

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

don’t come: I decided to own a small business in 2016. Before PrincessMe I was an event planner. I have always had a passion for planning children’s birthday parties and baby showers. After a few very successful parties and showers, it spread from just a small inner circle to people I had never met. This experience is what initially sparked my idea to start a business.

Another reason was my daughter. She was only one year old at the time, but she loved playing spa. Every time I did her makeup, I could see her self-esteem blossoming. I wanted to give this effect to other girls in the community, so I decided to stop doing personal events to focus solely on starting and growing the PrincessMe brand.

In order to reduce the costs of starting a business, we know that small businesses can be expensive, so we started a mobile bus. This was my husband’s idea.

brandy: At that time, everything was mobile. They had hairdressing salons, they had food trucks, they were a series of different mobile devices. We looked at the shop window, but it was too expensive. We could get a used school bus for $4,000, so we took it.

We bought our bus from a lady who owned a gym. He had wrecked the school bus and was using it to store his extra gym equipment. We were very lucky, we found it on Craigslist, it was two exits from our house and it was completely gone. All we had to do was set up the chairs and paint and stuff like that.

don’t come: It grew very, very fast. Within a year we were able to launch in our brick and mortar [storefront]. We had five kids at the time, I was pregnant with number six – what can I say? It was very difficult at first. When we opened our brick and mortar, we had trouble getting a zoning permit because they didn’t have any tags for a store like mine. We are not a spa and cannot be considered an event venue or venue, so we had a difficult path to zoning. We ended up having to create a new category for our brick and mortar location. Plus, we were the only small business in our mall. We were next to Target, Old Navy, David’s Bride, so we had a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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In the first few months, things were kind of tough because we were still investing in marketing and getting the word out. Then covid hit.

brandy: During covid they classified us as a hall when we wanted to be classified as an event space. That means we had to close the first four months. Then they let us open with minimal people, but that wasn’t good. Our parties are designed for 10 children and a minimum of five adults. So we still couldn’t do as we wanted. it was difficult.

don’t come: It was really hard, but we figured it out. We made the most of it. We made appointments for moms to come in individually with their daughters and the parents loved it. We were able to give the kids personal spa appointments and individual attention. It helped us grow.

After covid, people said “I want to make up for my daughter’s birth. “We lost two birthdays.” It was at that time that the shop window was just raised. We had to learn how to run the store and still keep our house healthy. It has been a great adventure.

brandy: I was and still am a freelance accountant – however, I only do it seasonally so I can focus primarily on PrincessMe. When I first stopped doing freelance accounting, we took a pay cut. But we decided from the beginning that two heads are better than one, and with our attention and hearts dedicated to PrincessMe, we were able to compensate for this pay cut. It also allows us to put our family first.

don’t come: Our oldest child is 14 years old and our youngest is 2 years old. We balance everything by planning ahead. Since all six children are homeschooled, we have to have a tight schedule. When I wake up in the morning, I focus on my children’s school from 7 am to 11 am. Then I put the kids down for a nap or a little rest and we focus on work from 11am to 2pm. We try to finish our business at 2pm so that we can spend the afternoons with our kids doing sports, dancing, gymnastics. It takes a lot of teamwork!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we can usually stick to the schedule. By Thursday, I’ll try to catch up on business while I prepare dinner. We have to go with the flow and understand that we are going off schedule. It doesn’t have to be exact.

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brandy: We plan our finances like our schedule. I am saving for the future. If we were to open two PrincessMe locations this year, we would have to save twice as much for our business as last year.

don’t come: We keep a tight budget. Before this unprecedented inflation, we only budgeted about $600 a month for groceries. Right now, we budget $900 a month for groceries, which is a 50% increase from what we were spending before. But eating fresh and organic foods really helps. We don’t eat junk food or go out to eat as much, which keeps costs to a minimum and keeps our family healthy.

brandy: We’ve also cut a few costs. I am a driver, I have my CDL, so I drive a mobile bus. I drive a limousine. In this way, we can save on salaries and wages.

don’t come: My mom also has an important role, she helps us with the kids, especially on Saturdays. These are our biggest spa days. I’m usually at the spa and he’s driving the limo. We are lucky to have a great support system that helps us with the kids and the business.

brandy: Our eldest daughter goes to the store with Nia. He registers, he does inventory, he even helps with spa services. She can do great nails! I don’t know how.

don’t come: Our daughters give us good ideas. We are about to launch a line of home decor and they helped us choose the color scheme. My 11-year-old daughter keeps us up to date on trends—unicorns, ice cream—because she knows what kids like. This is our cheat code for success!

brandy: Our boys help clean and they love to ride the bus with me. We have generators on the bus and they like to help with generators. Anything electric

don’t come: We give them allowances because we want them to know how to manage money. We also want them to know what it’s like to work hard for money and save for the future. They see us working hard, they see us saving, they start saving themselves. By the time they grow up, I think they can balance money well.

brandy: We say, “Come spend the day on the bus with me, and we’ll give you $20.” It doesn’t exactly work, but it has the makings of it. You wake up early and get dressed as if it’s a job.

don’t come: They get the best of both worlds. At homeschool, they learn English, science, and math—but we also want them to learn how to manage money. How to manage time. The entrepreneurship they experience will help develop them for the future.

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brandy: The only thing that I think can hinder our success is ourselves. We pray and try to have positive thoughts. With six children, things can get confusing – but we pull ourselves together and know how to get on.

don’t come: We often say something like “today, from 9am to 1pm, we’re doing this”, and then things don’t go as planned. So we always build in an emergency, in case we go through it. Planning ahead is the best way to stay balanced.

I use an old school planner. I write everything. Since I do so much on my phone and laptop, I can forget what’s on there – but then I look at my planner. It works really well for me.

brandy: I use Square and Quickbooks. I’m different from Nia in that I don’t like to write everything down. I would like to enter and see it!

don’t come: We still have a lot of potential for growth. Our company only operates on weekends, so we only spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the store. Otherwise we do back to back work at home. We work three days a week and can make six figures and we are very proud. We did all this alone without hiring experts.

This year we are bringing in external marketing team, graphic designers. We are about to open our first franchise location. We hope that our company will skyrocket.

brandy: Best case scenario, by this time next year, we’re buying a house in the Bahamas.

don’t come: What we really want to do is buy a forever home for ourselves and our children. Something we can pass on to the family. This time next year, I want to own a house and open 20 stores in the south. I want to help girls build their self-esteem and strengthen our community. I dream big – but I can see it.

Nicole Decker is a personal finance writer whose work has been published in Bankrate, Lifehacker, Morning Brew, and Dwell. He is also the author of the book Secrets of Larkin Daya cozy comedy mystery series set in eastern Iowa and What is this and what should be done next?a quarterly about understanding reality.


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