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BizCast 08: Creating an Experience. Brilliant Bodywork Moves from Onalaska to La Crosse, Doubles in Space

Episode 08

Creating an Experience. Brilliant Bodywork Moves from Onalaska to La Crosse, Doubles in Space

About BizCast Greater La Crosse

We bring you news from the business community. From startups to experienced problem solvers, you’ll get in-depth insight on the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Greater La Crosse. Our show is a collaboration between WIZMNews.com and BizNews Greater La Crosse ( GreaterLaCrosse.media ).

Take-Aways

 

[1]
I worked a full-time job here in town. It was a very stressful job that would lead to a lot of compassion, fatigue. At the end of the day, you’re just kind of wanting to slip between the covers and go night-night. But I decided I wanted to take care of people in a different way. I started going to school for skincare to learn not only how to take care of myself, but also how to care for others and get them to relax and rejuvenate too. What I would do is I would actually go to my small little office space right after work, and take care of clients until sometimes 10-11 o’clock at night.

[2]
I looked at my husband and I said I can’t go back. And he said, “That’s okay.” He gave me one day to sit and wallow in my own little self-pity and my little crying mode. And then the next morning when the alarm went off, he woke me up and said, “Do you have somewhere to be?”

[3]
He had enough trust in me. When I didn’t have enough trust in myself to push me out there and say you’re gonna, you’ll succeed. Just go out there. Do what you love. Treat people the way that you want to be treated. And the rest is kind of history. We’ve grown ever since then.

[4]
We like to practice with integrity. I was just talking with someone earlier, and I was like, I could do a $6,000 laser procedure on you, but if you don’t need it, you won’t be happy with the results. I won’t take advantage of you, when you only need maybe a $300 procedure that will give you better results, you’re going to be happier, you’ll have money to spend on your home care, which will maintain those results. And in that way, we’re building rapport.

[5]
We wanted to be different. We wanted to be head above everybody else in this region, for offering the benefits that we can. And that’s hard to do as a small business.

[6]
I wasn’t raised with the silver spoon. We had to earn it. I love that about my husband and I — we we didn’t just go and buy somebody’s already-started business. We literally built this from nothing. And that means the world to me.

[7]
[Medspas] are usually cold and very clinical. And we didn’t want that. We wanted people to walk in and see hints of the Coulee Region from the live moss wall to we have a room that’s for educational purposes where we can bring in national vendors or even just local folks that want to teach about. We have somebody coming in to teach about positive body image and getting away from like the body dysmorphic marketing that’s out there everywhere. This [space] is paying tribute to our beautiful bluffs in the region. We wanted people to walk in and feel at home, but still feel like they’re in an upscale environment.

[8]
I had to hold back tears when I was at my appointment today because I love the space. I feel comfort and love when I walk in this space. And that’s always what we wanted. And I’m going to be honest with you, Vicki, I feared losing that when we moved from Main Street on Onalaska to Fourth Street La Crosse because so much of my and Adam’s heart and soul went into that space. It was a bit of eclectic, every room was a little bit different, every room had a different feel a different mural, there were Turkish lamps on one of the walls and the Zen room, but it didn’t flow. And that always bothered me that it did not flow. This space has such a beautiful flow to it, lovely reminders that our lives are precious. Time is a commodity, and we need to take that time to rest and restore, just be with ourselves be with that time, feel the physical touch that we have to offer as practitioners because that is so important,

[9]
We look for people that are thrilled to be in our space. We look for people that honor us just as much as we honor them. And that’s really our demographic, it’s people that are looking to make changes, and they’re looking for guidance, and they are grateful for that help.

[10]
The scars are part of the journey. We as humans go through so many traumas in life. It’s okay to show that there was a trauma there. But more importantly, I think it’s important to show how we overcame it and how we went through it.

Full Transcript

 

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 00:02
I had to hold back tears when I was at my appointment today because I love this space. I feel comfort and love when I walked in this space. And that’s always what we wanted and I’m going to be honest with you, Vicki, I feared losing that when we moved from Main Street Onalaska to 4th Street, La Crosse.

Vicki Markussen 00:22
This is Biz Cast Greater La Crosse. I’m your host, Vicki Markussen. And joining me is Stephanie Andresen-Stevens, owner of Brilliant Bodywork Med Spa, I think we should start by just telling people what you offer.

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 00:34
So we’re a full service Med Spa. And we do everything from facials to massage therapy. We have an acne clinic, and then we do aesthetic laser treatments, anything from laser hair removal to scar reduction, and skin rejuvenation therapy focusing on people that have sun damage lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation scarring, we really just take care of any of those skin needs that are bothersome to people.

Vicki Markussen 00:59
And you just had a relocation talk about that.

Unknown Speaker 01:03
We did we actually move from Main Street in Onalaska, down to 400 4th Street North here in La Crosse in The Hub on Sixth building. So we’re right in that first level with that big beautiful patio, which we have amazing plans for in the summer months. But it’s been such a great move for us. We’re really excited to be here in La Crosse.

Vicki Markussen 01:25
Yeah, it’s such a small community that you and I actually met when you first started, you were in the same building when I was with the Builders Association you moved in. So talk about your progression.

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 01:36
Yes. So we started Brilliant Bodywork in 2008, which is when we’re in the La Crosse area Builders Association building. And I think what you and I determined was about a 250 square foot area. So literally two treatment rooms and a little bitty like waiting room. Yes. And we even crammed a sauna in there, if you remember, infrared sauna in there. And within a couple of years, we’re able to grow out of that space and move to Main Street in Onalaska to about a 3500 square foot area. And within the last few years, we have outgrown that as well. And that led us to have to move to La Crosse to our beautiful new space.

Vicki Markussen 02:19
This was really a what they call now a side hustle, right? You had a job and you were trying to launch this on the side. What was that like?

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 02:29
You know, looking back, I don’t know how I did it. Because I worked a full time job here in town. And it was a very stressful job that would lead to a lot of compassion, fatigue. And at the end of the day, you’re just kind of wanting to slip between the covers and go night night. But I decided I wanted to take care of people in a different way. So I started going to school for skincare to learn not only how to take care of myself, but also how to care for others and get them to relax and rejuvenate too. So what I would do is I would actually go to my small little office space right after work, and take care of clients until sometimes 10-11 o’clock at night.

Vicki Markussen 03:06
Wow.

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 03:06
I’m just doing facials during that time. We did like eyelash extensions. But it was more relaxation services not really focused on the aesthetic side of things.

Vicki Markussen 03:16
Yeah. So we wouldn’t really see each other much because I’d be leaving and you’d be coming after that. So transitioning. I mean, that’s a huge leap to leave a full time job with benefits to Brilliant Bodywork. And so how did that transition happen?

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 03:34
Honestly, I have the most amazing business partner and spouse I could ever ask for. So we obviously talked about this quite a bit. And in my job, I was no longer happy. I was burned out Compassion Fatigue was was a real strain. And we know that your workplace can kind of be detrimental on your mental health if it’s not a positive environment. So we kind of got to the point of could we build this? And it came to one day, I looked at my husband and I said I can’t go back. And he said, That’s okay. He gave me one day to sit and wallow in my own little self pity and my little crying mode. And then the next morning when the alarm went off, he woke me up and said, Do you have somewhere to be? And I was like you told me I didn’t write? And he’s like, No, you’re gonna go to the spa, and you’re gonna make this work. He’s like, I believe in you. And this is when you’re on Main Street. This was when we were in lab us. Oh, really? Okay. I didn’t realize that. Yes, yes. So I was still in that little location. And he had enough trust in me. When I didn’t have enough trust in myself to push me out there and say you’re gonna, you’ll succeed. Just go out there. Do what you love. Treat people the way that you want to be treated. And the rest is kind of history. We’ve grown ever since then.

Vicki Markussen 04:53
Talk about how did the customers respond? How did that how did that grow?

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 04:57
With our philosophies of business, it’s is always about taking care of the person in front of you. And having a warm, welcoming environment despite anybody’s — anything — sexual orientation, if they’re male or female, their religion status, LGBTQ, everyone is welcome in our space. We truly mean that. We wanted to provide a safe space and a safe haven for people to come to and relax, rejuvenate, and to confide in us their concerns with their skin or their body, whatever it may be. And we wanted to offer them solutions. We like to practice with integrity. I was just talking with someone earlier, and I was like, I could do a $6,000 laser procedure on you, but if you don’t need it, you won’t be happy with the results. I won’t take advantage of you, when you only need maybe a $300 procedure that will give you better results, you’re going to be happier, you’ll have money to spend on your home care, which will maintain those results. And in that way, we’re building rapport. I think that’s really the core of our business has been building trust and relationships and having compassion, and having a very safe place to land, whether we’re in 250 square feet, or now 7000 square feet,

Vicki Markussen 06:10
7000 square feet. So how do you double in size? What does that look like?

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 06:15
Like I said, it’s all about the integrity. And as we started gaining employees, we actually noted the things that we wanted, as employees things that we weren’t happy with, with our current employers or former employers that we wanted to be different. We wanted to be head above everybody else in this region, for offering the benefits that we can. And that’s hard to do as a small business. I mean, we have to admit, so we had to get really creative. Sometimes the lifeblood of our business is our staff, we depend on one another, I’m still a staff member, I’m on the floor, I’m doing treatments alongside of them. So their struggles are my struggles. And I think that’s important too. We’re not ghost owners. We’re there every single day, working in the trenches with them. And I think that makes a big difference.

Vicki Markussen 07:03
It absolutely does. In terms of the morale of your employees,

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 07:07
I scrub the toilets, just like everybody else. In fact, I was on my hands and knees today with a tennis ball, getting scuffs off the floor. So they know I will ask them to do something that I myself wouldn’t do.

Vicki Markussen 07:19
But in the meantime, you also have the financial component and the marketing component. And even I would imagine, just trying to envision what this space would look like was very time consuming.

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 07:33
It was luckily for everybody, I am such a dreamer and a planner. So I we’ve scrounge my husband and I have scrounge and saved our profits for this moment to have this big beautiful spa. And if you can imagine, I love Disney with all my heart. Princess Tiana is like my home girl. She started from a very humble beginning, as did I black-box mac and cheese for dinner, you know that you didn’t know where your next meal would necessarily come from, It was provided, the Lord always provides, your parents provide. But it could be something very simple. I wasn’t raised with the silver spoon. We had to earn it. And I love I love that about my husband and I and I love that about our business that we we didn’t just go and buy somebody’s already started a business. We literally built this from nothing. And that means the world to me. So when you have 14 years to plan out a vision of what does your future business look and feel like? And how do we keep it grounded? And how do we keep it welcoming? If you look at Med spas on Pinterest, for instance. I don’t even know if people look at that anymore, but I do. They’re usually cold and very clinical. And we didn’t want that. We wanted people to walk in and see hints of the Coulee Region from the live moss wall to we have a room that’s for educational purposes where we can bring in national vendors or even just local folks that want to teach about. We have somebody coming in to teach about body image positive body image and getting away from like the body dysmorphic marketing that’s out there everywhere. And that is paying tribute to our beautiful bluffs in the region. So we wanted people to walk in and feel at home but still feel like they’re in a upscale environment.

Vicki Markussen 09:32
I’ve seen the the social media posts, I mean, there’s chandeliers and I didn’t know about the moss wall and so you made it more than just walls and treatment rooms. Right. It’s it’s a place where people can come and feel comfortable,

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 09:48
Correct. It’s all about getting respite and being restored when you leave. So from people walking in the door and I just got a beautiful message actually from one of our clients on Instagram. Seeing, I had to hold back tears when I was at my appointment today because I love the space. I feel comfort and love when I walk in this space. And that’s always what we wanted. And I’m going to be honest with you, Vicki, I feared losing that when we moved from Main Street on Onalaska to Fourth Street La Crosse, because so much of my and Adams heart and soul went into that space. And it was a bit of eclectic, every room was a little bit different, every room had a different feel a different mural, there were Turkish lamps on one of the walls and the Zen room, but it didn’t flow. And that always bothered me that it did not flow. This space has such a beautiful flow to it lovely reminders that our lives are precious. Time is a commodity, and we need to take that time to rest and restore just be with ourselves be with that time, feel the physical touch that we have to offer as practitioners because that is so important, especially coming out of however long of a pandemic this has been now we’re all losing track two and a half, three years, people have longed for that physical touch of just getting a massage or having somebody work on their face and do a facial massage on them. So this was a really important move for us. And I think it’s a really good way to come out of this time where we were all in a secluded lockdown

Vicki Markussen 11:23
So who’s your target market? And you said it’s not necessarily about demographics. How do you how do you pick the right customer? How do you ensure that you get the right customer?

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 11:32
We honestly we look for people that are thrilled to be in our space. We look for people that honor us just as much as we honor them. And that’s really our demographic, it’s people that are looking to make changes and they’re looking for guidance, and they are grateful for that help.

Vicki Markussen 11:54
What makes you passionate about what you do.

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 11:57
I think what really got me started in skincare and owning a med spa was my own struggles. I was born with a genetic mutate of disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome that affects my collagen. So all of the collagen in my body is defective and we think collagen we think of just skin, but it’s your organs. It is your eyes, it’s your ligaments, your joints, your muscles, everything in between. With my particular type of Ehlers Danlos, I actually have super flexible joints. So I have frequent joint dislocations, which means as a child, I had a lot of hospital visits and a lot of surgeries at Shriners Hospital for Children. And I remember being probably pre adolescent, sitting in the waiting room and being told you’re going to have to have this surgery, this is what it entails, there’s probably going to be like a 14 inch scar on each of your legs and thinking to myself, who’s going to want me?

Vicki Markussen 12:56
Hm. At that age!

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 12:57
At that age, and it really strikes me now as an adult that everything that’s pushed towards us from a very early age is about perfection. It’s about airbrush images, tiny waist, big breasts, voluptuous, you know, bum and hips and everything being perfect. You didn’t see scars on the cover of magazines are on Covergirl commercials or whatever it was at that time. And I remember feeling guilty just seconds after I said it because I’m looking around me in a waiting room full of children that have issues just like I do everything from cleft lip and palate. Our hospital didn’t do burns, but Shriners does do burns, to limb deficient patients, children in wheelchairs, prosthetic arms, and thinking to myself, “How selfish. How dare you!” Instead of worrying about who would want me or why would I want to look at these ugly scars forever? What if we could embrace the scars? We can make them look better. That’s okay. But the scars are part of the journey. We as humans go through so many traumas in life. It’s okay to show that there was a trauma there. But more importantly, I think it’s important to show how we overcame it and how we went through it. So we’re gonna get back to why skincare I remember being 12-13-14 years old having a surgery and being like, I want to figure out how to make these scars less apparent. It’s okay to have them. That’s all right. I want to learn how to make them better. So researching, which Vicki I’m older than the internet, so there was no internet. Don’t even ask me what I was looking at. It must have been magazines.

Vicki Markussen 14:45
You went to the library in the card catalog.

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 14:48
There was a lot of library time. They had like free treats and fresh water that you could just sip on all day. It was really good water. But librarians that would help you find anything you need. I remember asking her, “I want to learn about skin.”, and her just having those look like, “Okay.” But I also remember going and buying vitamin E capsules at a very young age, this is adolescent age, and popping them open and putting them on my scars and massaging the scars.

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 15:17
And it also explains I think it’s interesting how your upbringing is now an extension of the services that you provide very, very inspirational. This is Vicki Markussen You have been listening to Stephanie Andresen-Stevens the owner Brilliant Bodywork Med Spa, and we will catch you next time.

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 15:17
Interesting

Stephanie Andresen-Stevens 15:17
Learning how to nourish that skin, but also manipulate it and show it appreciation and love for the job it was doing, which is to help keep us safe from viruses, bacteria infection. If it’s a little scarred, that’s okay. And I think that’s what really inspired me to go on, learn about skincare as an adult, open a spa and actually help others through their traumas and their journeys, and kind of embracing what it is that we have and what functionality it gives us — even if we’re not 100% satisfied and not photoshopped.

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