How this couple runs a mobile spa while raising six kids

Welcome to Money Talk, a series where we interview people about their relationships with money, their relationships with each other, and how those relationships talk to each other.

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

In addition to managing and expanding a six-figure spa business, Nia and Brandy also homeschool their six children, ages 2 to 14. How do these business owners do it all — and what do they do with them? -hope to do more?

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Nia: I decided to become a small business owner 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 successful parties and showers, word began to spread from my inner circle to people I had never met. This experience is what sparked my idea to start a business.

The reason is my daughter. He was only one year old at the time, but he liked to hit the spa. Every time I do her makeup I can see that her self-esteem is blossoming. I wanted to give that influence to other girls in the community, so I decided to stop doing personal events to focus only on starting and launching the PrincessMe brand.

To reduce the cost of starting a business, knowing that small businesses can be expensive, we set up a mobile car. That is my husband’s opinion.

Brandi: Everything was going mobile at the time. They’ve got barber shops, they’ve got food trucks, there’s a lot of different transportation. We looked at the store front, but it was very expensive. We could get a used school bus for $4,000, so we got it.

We bought our car from a lady who owned a gym. He wrecked the school bus and used it to store his gym equipment. We were lucky, we found it on Craigslist, it was two exits away from our house, and it was completely off. All we have to do is put the seats in paint and stuff like that.

Nia: He grew up very, very quickly. In one year, we can prepare our bricks and mortar [storefront]. We had five children at the time, I was pregnant with number six – what can I say? It was tricky at first. When we opened our brick and mortar store, it was difficult for us to license the area, since they didn’t have a brand for a store like mine. We are not a spa and cannot be considered as an event or spa, so we have a strong way of getting local. We finally got a brand new design for our brick and mortar location. Also, we are the only small business in our shopping area. We’re next to Target, Old Navy, David’s Bridal, so we have a lot of pressure on us.

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Things are kind of difficult for the first few months, because we are still investing in the market and getting the word out. Then Covid hit.

Brandi: During Covid, they classified us as a storage facility, when we wanted to be classified as an event space. That means we have to close the first four months. Then they let us open with the smallest ones, but that’s not good. Our sessions are designed for 10 children and at least 5 adults. So we can’t work the way we want. It is difficult.

Nia: It was really hard, but we figured it out. We did our best. We schedule time for moms to come in one by one with their daughters, parents love it. We can offer kids a private spa day with one-on-one attention. That helped us grow.

After Covid, people were saying “I want to fix my daughter’s birthday. We missed two birthdays.” That’s when the store front started. We had to learn how to run the store and still keep our house clean. It’s a great journey.

Brandi: I am a freelance accountant, and I still am – however, I only do it part-time, so I can focus on PrincessMe. When I first quit working as an accountant, we took a pay cut. But we decided from the beginning that two points are better than one and with the attention and dedication of both of us to PrincessMe we can make up for the reduced costs. This also allows us to put our family first.

Nia: Our oldest child is 14, and our youngest is 2. We manage everything by planning ahead. Since all six children are in school, we will have a strict 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 naps or recess and we focus on work from 11 am to 2 pm. We try to finish our business at 2 pm, so that we can spend the afternoon taking our children to play, dance, exercise. It takes a lot of teamwork!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we usually stick to the schedule. From Thursday, I try to catch up on business while I prepare dinner. We have to move forward, but understand that we have to go out of order. It doesn’t have to be specific.

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Brandi: We plan our money as we plan our time. I have a lot of money and saving for the future. If we want to open two PrincessMe locations this year, we will save twice as much money for our business as we did last year.

Nia: We keep a strict budget. Before record high prices, we were spending about $600 a month on groceries. We now spend $900 a month on groceries, which is a 50 percent increase from what we were doing before. But eating fresh, organic food really helps. We don’t eat out or go out to eat a lot, which keeps our money down and keeps our family healthy.

Brandi: We have also cut a few prices. I am a driver, I have a CDL, so I drive a mobile bus. I drive a limo. That way, we can also save money.

Nia: My mother also works very hard. He helps us with the children, especially on Saturdays. Those are our big spa days. I’m always at the spa, he’ll drive the limo. We are fortunate to have a support system that helps both children and businesses.

Brandi: Our son goes shopping with Nia; she registers, she does inventory, she helps with spa services. It can cut perfect nails! I don’t know how.

Nia: Our women give us many good ideas. We were looking to start a home decor line, and they helped us choose a color scheme. My 11-year-old daughter introduces us to trends – unicorns, ice cream – because she knows what children love. That’s our cheat code for success!

Brandi: Our boys help with cleaning and they love to ride with me. We have fire engines on the bus and they like to help the firemen. Anything electrical.

Nia: We pay them, 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 money for the future. They see us working hard, they see us saving, they start saving themselves. When they grow up, I think they will be able to manage money better.

Brandi: We say “Come spend the day on the bus with me and we’ll give you $20.” It doesn’t work very well, but it has features. You get up early. You are dressed. It’s like work.

Nia: They get the best of both worlds. At school, they learn English, science, and maths – but we also want them to learn how to manage money. How to manage time. Their business will help develop them for the future.

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Brandi: The only thing that I think can make us successful is ourselves. We pray and we try to be positive. With six children, things could be worse – but we’re going down, and we know how to go.

Nia: We often say things like “Today, from 9 am to 1 pm, we’re doing this,” and then things don’t go as planned. So we’re always building in times of emergency, just in case we go overboard. Planning ahead is the best way to balance things out.

I use an old school plan. I write everything. Since I do so much on my phone and laptop, I tend to forget what’s there – but I keep an eye on my organizer. It works well for me.

Brandi: I use Square and Quickbooks. I’m different from Nia, because I don’t like to write everything. I love going in and seeing it!

Nia: We still have a lot of potential to grow. Our office only works on weekends, so we are only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the store. Otherwise, we do backwork at home. We work three days a week, and we manage to earn six figures, and we are very proud. We did it all by ourselves, without the help of professionals.

This year, we are introducing a group of outside vendors, film producers. We are looking to open our first franchise location. We expect our company to grow.

Brandi: Best case scenario, this time next year, we buy a house in the Bahamas.

Nia: What we really want is to buy a forever home for us and our children. What we can give to the family. By this time next year, I want to own a house and have 20 stores open in the South. I want to help girls build themselves up and strengthen our community. I’m dreaming – but I can see it happening.

Nicole Dieker is a personal finance writer whose work has appeared in Bankrate, Lifehacker, Morning Brew, and Dwell. He also wrote the newspaper The Larkin Day Mysterya humorous mystery series set in eastern Iowa, and WHAT IF AND WHAT TO DO NEXTa 15 minute zine about understanding the truth.

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