Welcome to Money Talks, a series where we interview people about their relationship with money, their relationship with each other, and how those relationships inform each other.
Nia Brown is the 30-year-old founder PrincessMe, a small black-woman-owned business that offers parties and services like spa packages for kids. His wife, Brandy, is a 34-year-old independent accountant who lends her skills to running the family business.
In addition to managing and growing a six-figure spa business, Nia and Brandy also homeschool their six children, ages 2 to 14.
This discussion has been revised and shortened.
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 very successful parties and showers, word began to spread from a small inner circle to people I had never met. This experience was the first thing that sparked my idea to start a business.
Another reason is my daughter. He was only one year old at the time, but he loved playing spa. Every time I make her face I see her self-esteem blossom. I wanted to give that experience to other girls in the community, so I decided to stop doing personal things to focus on starting and growing the PrincessMe brand.
To reduce the cost of starting a business, since we know that small businesses can be expensive, we set up a mobile bus. That’s what my husband thinks.
Brandy: Everything was portable at that time. They had barber shops, they had food trucks, they had a lot of different vehicles. We looked at a store, but it was too expensive. We could get a school bus for $4,000, so we got it.
We bought our bus from a lady who owned a gym. He beat the school bus and used it to store his extra toys. We were lucky, we found it on Craigslist, two ways out of our house, and it was absolutely rotten. All we have to do is put in the seats and paint and stuff like that.
Nia: It happened very, very quickly. Within a year we were able to install it in our brick-and-mortar [storefront]. We had five children 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 a hard time licensing the zone, because they didn’t have a name for a store like mine. We are not a reservation and cannot call it a crisis or a vacancy, so it was difficult for us to move it. We finally got a new unit built for our brick-and-mortar location. In addition, we only have small businesses in our store. We were next to Target, Old Navy, David’s Bridal, so there was a lot of pressure on us.
Things were very difficult for the first two months, because we were still investing in marketing and spreading the word. Then Covid hit.
Brandy: During Covid they classified us as a salon, when we want to classify it as a place to do it. That means we have to close for the first four months. Then they let us open to the little people, but it’s not good. Our parties are designed for 10 children and a minimum of five adults. So we haven’t been able to operate the way we want. It was difficult.
Nia: It was very difficult, but we figured it out. We did our best. We set up times for mothers to come with their daughters, and the parents loved it. We were able to give the children special holidays and pay attention to each other. That helped us grow.
After Covid, people said “I want to have my daughter’s birthday. We missed two birthdays.” That was when the store was just out of business. We had to learn how to run the store and keep our house healthy. It was a great journey.
Brandy: I am an independent accountant, and I am – however, only when I do it, so that I can focus first on PrincessMe. When I first quit my freelance accounting job, we took a pay cut. But we decided right from the start that two heads are better than one and with all our attention and hearts dedicated to PrincessMe we were able to pay for that cut. pay. It also allows us to put our families first.
Nia: Our oldest is 14, and our youngest is 2. We balance everything by planning ahead. Since all six children are homeschooled, we have to have strict instructions. 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 some rest time, and we focus on work from 11 am to 2 pm. We try to leave our business at 2 in the evening, so that we can spend the afternoons taking our children to sports, dances, sports. It takes a lot of teamwork!
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we can usually stick to the schedule. By Thursday, I’m trying to keep up with business while I prepare dinner. We have to go with the schedule, and understand that we will get out of schedule. It doesn’t have to be right.
Brandy: We plan our finances like we plan our schedules. I am saving a lot for the future. If we want to open two PrincessMe locations this year, we have to reserve twice as much for our business as last year.
Nia: We keep a good budget. Before this record-high cost we only budgeted $600 a month for food. Right now, we budget $900 a month for food, a 50 percent increase over what we were spending before. But eating fresh foods helps a lot. We don’t eat junk food or eat out a lot, to keep costs down and keep our family healthy.
Brandy: We have also cut some prices. I am a driver, I have a CDL, so I drive the mobile bus. I take the limo. That way we can save on fees.
Nia: My mother also played a big role. He helps us out with the kids, especially on Saturdays. Those were our best vacations. I’m usually at the spa, but he drives the limo. We are fortunate to have a great support system that helps us with the kids and the business.
Brandy: Our eldest daughter is with Nia at the store; she does the booking, she does the research, she also helps with the spa service. She can paint perfect nails! I don’t know how.
Nia: Our daughters have many good ideas. We were about to open a line of home decor, and they helped us choose the color scheme. My 11-year-old daughter continues to introduce us to trends — unicorns, ice cream — because she knows what kids like. That’s our secret to success!
Brandy: Our boys help clean up, and they love to ride the bus with me. We have fire engines on the bus, and they love to help fire engines. Anything electrical.
Nia: We pay them an allowance, because we want them to know how to manage money. We also want them to know how to work hard for money and save for the future. They see us work hard, they see us save, they start saving themselves. By the time they get older, I think they will be able to balance money well.
Brandy: We say “Come spend the day with me on the bus, and we’ll give you $20.” It doesn’t work well, but there are elements of work. You wake up early. You wear clothes. It feels like work.
Nia: They have the best of both worlds. In schools, they learn English, science, and math – but we also want them to learn how to manage money. How to manage time. The business they are dealing with will help develop for the future.
Brandy: The only thing that I think can hinder our success is ourselves. We pray, and we try to have good minds. With six kids, things can get busy – but we buckle down, and we know how to go about it.
Nia: We often say something like “Today, from 9 am to 1 pm, we’re doing this,” and then things don’t go as planned. . So we always build at random times, just in case we go. Planning ahead is the best way to keep things balanced.
I use an old school plan. I write everything down. Because I do a lot of things on my phone and my laptop, I can forget what’s there – but I look at my plan. It works great for me.
Brandy: I use Square and Quickbooks. Nia and I are different, because I don’t like to write everything down. I’d love to log in and see it!
Nia: There are still many things we can do to grow. We are a weekend only company, so we only spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the store. Otherwise we are doing back work at home. We work three days a week, and we can earn six figures, and we are proud of it. We did it all by ourselves, without hiring professionals.
This year we’re bringing out the marketers, the filmmakers. Our first franchise location is about to open. We hope that our company will grow.
Brandy: Best practice, now in the new year we bought a house in the Bahamas.
Nia: What we really want to do is buy a forever home for us and our children. It’s something we can pass down through the family. Now in the new year, I want to have my house and 20 stores to open in the South. I want to help girls build their self-esteem and strengthen our community. I dream big – 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 is also the author of the The Mysteries of Larkin Daya comedy mystery series set in eastern Iowa, and WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT DOESa quarterly zine about understanding reality.