How this couple runs a mobile spa while raising six kids

Welcome to Money Talks, a series in which we interview people about their relationships with money, their relationships with each other, and how those relationships inform each other.

Nia Brown is the 30-year-old founder Princess Me, a black-woman-owned small business that offers parties and services like spa packages for kids. Her husband, Brandi, is a 34-year-old freelance accountant who is applying his skills to co-operating the 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. How do these business owners do it all—and what do they hope to do next?

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

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 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 only see her self-esteem blossom. I wanted to give that influence to other girls in the community, so I decided to stop doing personal events to focus solely on starting and growing the PrincessMe brand.

As small businesses can be expensive, we have established a mobile bus to reduce the cost of starting a business. It was my husband’s idea.

brandy: At that time everything was mobile. They had barber shops, they had food trucks, there were a bunch of different mobile things. We looked at the storefront, but it was too expensive. We could get a used school bus for $4,000, so we got it.

We bought our bus from a lady who owned a gym. She destroyed the school bus and was using it to store her extra gym equipment. We were very lucky, we found it on Craigslist, it was two exits away from our house, and it turned out perfectly. All we had to do was put the seats in and paint and stuff like that.

Nia: It grew very, very fast. Within a year we were able to set up our brick-and-mortar [storefront]. We had five children at the time, I was pregnant with number six – what can I say? At first it was very difficult. When we opened our brick-and-mortar, we had a hard time with the zoning license, because they didn’t have a label for a store like mine. We are not a spa and cannot be considered an event or venue location, so we had a hard time getting zoned. We ended up getting a new category created for our brick-and-mortar location. Also, we were the only small business in our shopping center. We were next to Target, Old Navy, David’s Bridal, so there was a lot of pressure on us.

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Things were rough for the first two months, because we were still investing in marketing and getting the word out. Then covid hit.

brandy: During Covid they classified us as a salon, when we wanted to be classified as an event venue. This meant we had to close the first four months. Then they allowed us to open with minimal people, but that wasn’t good. Our parties are designed for up to 10 children and a minimum of five adults. So we could not work as we wanted. It was difficult.

Nia: It was really hard, but we figured it out. We made the best of it. We set up appointments for moms to come with their daughters one-on-one, and the parents loved that. We were able to give the kids individual spa dates and one-on-one attention. It helped us grow.

After Covid, people were saying “I want to do makeup for my daughter’s birthday. We missed two birthdays.” At that time the storefront just closed. We had to learn how to run the store and still keep our house healthy. It’s been a great adventure.

brandy: I was a freelance accountant, and I still am – although, I only do it seasonally, so that I can focus primarily on PrincessMe. When I first stopped working as a freelance accountant, we took a pay cut. But we decided from the start that two heads are better than one and with our focus and hearts dedicated to Princesami we were able to make up for that pay cut. It also allows us to prioritize our family.

Nia: 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 keep 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 some rest, and we focus on work from 11am to 2am. We try to give our business a hard stop at 2 o’clock, so that we can spend the afternoon taking our children to sports, dance, gymnastics. It takes a lot of teamwork!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we are usually able to stick to the schedule. By Thursday, I’m trying to catch up on business while preparing dinner. We have to go with the flow, and understand that we will go off schedule. It doesn’t have to be exact.

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brandy: We plan our schedule just like we plan our finances. I am big on 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.

Nia: We keep a tight budget. Before this record-high inflation we only budgeted $600 a month for groceries. Currently, we budget $900 per month for groceries, which is a 50 percent increase over what we were spending before. But fresh, organic food really helps. We don’t eat junk food or go out a lot, which keeps costs down and our family stays healthy.

brandy: We have also cut some costs. I am a driver, I have my CDL, so I drive a mobile bus. I drive a limo. This way we are able to save on payroll.

Nia: Mother also has a big role. He helps us with the kids, especially on Saturdays. Those are our biggest spa days. I’m usually at the spa, and he’ll drive the limo. We are fortunate to have a great support system that helps us both with the kids and the business.

brandy: Our oldest daughter goes shopping with Nia; She registers, she does inventory, she even helps with spa services. She can paint the perfect nails! I don’t know how.

Nia: Our daughters give us many good ideas. We are about to launch a home decor line, and they helped us pick out a color scheme. My 11-year-old daughter keeps us up to date on trends — unicorns, ice cream — because she knows what kids like. That’s our cheat code for success!

brandy: Our sons help clean up, and they love riding the bus with me. We’ve got generators on the bus, and they love to help with the generators. Any electricity.

Nia: We give them allowances, because we want them to know how to manage money. We 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. As they grow up, I think they will be able to balance money better.

brandy: We say “come spend the day on the bus with me, and we’ll give you $20.” It’s not exactly working, but it’s got elements of work. you wake up early you get dressed Sounds like a job.

Nia: 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 are experiencing will help them grow for the future.

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brandy: I think the only thing that can get in the way of our success is ourselves. We pray, and we try to keep a positive mind. With six children, things can be busy – but we box down, and we know how to go.

Nia: We often say “today, from 9am to 1pm, we’re doing this” and then things don’t go as planned. So we always build in times of emergency, if we go through. Planning ahead is the best way to keep things balanced.

I use an old school planner. I write everything. I do so many things on my phone and my laptop, I can forget what’s 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 love logging in and watching!

Nia: We have a lot of potential to grow. Our company only works on weekends, so we only spend Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the store. Otherwise we are doing backwork at home. We operate three days a week, and we’re able to make six figures, and we’re very proud. We did it all by ourselves, without hiring experts.

This year we are bringing in an outside marketing team, graphic designers. We are about to open our first franchise location. We hope that our company has sky.

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

Nia: What we really want to do is buy a forever home for us and our children. Something we can pass on to the family. This time next year, I want to buy 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 happening.

Nicole Dicker is a personal finance writer whose work has appeared in Bankrate, Lifehacker, Morning Brew, and Dwell. She is also a writer Larkin Day MysteryA comic-comfort mystery series set in eastern Iowa, and What is it and what to do nextA quarterly zine about understanding reality.


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