Avante Salon-Day Spa caters to customers

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Kathleen Bobbitt had a vision of an posh facility where clients could relax and be pampered in an elegant atmosphere - not just a beauty salon, but a day spa for Carson City.

This Carson City woman had worked as a beautician at local salons and had handled bookkeeping and office chores for businesses. Creating such a facility from scratch would not be a simple job, she knew.

So Bobbitt asked for help, studied, scrambled for bargains on salon equipment and opened her 990-square-foot Avante Salon in July 1998 at 1218 South Carson St.

It was a start, but Bobbitt knew the six-station beauty parlor was just a stop on the way to her vision. She would get there, sooner or later.

Sooner, it turns out.

The Avante Salon and Day Spa, complete with full-body treatment beds, five dedicated studios for facials and electrolysis and such, five manicure stations and much more, opened Nov. 22 just up the street at 1013 South Carson.

"I had a dream of offering as many services in one location as possible," Bobbitt said recently. "I knew I could make it happen, but I didn't expect it this quickly. I was very fortunate."

Bobbitt likely made her own luck as she pursued her vision.

"My husband David and I started looking for a way to open a business in early 1998. I had seen a newspaper article in late '97 about the Nevada Microenterprise Initiative, so I went there," Bobbitt said. She met Jim Cline, who worked for four small non-profit business development programs, including the initiative, and Elizabeth Scoot, program manager for Nevada Microenterprise Initiative.

Bobbitt started a process that eventually brought her a loan to buy all new equipment for the expanded Avante. More importantly, though, Bobbitt began educating herself about how to establish and operate a small business successfully.

"The initiative offered classes, taught me how to develop a business plan and what to watch out for," Bobbitt said.

"Jim was very personable. I felt like I had someone pulling for me."

Even as the Bobbitts poured their own resources into opening the first incarnation of Avante, she continued to take classes, read business books and trade journals and attend conventions to learn how to take Avante to a higher level.

"At a beauty convention in San Jose last year, a course taught by a successful salon owner had a big impact on me," she said. "I learned how to take care of my stylists and estheticians so they had what they needed to satisfy their customers and make them come back. I needed to help them be successful, so they could make me successful.

"Business was very good across the street. I had very good people working with me and we were always booked. In March 1999 I started looking for a larger location."

Local attorney and real estate investor Richard Staub was about to convert the former A&W location into a small office complex and Bobbitt saw a sign on the property. It wasn't long before she was not only a business owner but a spa designer.

"Richard and builder Tom Metcalf are great. But it was pretty scary when a builder hands me these blueprints and says,'Where do you want the walls?' " she said.

Bobbitt had three times the space to work with, with vaulted ceilings and a loft away from the bustle of hairdressers and manicurists, where massage, body wrap and facial clients could be attended to and made comfortable.

"I did a lot of research about designing a salon in trade books and magazines, at the trade show exhibits at conventions," she said. The construction process was a lesson in itself, with daily decisions about significant investments in things like dual ventilation systems and special lighting.

"It did come out the way I envisioned it. No one else saw it the way I did during construction. David was kind of amazed when he saw how it turned out," Bobbitt said.

Bobbitt said the majority of the funds for the new spa still came from her and David's personal resources.

A conventional business loan was not possible so soon after the first Avante opened.

"Things were going well there, but banks want cash-flow histories and things that just aren't available that soon," Bobbitt said.

Scott and Cline guided the Bobbitts through the process that eventually resulted in a loan for salon equipment. The Nevada Microenterprise Initiative provides small loans, $100-$25,000, for business start-ups or expansions that have been denied conventional financing.

"If I had not gotten that loan, I think I still would have made the new spa as large. It probably would have taken longer and I probably would have leased the equipment, which would have cost more than this loan," Bobbitt said.


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