Investing in programs that boost entrepreneurship in Southwest Florida is one of our key priorities. Our B3 for Women and Kiva U.S loans programs work to eliminate the barriers to economic and social equality by helping local women entrepreneurs access interest-free capital and entrepreneurial resources. To celebrate Women’s History Month we’re highlighting some of our past program participants and celebrating the work they’re doing to shape Southwest Florida’s business landscape.
Carleen is one of our Kiva U.S Loans program participants. She started her business, Imagine Wellness Spa with a $5,000 Kiva loan, which she repaid, and used to establish herself in Southwest Florida. Carleen repaid her initial loan and returned for a second round of funding. Raising a $10,000 interest-free loan to expand her business.
We sat down with Carleen for a brief interview to hear her entrepreneurship story and her advice for emerging entrepreneurs.
Tell us about your business?
Imagine By Carleen is about helping people find and enhance their “best beautiful self”. The
Imagine Wellness Spa is my main outlet for this vision right now. As a Wellness Spa, I combine
my skills as an Esthetician and wellness advocate along with skills of like-minded
professionals, including massage therapy, esthetics, wellness coaching, to provide a single
spa-like experience for people to get on the path to their “best beautiful self”. My business
model includes a mentorship program to build up the professionals that share my space as
independent business owners, helping them also find and enhance their own “best beautiful
self” through realizing their full potential as a practitioner and business owner.
How did you start your business?
I started in CT as a makeup artist while seeking new employment in my corporate career
during the economic downturn. What started as a small little side gig grew legs and ultimately
became what it is now.
What role did the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation play at the beginning of your
When I moved to Florida with the idea of rolling my part-time business out to a full-time
career I began in a small rental location. I was introduced to the Women’s Foundation as a
resource to support me to grow my business through the Kiva loan process. I knew some
funding would be helpful but really didn’t think I would qualify through traditional methods
since my business was so small and new. The interest-free loan I received was just what I
needed to get started!
Tell us about the process of growing your business (Big lessons, challenges, etc.)
The Kiva loan allowed me to move my business to a larger location with better access for
clients. I was then challenged with finding practitioners to share the space and managing the
growth and cash flow. I drew upon my former corporate background to build operating
procedures, business plans and goals. I learned that I needed to think like a CEO, not an
Esthetician and focus on all of the parts of my business, hiring help where needed in
accounting, marketing, front desk staff, etc. Each step felt monumental and sometimes
scary! But, as I looked down Cape Coral Pkwy, I knew if all of those other businesses could do
it, surely I could…and I prayed!
“I think the single most lesson I learned is that this was my
calling and when I let God lead me it worked. When I tried to do things without Devine
guidance, they didn’t work out so well.”
What do you think it’s the biggest reason for your success?
First I give all the glory to God. Secondly, I treat the clients individually as each one is the
most important part of my day and work hard to be very present with each one and serve
them the best way I can. Thirdly, I work with the practitioners that share my space as a
mentor and share everything I learn with them.
Do you consider yourself a leader? How do you define leadership?
Yes, I am a leader. Leadership is empowering others to be strong in their purpose and humble
in their execution of it.
What has been an obstacle you’ve faced, that has made you stronger?
When faced with outgrowing my second location the best business decision was to purchase
the next location. I had no means for a down payment but I pursued the opportunity anyway
and through my faith I was able to secure an SBA loan with owner financing for the down
payment. Owning this property has enabled me to grow stronger as a business owner and also
as a woman responsible for my own destiny. As a result, my business continues to flourish.
What are your goals for this year?
My goals for this year include a new license in permanent makeup, which I just accomplished.
To grow the team of practitioners so I can step away from my business more often and
achieve some balance in my personal life. To increase the revenue in my business by a
minimum of 20% and increase profitability by a minimum of 36%.
What advice would you give to women who are just starting their business?
Don’t underestimate your goals, your dreams, or your ability to accomplish them. This is a huge challenge for women to overcome so seek help in putting these things together, a mentor or accountability coach. You can start a business with little capital, but in order to sustain it, you need to grow and in order to grow it, you will ultimately need some funding.
This is where seeking the right kind of support comes in handy.
As women we are used to doing everything ourselves, try not to get yourself caught in that kind of thinking.
The day only has 24 hours, what tips and tools do you use to stay productive?
First things first. Determine and plan the most important things to do each day, always
including self-care in that list (quiet time, working out, etc).
What projects are you working on right now?
Long term project for the year: Documenting all of my protocols, procedures, contracts,
business reviews and things I have put in place to run my Space Sharing business model
successfully for the spa. I plan to offer a program for others in the industry to license my
Short term I am moving to a larger room to a accommodate my new services I am offering
personally, and redecorating some areas of the spa for more productivity and an enhanced
How do you balance your business and your private life?
The last five years have been not as balanced as I would like since so much energy goes into
growing and building a business. I do keep Sundays sacred for my family and we have date
nights and small vacations where possible. This year I am seeing more opportunities for more
balance and I am excited about that!
Tell us about one person who has defined your professional life?
I had a Senior Manager way back when I worked for Comcast who was an amazing mentor. He
believed in me and my passion for leading people and empowered me to grow. I try to do this
for all who work in my space or come to me for professional advice. The road to success is
not easy, there will always be many challenges along the way. It’s how you respond to those
challenges that ultimately matter.
Your favorite book –
For a long time it was The Prophet by Khalil Gibran but now I spend the most time with my
Your favorite song –
Edge of Seventeen -Stevie Nicks
What gives you the most joy in life?
My adult daughters and my animals (fur babies) and my husband
How can people learn more about your business?
http://imaginebycarleen.com or just give me a call at 239-471-7029