How this couple runs a mobile spa while raising six kids

Welcome to Money Talks, a series in which 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 such as spa packages for children. Her husband, Brandy, is a 34-year-old freelance accountant who is putting his skills to work running the family business together.

In addition to managing and expanding a six-figure spa business, Nia and Brandy also homeschool their six children, ranging in age from 2 to 14. How do these business owners do it all – and x ‘are they hoping 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, the word started to spread from a small inner circle only to people I had never met. This experience is what initially sparked my idea to start a business.

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

In order to reduce the costs of starting a business, as we know that small businesses can be expensive, we set up a mobile bus. That was my husband’s idea.

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

We bought our bus from a lady who owned a gym. She had cleaned out 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 was completely gutted. All we had to do was put seats and paint and things like that.

Nia: He grew up very, very quickly. Within a year we were able to establish in our brick and mortar [storefront]. At that time we had five children, 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 difficult time with zoning licensing, as they had no label for a store like mine. We are not a spa and cannot be considered an event space or venue, so we had a tough road to get an area. We ended up wanting to get 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 we had a lot of pressure on us.

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Things were a little rough for the first few months, because we were still investing in marketing and getting the word out. Then Covid hit.

Brandi: During Covid we were classified as a salon, when we wanted to be classified as a space for events. This meant that we had to close for the first four months. Then they let us open with a minimum of people, but that was not good. Our parties are designed for 10 children and at least five adults. Therefore we still could not work as we wanted. It was tough.

Nia: It was really tough, but we got it. We made the most of it. We set up appointments for mothers to come in with their children one on one, and the parents loved it. We were able to give the kids personal spa dates and one on one attention. This helped us grow.

After Covid, people were saying “I want to make up for my daughter’s birthday. We missed two birthdays.” That’s when the showroom just left. We had to learn how to run the store and still keep our household healthy. It was a great adventure.

Brandi: I was a freelance accountant, and still am – however, I only do it seasonally, so I can focus primarily on PrincessMe. When I first stopped doing consistent freelance accountant work, we took a pay cut. But we decided from the very beginning that two heads are better than one and with both our attention and our hearts dedicated to PrincessMe we were able to make up for that reduction in wages. This also allows us to prioritize our family.

Nia: Our oldest child is 14, and our youngest is 2. We balance everything by planning ahead. Since all six children are homeschooled, we have to 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 a nap or some rest time, and we focus on work from 11 am to 2 pm. We try to give our business a hard break at 2 pm, 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. Until Thursday, I’m trying to catch up on business work 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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Brandi: We plan our finances just like we plan our schedule. I’m big on saving for the future. If we want to open two PrincessMe locations this year, we need to save twice as much for our business as we did last year.

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

Brandi: We have also reduced a few costs. I am a driver, I have my CDL, so I drive the mobile bus. I drive the limo. That way we will be able to save on wages.

Nia: My mother also plays a big role. She helps us with the children, especially on Saturdays. Those are our biggest spa days. I’m usually at the spa, and he’ll be driving the limo. We are fortunate to have a great support system that helps us with both the kids and the business.

Brandi: Our oldest daughter goes with Nia to the store; do the register, do the inventory, even help with the spa services. She can paint perfect nails! I don’t know how.

Nia: Our girls give us a lot of good ideas. We are about to launch a line of home decoration, and they helped us choose the color scheme. My 11-year-old daughter keeps us up to date with trends — unicorns, ice cream — because she knows what kids like. That’s our cheat code for success!

Brandi: Our children help with cleaning, and they love to ride the bus with me. We have generators on the bus, and they love to help with the generators. Nothing electrical.

Nia: We pay them an allowance, because we want them to know how to manage money. We also want them to know what it means to work hard for money and save for the future. They see us working hard, they see us saving, they start saving on their own. By the time they grow up, I think they will be able to balance money very well.

Brandi: We say “Come spend the day with me on the bus, and we’ll give you $20.” It’s not exactly working, but it has the working elements. She gets up early. You wear It feels like work.

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Nia: They get the best of both worlds. In home school, 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 develop them for the future.

Brandi: The only thing that I think can hinder our success is ourselves. We pray, and try to have positive minds. With six kids, things can get hectic – but we buckle down, and we know how to go about it.

Nia: Many times we 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 in time of emergency, in case we pass. Planning ahead is the best way to keep things balanced.

I use an old school planner. I write everything. Since I do a lot of things on my phone and my laptop, I can forget what’s on there — but then I look at my planner. It works really well for me.

Brandi: I use Square and Quickbooks. I’m different from Nia, as I don’t like to write everything. I love logging on and watching it!

Nia: We still have so much potential to grow. Our company only operates on weekends, so we only spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the store. Otherwise we are doing backwork at home. We operate three days a week, and we are able to earn six figures, and we are so proud. We did it all by ourselves, without hiring the experts.

This year we are bringing in the outside marketing team, the graphic designers. We are opening our first franchise location. We are hoping that our company will explode.

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

Nia: What we really want to do is buy a forever home for ourselves and our children. Something we can pass on to the family. By this time next year, I want to have a home and have 20 stores 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. She is also the author of the Larkin Day Mysteriesa comedy-cozy mystery series set in eastern Iowa, and WHAT IT IS and WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NEXTquarterly zine about understanding reality.


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