New Ideas New Solutions

In today's business environment, entrepreneurs must develop a flexible business model to gain financing, contracts, and market share

the bills paid until the beginning of the year. All told, Lewis estimates he lost about $30,000 to $50,000 in business as a result of Sept. 11. Of that, $15,000 to $20,000 was recouped through the catering business.

These days, RPL Consulting is back on track. With a client list that includes PepsiCola Inc. and AT&T, Lewis expects that while revenues will be down slightly for 2002, RPL Consulting has enough business in the works to substantially increase revenues for 2003. “Revenues are down for this year because it’s been tough,” he says. “By next year, I’m being positioned to double my revenues. We have a lot of major prospects.”

When Tracy Hester opened Before and After Hair & Nail Salon in Durham, North Carolina, in February 2002, she wanted a shop that would have an established clientele and a highly visible location yet be affordable.

But the 21-year-old entrepreneur did not have the $10,000 needed to buy, lease, or fix up a free-standing building and was reluctant to apply for a bank loan that could have put her in the red before trimming her first tress or manicuring her first nail. Undeterred, she decided that rather than depleting her resources on a storefront location, she’d find another business to partner with: the Durham Athletic Club. With 1,500 members between the ages of 18 to 55, partnering with the gym seemed like a perfect fit.

She met the gym’s owner through a friend. Another woman had planned to lease space at the gym to open a salon and when those plans fell through, it opened the door f
or Hester. “Before you knew it, I had signed a contract,” she says. By signing the lease with Durham Athletic Club, Hester estimates that she has cut operating expenses by some 93%, without sacrificing her original plans. The location has a consistent flow of high-volume traffic and her rent includes utilities such as electricity, water, and sewage. She gets about 50% to 65% of her customers (on average 65 to 80 weekly) from gym-goers. “It does set me apart because I’m pretty certain I’m the only one with this type of location in North Carolina, at least in Durham,” Hester says.

Hester estimates that she would have had to pay $950 in rent and another $1,800 monthly to cover utilities, supplies, and equipment. In contrast, she pays about $400 a month for rent, and her other expenses include supplies and advertising. Equipment for her nail salon, which cost about $300, was purchased on-the-cheap from the would-be entrepreneur who opted against opening the salon before Hester.

The partnership also benefits the Durham Athletic Club as it gives the business an extra marketing tool to keep existing clients and attract new ones. That may be why the gym provides Hester with free towel services for men and women, an expense she figures would cost about $1,500 a month as a stand-alone business.

Hester is looking to continue her trend of partnerships and is in talks with a friend about

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