Through The Fire

Angela Black had a slew of jobs since graduating from college. Initially, she worked for a small day spa, Pretty Is, in Washington, D.C. Shortly after that, she ventured to New York City to work at Caroline Jones Advertising, a former BE 100S firm, and later became a manager at accounting firm Ernst & Young. But when Black decided to become an entrepreneur, she turned to her first love–and her first business.

These days, Black, 36, is the proud owner of bnatural Salon and Day Spa in Bowie, Maryland, which offers an array of services including manicures, makeup artistry, massages, and hair treatments. As an Aveda concept spa, bnatural sells only Aveda products, although Black may add products to complement their line. Located at the Town Center Mall, the spa is in the heart of Prince George’s County, one the nation’s wealthiest enclaves of African Americans.

While bnatural officially opened its doors in 2001, Black got an inside tip more than two years prior from someone at the Small Business Administration office that the mall was going to be built and took advantage of it. “I knew that was going to be a huge opportunity. We just had discount shoe stores, but people were really wanting and desiring an upscale mall. So I beat everyone out, maybe 50 people, who were trying to get that location [in the mall], because I started talking to the developers early.”

With personal savings, help from family and friends, and a $200,000 loan from the SBA, Black officially became an entrepreneur. While there are many advantages to being a business owner, one has to be prepared for the unexpected. Case in point: In 2006, a fire caused by a malfunctioning dryer led to the salon’s closure for eight months. While the fire did the most harm, water damage caused by the sprinkler system compounded the problem. “We had to rip up everything from the floor to about three feet up because mold can get into the walls,” explains Black. Although covered by insurance, she used equity in her home and personal savings to jump-start renovations. The renovations totaled $250,000.

The fire forced Black to ask herself difficult questions. “Should I put the time and effort into re-opening bnatural? Will I be able to recover financially?” A mentor inspired her by sharing the following: ‘A bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn.’ Last August, Black reopened bnatural with a newfound purpose: complete customer satisfaction.

Despite the setback, in 2005, bnatural grossed $678,000 in revenues and is expected to gross $1 million for 2007. Black, who has eight employees and 20 contractors, says neither fire nor water was going to force her to give up her ambitions. “If bnatural was going to be closed or sold, it was not going to be the result of a fire,” she says. “I would not allow circumstances to determine the fate of my business.”