Salon and spa owner fashions an attractive business story.
by Rick A. Richards
Keeping up with Patti Kobe isn’t easy. She drives herself hard to succeed and the growth of her salon and spa business offers plenty of proof that her formula of pushing herself to the limit is paying dividends.
After working as a hair stylist and a traveling consultant and representative for hair care supplier Redken for several years, Kobe decided she could do it better on her own. In 1999 she opened State of Mind Salon and Day Spa in Crown Point.
“At the time I had two babies and $100 to my name,” says Kobe. But the 600-square-foot salon at 94th Avenue and Broadway in Merrillville proved to be the perfect launching pad for a business today that has grown to 6,000 square feet. That expansion happened in 2003 just two blocks away at 96th and Broadway in Crown Point. She bought land and built a stand-alone operation that some people thought would never succeed because there was nothing else around it. Today, it sits in the middle of a thriving retail and commercial area.
Just last month, Kobe added Inspire Salon and Spa, a 2,000-square-foot salon at Aberdeen south of Valparaiso.
Kobe’s business, which generates $2 million a year, has 30 employees and serves 15,000 guests annually.
“My passion is helping others,” says the 42-year-old Kobe. She says she’d like to retire by the time she is 47 or 48, which is one reason she’s preparing her company for employee ownership.
“They’ll own 49 percent and I’ll own 51 percent,” says Kobe. “There is an entrepreneurial fire that burns inside me. When I was 17 or 18 or 19 and working in a salon, I was a bit snot-nosed but there was a group of hairdressers there who took me under their wing. They never asked for anything and they taught me the business. I owe them to pay it back.”
When she opened her first location, she approached Mercantile Bank (it’s now BMO Harris Bank) and asked what she needed to do to get a loan to open her business. The bank told her and a year later, she returned with her checklist completed and got the money.
But when she decided to open her Valparaiso location, she didn’t go to a bank. “I was determined that when I expanded I was going to self-finance it. I wanted to do it on my own.” And she did.
Kobe’s vision, however, was more than just a hair salon. “I went into this with a budget and a plan. We provide hair services, have a corporate meeting room, a men’s and women’s locker room and a spa.”
The smaller location in Valparaiso, which opened in March, isn’t a mini version of the Crown Point salon, but a place with an atmosphere all its own. “I needed a place where some of my overflow guests could go. They’re only 13 miles apart, so it was close enough to do that.”
Even though Kobe expects to walk away from the day-to-day business world in five years or so, that doesn’t mean she’s stopped looking ahead.
“I’ve always looked ahead. I had my one, five, 10 and 20 years goals set when I was 19,” says Kobe. “In the fourth grade I decided I wanted to be a hair stylist. While I was in Hebron High School, I was attending beauty school. Right after I graduated from high school, I graduated from Don Roberts Beauty School.”
Kobe has no formal business management training, but she does have an innate sense of business. “I study successful people, like Walt Disney. He was so far ahead of his time. I also have experience raising money for other causes. I can look at a P&L statement and tell where the problems are. I can put numbers together.
“I have the ability to take emotion out of the numbers on a P&L sheet. I can tell when it’s full of smoke and mirrors. The first time I sat down with bankers it scared the heck out of me. Today, I know what questions to ask and the information they need.”
Kobe is the visionary behind her business and its growth, but the day-to-day management, including taking care of the books is done by her husband, Tony, who quit his job at U.S. Steel a few years ago to join his wife in the business. They have two children, Anton, 17, a student at LaLumiere School in LaPorte County, and Kyle, 13, a student at Howe Military Academy in northeast Indiana.