How this couple runs a mobile spa while raising six kids

Welcome to Money Talks, a series where we interview people about their relationship to money, their relationship to each other, and how those relationships inform each other.

Nia Brown is a 30-year-old founder PrincessMe, a small black woman-owned business offering parties and services such as spa packages for kids. Her husband, Brandi, is a 34-year-old independent accountant who puts his skills to work in running the family business.

In addition to running and expanding a six-figure spa business, Nia and Brandi also homeschool their six children, ages 2 to 14. How do these business owners do it all — and what do they hope to do next?

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

Nia: I decided to become a micro-entrepreneur 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, word started spreading from just a small inner circle to people I’d never met before. This experience initially sparked my idea to start a business.

The other reason was my daughter. She was only 1 year old at the time, but she loved to play spa. Every time I would do her makeup, I could see her self-esteem only blossom. I wanted to give this influence to other girls in the community, so I decided to stop doing in-person events in order to focus solely on starting and growing the PrincessMe brand.

In order to reduce the costs of starting a business, since we know that small businesses can be expensive, we have built a mobile bus. This was my husband’s idea.

brandy: Everything was moving at that time. They had barbershops, food carts, and 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 destroyed the school bus and was using it to store extra gym equipment. We were so lucky, we found it on Craigslist, it was 2 exits from our house, and it was completely destroyed. All we had to do was put up the seats and paint and things like that.

Nia: It grew very quickly. Within a year, we were able to set up our brick and mortar business [storefront]. We had five children at the time, I was pregnant with number six – what can I say? It was very difficult at first. When ours opened, we had difficulty with a zoning license, as they didn’t have a store label like mine. We are not a spa and can’t be considered an event or venue so we had a hard road zoning. We ended up having a new class created for our actual site. In addition, we were the only small company in our own shopping mall. We were right next door to Target, Old Navy, David’s Bridal, so we had a lot of pressure on us.

Things were kind of challenging the first couple of months, because we’re still investing in marketing and getting the word out. Then covid hit.

brandy: During Covid, they classified us as a salon, when we wanted to be classified as an event space. This means we had to close for the first four months. Then they let us open with minimal people, but that wasn’t good. Our parties are designed for a minimum of ten children and five adults. So we still couldn’t work the way we wanted. it was hard.

Nia: It was really hard, but we figured it out. We made the best of it. We set up dates for the moms to come with their daughters one-on-one, and the dads loved it. We were able to give the kids personalized spa appointments and individual attention. That helped us grow.

After covid, people were saying “I want to make up for my daughter’s birthdays. We missed two Christmases.” That’s when the storefront just took off. We had to learn how to run the shop and keep our home healthy. It was an amazing adventure.

brandy: I was a freelance accountant, and still am – however, I only do this seasonally, so I can focus primarily on PrincessMe. When I first stopped doing freelance accountant work, we cut my salary. But we decided from the start that two heads were better than one and with our attention and hearts devoted to PrincessMe, we were able to make up for this pay cut. This also allows us to prioritize our family.

Nia: Our oldest child is 14 years old, and our youngest is 2 years old. We balance everything by planning ahead. Since all six children are homeschooled, we must have a tight schedule. When I get up in the morning, I focus on my kids’ school from 7 am to 11 am. Then I drop the kids off for a nap or some down time, and we focus on working from 11am to 2pm. We try hard to stop our work at 2pm, so we can spend the afternoon taking our kids to sports, dancing, and gymnastics. It takes a lot of teamwork!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we can usually stick to the schedule. By Thursday, I’m trying to catch up on the business while I’m making dinner. We have to go with the flow, and understand that we will deviate from the schedule. It doesn’t have to be accurate.

brandy: We plan our finances as we plan our schedule. I’m big on saving for the future. If we want to open two PrincessMe locations this year, we’ll have to provide twice as much business as we did last year.

Nia: We keep a tight budget. Before this record high inflation, we only set aside about $600 a month for groceries. Currently, we’re setting aside $900 a month for groceries, which is a 50 percent increase in what we were spending previously. But eating fresh, organic food really helps. We don’t eat fast food or go out often to eat out, in order to reduce costs and keep our family healthy.

brandy: We also cut some costs. I’m a driver, I have a CDL, so I drive the commuter bus. I drive the limousine. This way we can save on payroll.

Nia: Mom also plays a big role. She helps us out with the kids, especially on Saturdays. This is our biggest spa day. I’m usually in the spa and will be driving the limousine. We are fortunate to have an amazing support system that helps us deal with children and work.

brandy: Our eldest daughter goes to the store with Nia; She does registration, does inventory, and even assists with spa services. She can draw perfect nails! I do not know how.

Nia: Our girls give us a lot of good ideas. We’re about to launch a collection of home decor, and they helped us pick out the color scheme. My 11-year-old daughter keeps us updated on trends – unicorns and ice cream – because she knows what kids love. This is our cheat code for success!

brandy: Our boys help clean up and they love to ride with me on the bus. We have generators on the bus, and they love to help out with the generators. anything electric.

Nia: We pay them an allowance, because we want them to know how to manage money. We also want them to know what it’s like to work hard for money and save for the future. They see us working hard, they see us saving, and they start saving themselves. By the time they are older, I think they will be able to balance money very well.

brandy: We say “Come spend the day with me on the bus, and we’ll give you 20 bucks.” It doesn’t exactly work, but it does have the working stuff. You get up early. You are dressed. It looks like a job.

Nia: They get the best of both worlds. Homeschooled, they learn English, science and math – but we also want them to learn how to manage money. How do you manage time. The entrepreneurship they experience will help develop them for the future.

brandy: The only thing 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’re in control, and we know how to go.

Nia: We often 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 overstay. Advance planning is the best way to keep things in balance.

I use the old school scheme. I write everything. Since I do so many things on my phone and my laptop, I can forget what’s in there – but then I look at my planner. It works fine for me.

brandy: I use Square and Quickbooks. I’m different from Nia, because I don’t like writing everything down. I love to log in and watch it!

Nia: We still have a lot of potential for growth. Our company only works on weekends, so we only spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the store. Otherwise we do background work at home. We work three days a week, we can earn six figures, and we’re very proud. We did it all on our own, without hiring the experts.

This year, we are bringing in our overseas marketing team, graphic designers. We are about to open our first franchise location. We hope our company will skyrocket.

brandy: Best case scenario, by this time next year we’ll be buying a home in the Bahamas.

Nia: What we really want to do is buy a forever home for us and our kids. Something we can pass on to the family. By this time next year, I want to own 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 Decker is a personal finance writer whose work has appeared in Bankrate, Lifehacker, Morning Brew, and Dwell. She is also the author of a book Larkin’s Day Mysteriesa cozy comedy mystery series set in eastern Iowa, W What is it and what to do nextZine quarterly about understanding reality.

Leave a Comment