Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the autumn issue of Business Leader, a quarterly magazine produced by the Leader-Telegram. To see that magazine and other special publications, go to LeaderTelegram.com/magazines.
In a too-small location she was renting, Sarah Green thought to herself — not for the first time — that her spa would be much better if she could design the space herself.
She’d opened Sakura Skin Spa in 2013, renting a two-room space at her brother-in-law’s chiropractic practice in Eau Claire and then moved a year later into the same building that contains The Coffee Grounds.
Growing her business in leased space though held her back from fully realizing her dreams for the spa.
“We couldn’t fully create what we wanted to because we always knew we were going to build, so how much do you put in?” Sarah said.
But luckily for her, her parents, also Eau Claire entrepreneurs, owned an unused plot of land just off of Highway 93 in Eau Claire. She approached her father, Dan Green, about putting up a new building for Sakura Skin Spa, and the two started to draw up plans that would make Sarah’s dreams a reality.
Part of those dreams involved working in the same building as her sister Rachel Arfstrom, who teaches essential oils classes at her husband Aaron’s practice, Apex Chiropractic.
As planning progressed for the new building at 6045 Sandstone Road, Sarah and Rachel thought of their sister-in-law who was teaching spin classes at Gold’s Gym at the time.
Courtney Green, who had been leading spin classes and personal training for a decade plus TRX suspension for six years, was interested in the offer of a spot for her in the new building.
“I wanted my own studio for about eight years. I knew I wanted to make this a full-time job. That was the goal from day one,” she said.
Plans were redrawn and construction delayed in order to allow customization for all three women.
So now, they will be working in the same building. Sakura opened in July, then Apex on Labor Day weekend and The Wheelhouse — Courtney’s spin and TRX studio — is scheduled for late this month.
When asked if the family would get tired of seeing each other every day, Sarah said they already spend a lot of time together as it is.
“We’re together so much already,” Sarah said. “If I’m not working I’m probably at my sister’s house anyway.”
Just across Highway 93, Dan and his son Jesse run operations at Water Source Heating & Cooling, where family matriarch Patti and Courtney both do bookkeeping. Dan and Patti’s daughter Leah manages the Mustard Seed Boutique at Down to Earth Garden Center, also on Highway 93.
Now, everyone will be within walking distance.
Leading the family
Sarah isn’t the first in the family to start her own business. Her parents dug their toes into entrepreneurship a generation before.
In 1983, Dan and his wife Patti started Water Source, and the entrepreneurial efforts only grew from there.
In 2000, Patti bought Picture This, a scrapbook store that was located where the French Press is now on London Road. She got into scrapbooking as her oldest child was preparing to graduate and because she was looking for something different than working at Water Source. Patti decided to buy the business with her sister, Beth. The two ran Picture This until 2006.
Patti even built and owned a scrapbook retreat that she ran between 2008 and 2012.
Beyond those businesses, Patti and Dan own buildings they rent out, including the ones that house Down To Earth Garden Center, the Mustard Seed Boutique and Picture This.
While Sarah in part attributes her entrepreneurial appetite to watching her parents’ endeavors, she also said she has a natural drive to work for herself. In situations good or bad, she said, she gets to be the one in control.
“For me it was always you’re creating what you want … it’s definitely the freedom and the decision-making,” she said.
From the perspective of someone who’s been there and done that, Patti said she agreed with her daughter’s words. She said one of the most rewarding parts of entrepreneurship is the freedom to set the attitude and the atmosphere.
But from a mother’s perspective, Patti said it has been fulfilling to watch her kids build their dreams from the ground up and follow their passions.
An important lesson Patti and Dan taught their kids growing up was that it is possible to do what they love.
Money, they said, didn’t have to be the only thing to strive for. Happiness is key. And they themselves have found that through their own experiences.
“It’s exciting to see,” Patti said. “So many people end up not doing what they love. It’s a job and they’re working to make an income.”
While she added that there’s nothing wrong with working a job solely to make a living, Patti said it’s very satisfying to think back on the journey she and Dan have been on for 35 years.
The two started out with nothing back in ‘83, but after a couple rough years they were able to build their business ventures into what they are today and are watching their children pursue their passions as well.
Sarah, the first to move into the new commercial building, said she feels content, settled and like she has made it.
She is looking forward to “growing and blossoming,” continuing relationships with her clients and employees and bringing the newest and best to Eau Claire. From massages to Botox treatments to eyelash extensions, it’s important to Sarah that she provide her clientele with services and products she personally backs.
And she’s excited to see how the other two businesses grow and how everything comes together.
For the Wheelhouse, Courtney said she plans to offer an array of classes throughout the day. From the music to the lights to the times classes run, she aims to have something for everyone so she can help customers improve their strength, health and confidence.
“The story of our business is going to be the story of the people who come in,” she said. “I want to help people get to their goals.”
The businesses tie in so well together, Patti said, that people who visit for one service could utilize every business in the building.
“We jokingly say that they’re going to start down at Courtney’s end … Courtney can beat them up with her workout, Aaron can adjust them and then they can come (to Sakura) and have a nice massage or facial and relax,” Patti said.
The tie-in also lends itself to hosting events together, she said. There is also the possibility of hosting an open house once the Wheelhouse opens at the end of October.
Sarah said there’s only one tricky thing about being so close to Apex and the Wheelhouse.
“Now I won’t have an excuse to skip spin class or not get adjusted,” she joked.
Courtney said she is terrified and excited to own a business for the first time. However, because she and Jesse were high school sweethearts, she has seen the Green family in action for more than 15 years.
Watching them run businesses and make their way through different transitions, she said, has served as a good learning opportunity and a foundation for her own goals. Through everything, the family has worked together to help each other see their dreams become reality.
“It’s nice to go into the discussion knowing we all have the same jersey on and come at it all on the same team,” Courtney said of being integrated into the entrepreneurship efforts of the family.
Patti said she and her husband will soon be sliding into retirement, at which point they can use more frequently the mobile home they bought and spend time with their seven grandchildren. For now, though, they’ll continue to run operations and cheer on their children as they dive into business side-by-side.
“This was going to be our last thing. And honestly, we probably wouldn’t have built a building but that was all the kids,” she said, “and that was just neat to us. We thought ‘This will be the last thing, one last building, then it’s the kids.’”