Wigs and healing: SBDC helps ’98 grad find business success
Step inside the door of Nell’s Wigs and Boutique in Allouez and you will feel an instant sense of why UW-Green Bay alumna and company founder, Stacey Nellen-Kolze, ‘98, opened this business in the first place. The showroom at Nell’s, featuring an array of products and adorned in local art and words of inspiration and strength, demonstrates the warmth and security which is central to Nellen-Kolze’s mission of caring, compassion, and service.
Nell’s Wigs and Boutique reflects Nellen-Kolze’s desire to meet the needs of customers in the Green Bay area, primarily women, seeking products and services for medical hair loss, therapeutic massage, and post-breast surgery. The idea took root in 2007 when Nellen-Kolze opened a wig shop in conjunction with another local business, Transitions Family Hair Care. As her own business grew, so did her vision and her desire to serve others. In 2009 she moved into her own space within the business and in 2011 she struck out on her own. Now, in addition to selling wigs for fun and fashion as well as for women with medically-related hair loss, Nell’s Wigs and Boutique has expanded its services to include a Mastectomy Boutique and Massage Therapy. Stacey’s expanding staff includes two additional team members and a partnership with fellow UW-Green Bay alumna, Casey Guilfoyle, ’92, owner of Racingfish Relaxation and Rehabilitation, LLC, and a licensed practicing massage therapist. However, just like any small business story, Stacey’s road to success hit highs and lows, and she did not get there alone.
Even before “wigs” was her business, it was her passion. She and her husband, UW-Green Bay alumnus, Dean Kolze, ‘96, both graduated with degrees in Theatre. When asked what it was about “wigs” that drew her attention, Nellen-Kolze smiles. “As someone with a degree in technical theater, I like to be behind the scenes and avoid the spotlight,” she says. “Most of my guests appreciate the privacy that we provide. I started doing hair while still in the Theater program at UW-Green Bay. Having the Weidner Center there was a huge influence on this change in my focus working in theater.”
However, when Stacey and Dean’s son was born, they decided that one member of the family traveling was enough, freeing up Nellen-Kolze to pursue her vision. She completed a cosmetology degree after graduating from UW-Green Bay and approached the University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as well as E-Hub of Green Bay (formerly known as Urban Hope) for assistance in learning how to build a business. Both of these organizations provided services that were essential to helping make Stacey’s dream a reality.
“There is absolutely no way that Nell’s would have gotten off the ground without E-Hub and the SBDC,” she said. “I tried to find help through the state, but my proposal was turned down. It wasn’t until I started working with E-Hub in 2006 and the SBDC shortly thereafter that I truly felt like Nell’s would become a reality.” Chuck Brys, Business Counseling Manager with the SBDC, worked with Nellen-Kolze closely as her original business plan transformed into something entirely new. “Stacey worked with E-Hub to develop her original business plan of selling wigs for theatre, fashion, and fun. As Stacey’s focus changed, the SBDC helped transition her changing vision into a business that served the needs of women experiencing hair loss and physical changes due to medical issues,” says Brys. “What always impressed me about Stacey was her passion for what she is doing. That is why her business really took off. Primarily, the SBDC helped her to understand her business from a financial standpoint and to translate that passion into a business model.”
Nellen-Kolze’s original business model, which she developed in conjunction with E-Hub, won that organization’s Outstanding New Business Plan award in 2011 and she continues to work with them as she plans for the future. She continue’s to work closely with the SBDC toward the goal of securing the necessary certifications to work with her guests using Medicare. “Chuck Brys and the SBDC has been a valuable member of my team as we work toward becoming accredited to serve Medicare users,” says Nellen-Kolze. “Chuck helped to develop the financial plan necessary and also helped to develop three-year projections for accreditation.”
As her vision and customer base continues to grow, Nellen-Kolze is forging ahead, establishing new relationships with area hospitals and medical clinics and gathering an increasing number of referrals for her products and services. She continues to look for new ways to serve her guests with an eye toward continued growth, and possibly even national franchising — a move suggested by Brys and the Small Business Development Center.
Among the various things that Stacey, her family, her team, and her business share in common, none are quite so obvious as the connection with her alma mater. “My time at UW-Green Bay was amazing,” Stacey beams. “The Theater major was smaller, like the campus itself. I learned in a ‘family’ environment and that concept is the very idea upon which my business was built.”
Learn more about Nell’s Wigs and Boutique and Stacey Nellen-Kolze.
Story by Eric Craver and photos by Dan Moore, UW-Green Bay Outreach and Adult Access