ATWATER, Minn. – Chauntel and Mark Renne purchased a commercial property on U.S. Highway 12 in Atwater and renovated it to house several businesses with help from Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) Microenterprise and Business Finance Loan Programs. The building is now home to Rustic Beauty Salon, which Chauntel recently opened, and Memories by Mariah photography studio, with room for future mini storage units.
Chauntel and Mark live in Atwater, just three blocks from Rustic Beauty Salon. Originally, the Rennes looked at the property for a business Mark wanted to start. The space is really two connected buildings totaling 8,280 square feet. It was most recently a general store, garden center and coffee shop. With plenty of room for more than one enterprise, Mark worked to convince Chauntel she should open a salon there. At first, she hesitated.
But after a couple tours, Chauntel started to picture what she might do with the space, looked into financing and wrote a business plan. The last seven years, Chauntel has been self-employed and renting salon space in Willmar. She has more than 15 years of experience in the salon industry. Still wary of striking out on her own, she continued working two days a week in Willmar while developing her business the salon in Atwater.
On Jan. 1, Chauntel took the plunge and went full-time at Rustic Beauty Salon. She offers cuts, colors and highlighting as well as premium blonding services and extensions.
“I was so nervous to even think about opening a salon in town because I’m not from there originally and I don’t know a whole lot of people. I’m so surprised by how many new and repeat clients I have and the support and love they have for the salon,” Chauntel said. “I’m currently looking for renters to be able to pick up the extra clients and be able to add more services to our menu.”
Loan funds from SWIF helped the Rennes purchase the real estate and equipment and complete renovations and provided working capital. In the future, Mark hopes to also open mini storage units in the building.
“Breathing new life into this space is supporting several entrepreneurs in the community, and we’re proud to be a partner with Chauntel and Mark in making it happen,” said SWIF Economic Development Officer Jackie Turner.
Loan programs have been a key function of SWIF since its inception to support communities and businesses throughout southwest Minnesota. In 2001, microlending was added to existing programs as a tool to support small businesses and people looking for self-employment opportunities.
Microloan clients also receive free technical assistance from SWIF staff to improve their business management skills. Areas of support include business planning and financials analysis, QuickBooks training, marketing assistance and other training opportunities for the life of the loan.
This microloan program receives funding assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, contact SWIF at 800-594-9480, 320-587-4848 or [email protected].
About Southwest Initiative Foundation
Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) is a nonprofit community foundation connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities to create a southwest Minnesota where all people thrive. Since its founding in 1986, SWIF has distributed more than $97.8 million through its grantmaking and business finance programs.