May 07, 2013 - As the number of women-owned businesses grows across the country, female entrepreneurs are opening up shop in Long Beach, expanding existing operations and focusing on growth.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Ownership Act, allowing women to get a loan without a male cosigner and full reporting of the economic impact of women-owned businesses. Today, in addition to U.S. Census data, the business division of American Express, American Express OPEN, is three years into its now annual State of Women-Owned Business Report.
Owner Laura Gonzalez took a leap of faith when she opened Ambiance Skin Care Salon in a vacant retail complex on 4th Street in December 2001. Her investment activated the space and Ambiance has become an anchor tenant in the recently fully occupied building.
Gonzalez wasn’t always in skin care. Her first career was in finance, working as an operations officer for a small, independent bank near where she grew up in Corona. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) shut down the bank, and so the company reopened under a new name. This happened several times during her employment, a sign to Gonzalez that it was time to move onto something else. So, in her thirties, Gonzalez quit her job and went to beauty school.
As soon as she earned her license, Gonzalez moved to Long Beach and began working at a spa. She moved up to management and soon realized it was time for her to go into business for herself. Finding a small, 600-square-foot store on 4th Street, she decided it was the place to start her salon. The business eventually outgrew the store, so when two spaces opened up next door, Gonzalez expanded the salon into what is today’s 2,000-square-foot location.
The retail complex is full and the neighborhood has grown. “Since I’ve moved in, it’s been great that our neighbors have come together as a group,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve even had neighbors thank me for moving in because we did such a good job [activating the space].”
Ambiance offers massage, airbrush tanning, body treatments, facials, manicures, pedicures and waxing for men and women. The spa carries its own makeup line as well as lotions, scrubs, slippers and gifts.
Gonzalez said the space is available to rent out for bachelorette parties and other events. Ambiance also gives back to the community, donating a percentage of what parents spend at the salon to the Belmont Heights Church Preschool.
“Our business grows on referrals,” Gonzalez said. “We give $20 gift cards out to referrals. We also do Facebook promotions daily. If we have openings, we give a discount. And each week we have one item on sale that is featured on Facebook.” Though the economic downtown was a challenge, Gonzalez said numbers are up this year. “We’re finally feeling like we’re getting ahead again,” she said.