Profile: Terri J Stovall, ND
Women in Business: Success & Sharing
Well, I promised to share profiles of Women in Business who want to encourage other women who are new to business, or considering opening their first business. I sent my first invitations out to 17 local business women, and had 8 who offered to participate. While we are waiting for those first female entrepreneurs to complete the questionnaire and their bios, I thought I might go ahead and break the ice and share my information. So, as the first in a series of Profiles of Women in Business, I share with you….Me….(If you would like to nominate a female business entrepreneur to be profiled, ask her if she is interested, then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with Profiles of Business Women in the Subject line, and share her contact information with me, and I will send her out a copy of the questionnaire.
Profile Terri J. Stovall, ND
Owner of Get Healthy, LLC, Java Joe’s Coffee House, and The Wellness Center & Spa at Get Healthy, all in DeRidder, LA.
First things first, I am a native of Rosepine, LA, daughter of Carol Cassell and Benson Johnson, wife of Arick Stovall of Parkersburg, WV, and mother to Mandi (Alex) Ayao, Candi (Steve) Johnson, and Andrew (Haley) Langton, and grandmother to Shelton, Jewel, Jackson and Jesslyn. Family first, always!
My personal story of why I got into the natural health industry is included on our About Me page here, so I will try not to be redundant. In a nutshell, my parents and my husband’s parents all died at very young ages, within 5 years of each other. I did not want that same legacy to continue through future generations of our family, and on my quest to find answers, I ended up with a Doctorate in Naturopathy. I wanted to work with my daughter, she graduated college, boom…we opened Get Healthy in Country Square in DeRidder, LA.
We started Get Healthy with $35,000 from our retirement account. That may not seem like much for starting a business, but it was a leap of faith, and it was a lifetime of savings for us. While our business had customers from the moment we opened, literally, that did not mean we were making a profit. We reinvested everything into the business for the first 3 years. Meaning I never took a paycheck, not once.
Back in those days, Candi and I both worked open to close. I have never been one to be short on ideas, so every time I would think of something new, we would add it to the store.
I failed to mention that I had been conducting consultations with clients, and had a small store in my back yard in Pickering for a couple of years before we opened the store, while Candi was still in school, and Arick was working overseas. It was peaceful and cozy, and by appointment only, so it did not take up a ton of my time. What my clients did tell me, though, was that they loved the atmosphere. The peacefulness. The aromatherapy and relaxing music that I always had playing. I had the sauna then, and the chi machine, and taught a few Yoga classes there. It was nice, but I thought I could help more people if we were located in town.
So, back to the ideas…we were already making healthy fruit smoothies, but I thought DeRidder needed a place that served coffee, too. I envisioned people sitting at tables, sipping coffee and reading from our little Natural Health library. So, we bought the tables, the espresso machine, and back then-Starbucks coffee beans, flavors and supplies. We set up tables outside with our Starbucks umbrellas, and a coffee shop was born. Mandi, Candi and I went to New Orleans and got properly trained as Baristas. It was great. We were busier than ever, extended our hours, and hired a couple of people to help.
Next thing you know, I was thinking again…there is no place around to get a good, healthy salad. A whole grain wrap. A panini. Real soup. Whole Foods has a food section, why shouldn’t we, right? It never crossed my mind that they out-source all of that and are in a building bigger than Wal-Mart. Nope. We were going to add food, and it was going to be good! (And it was!)
I bought more tables, soup warmers, a panini press, a sandwich prep bar, and started writing recipes. I wanted it to be good greenleaf lettuce with lots of toppings, all hand made dressings, tasty and soft tortillas, panini bread that was the best this side of Italy. (And I wanted it all yesterday, of course). Another hit from day one. I have no idea how we fit so much merchandise and equipment in that little store, but we did it, and it was crazy busy, a ton of work. We needed more room. We had been in Country Square, growing for 3 1/2 years.
We looked at tons of rental options, but nothing was quite right. I found 3 buildings I wanted downtown, but the bank would only finance 2. So, we bought 2. They were a mess. You can see some of the pictures of our phases of construction on our Facebook page. www.facebook.com/gethealthylouisiana
Moving downtown turned out to be one of the smartest business moves we could ever make. For less than we paid in rent, we were purchasing our building. Of course we expanded our food offerings, added more tables, increased our hours, and added more employees. The business actually got way bigger, way faster than I anticipated. (We have 10 employees now!)
We were asked to open a Get Healthy cafe in the General’s building on Fort Polk, and were proud to have been asked. We signed the contracts, bought more equipment, revised our menu, and started trying to figure out how we were going to stretch ourselves that much thinner. It was so stressful. Neither Candi, nor I, were enjoying it as much anymore. Our focus was so much on the food, which by now was making up 50% of our sales, that we had become a restaurant that had a health food store in it, rather than a health food store that offered healthy lunches.
We were scheduled to open on Ft. Polk in January, when I received a call in late December from AAFES. The person who drew up our contract was no longer working there, and had made some mistakes. If I was still interested in moving forward, I would need to drop by their office and complete a new contract. What? What? “If”” What? I had purchased thousands of dollars of equipment, spent hundreds of hours pouring over organizational strategies and menus. I had worked like a mad woman to make this happen. “If”?
Then I thought about it for a second. What if I did not do it? Just that second of thought was like lifting a ton of bricks off of my shoulders. I was so stressed out worrying about how we were going to manage two locations. I liked every piece of lettuce to be perfect. Every tomato had to be just the right amount of red, every bell pepper cut to the exact dimension that would allow us to control portions, yet give our customers the best salad we could.
I picked up the phone and called Arick, then Candi. “What if we just don’t do it now? I feel so relieved, just thinking about not having to do it.” Candi agreed, the stress was getting to her, too. Arick said to do whatever I wanted, not to worry about all of the investments that we had already made, to use my best judgment and do what I thought was right for me. What freedom that was. I can never fully explain how relieved I was. I thought that to be successful, that I needed to expand. Arick had mentioned us franchising a time or two. None of that mattered at this moment. I felt so good. I called AAFES back and declined their offer. I put all of the equipment in storage, and I slept good for the first night in weeks.
A couple of days later, over lunch, Candi and I were discussing how much lighter and happier we felt after abandoning the Fort Polk project. I asked her, “what do you think about us dropping the food here, too?” I did not know what her response would be. Our foodservice had become a major part of our identity since we moved downtown. Candi managed that department, we all worked it. “I know, I was thinking that, too.” was her response. We just looked at each other for a while and sat in silence.
I talked to Arick about how stressful the foodservice part of our business was, and what I was considering. Again, he left the decision to me. I was so tired. Candi and I had both put on large amounts of weight from the stress, we were both tired. But it was who we were. Our food was what “put Get Healthy on the map”. We served thousands of dollars a month in lunches. We catered events. We were a popular hangout for groups of women visiting with their long-lost friends.
I thought long and hard about this business and why I had opened it in the beginning. I wanted to help people, I wanted to bring healthier options to our community. I wanted to be a natural grocery store and a trusted source for vitamins and supplements. I wanted to help people be healthier. I could no longer give both departments 100% of myself, so less than 2 weeks after the Fort Polk decision, I decided we would discontinue food service in DeRidder as well, by February we were done. It was the best decision I ever made, as far as advancing my dream of what our business should be. We have never looked back.
It has been over 4 years since we stopped the food service. People told us we would never make it without the food, that it was our only draw. Good thing I don’t listen to “people”, right? We still have someone come in missing our food every single day, and I would sell those recipes in a heartbeat to have someplace to go buy that food, but I will never add that back into our daily activities.
Eventually, the building next door came up for sale again, and this time the bank agreed that our business was worthy of more space, so we purchased it, and expanded into adding The Wellness Center & Spa (www.facebook.com/spaatgethealthy). I bought tens of thousands of dollars worth of healthy lifestyle equipment, found the best massage therapists in town, and expanded again. We now encompass 4800 square feet, 103, 105, 107 and 109 S Washington St. in DeRidder, LA. We took out some doors, added in windows, expanded our coffee area, created Java Joe’s Coffee House for our now organic, locally roasted by a female and veteran owned Louisiana Roasting Company coffee, and kept on trucking. (In case you are wondering, it took less than 6 months to recoup the difference in sales from having food and not. We now have triple the sales that we had when we offered food. A decade later, I am pretty sure we are going to make it.)
One thing I can promise, though, is that I will never stop reinventing who we are, never stop striving to be at the top of my game, and never stop working to be the best we can be.
I added Business Coaching for Holistic Practitioners and Health Coaches to my resume this past year, and hope to help other women interested in helping others in the natural health field.
Now, the 16 Questions that are presented to each Woman in Business that we profile:
How do you best describe your business?
Fun. First, my business is fun, or I wouldn’t be doing it. I am so interested in everything that we do, and I get to surround myself with people who are interested in the same things as me, all day, every day!
When we opened Get Healthy, it was to provide healthier foods and supplements to our community, things that there was just no other place to buy. At that time, there was not an organic section at Wal-Mart, no frozen or canned organic foods, no place to buy food that wasn’t full of chemicals, GMO’s, and junk.
I wanted to buy these things, and I hoped that others would, too.
There were other natural-health related items that I wanted to share, like the far-infrared sauna, chi machine, foot detox, etc., that no one else in the area was providing, and that interest grew into The Wellness Center & Spa being added to our offerings.
I also enjoyed good, “real” organic coffee, and there was no real coffee shop around that wasn’t just mixing powders with water and calling it a latte. I did not want to consume those ingredients, so we bought our first espresso machine and grew from there. We saw a need and filled it. DeRidder has been so good to us, we feel so blessed to have been accepted from day one, and love being a part of this community.
What is the best decision and the worst decision that you ever made about your business?
Our best decision was buying 3 old buildings downtown and making them our own. I love visiting quirky stores in the historic districts of the cities we visit, and I wanted to create the same for visitors to our town. Our business was good at Country Square, but it tripled once we moved downtown.
The worst decision I ever made was having a portion of my business and reputation be dependent upon the work ethic of others.
What was the best and worst advice that you received from someone else about your business?
The best advice I ever received was “If you ever see something that can help someone, tell them,” pertaining to Iridology and Face-Tongue-Nail analysis.
The worst advice I ever received was “If you stop selling salads and sandwiches, you will have to close down.” Our business has more than tripled since we stopped serving food, and had I listened to the negative comments, we would not be here serving so many people today.
What was the catalyst that led you to start your business when you did?
There were two things, really. In a 5 year period, my parents and my in-laws died. Three with cancer, one with cardiovascular disease. Our fathers died at 59 years old, our mothers were both 62 years old. Genetically speaking, I felt as if I had passed down some pretty tough stuff to my children, and my grandchildren. I also felt that there had to be a way to reverse or stop these issues from continuing down through our decedents. So, I went back to school, and I studied until I received my Doctorate in Naturopathy. I do believe the information I have learned will make a difference in the future of my family.
The second event, timing-wise, was my daughter, Candi, graduating college. I knew I wanted my business to be a family operated business. We had planned on building on some land we owned in Pickering, but that was going to take a few months. I was afraid that I would lose Candi to some great government job with benefits, lol, if I did not open soon, so six weeks later, we were open in DeRidder.
What was the hardest part about actually opening your business?
The hardest part about actually opening the business was the unknown. Not knowing if there was anyone else who would be interested in the same things that I was ordering. I actually told my husband, “if it doesn’t work out, at least we can bring all of these items home and use them ourselves.”
What do you wish you had known before starting your business?
I wish I had known how involved I would be, and how fast it would grow. I thought I would go into work every day and help people make healthier choices for their lives, and go home with a full heart.
While that is true, there is so much “business-related” work to be done, that my day is never over when I go home. I have a very determined personality, I never stop until my work is done, and honestly, when you own a business, your work is never done. My real answer to this question is, I wish I had known how to separate myself from my work, how to not worry, and how to leave work at work.
What is your best advice for someone considering opening her own business?
Choose something that you truly love. Learn to leave work at work, don’t let it consume your life. Get ready to pay taxes. There are more taxes, licenses, fees and reports than you can ever imagine, so those things need to be considered in your operating expense projections.
Most businesses reinvest any profits back into their business for the first couple of years, don’t go into business expecting to bring home a paycheck within the first few months. For most it does not work that way. Find a mentor in your field and ask for their advice.
Did you have a mentor, or a woman in business who inspired you (at any age)?
I don’t know that I ever really had a mentor in business, but so many of the women that I admire owned businesses, and they all worked so hard to be accomplished in their businesses. My grandparents, my parents, my aunts and uncles, even the McKee family who owned the little convenience store in Rosepine, where I grew up, impressed me. It wasn’t something that they learned or tried to do that caused them to be successful, it was who they were as people.
Friendly, genuinely happy to see their customers, many who became friends, it was a way of life.
I worked at my family’s convenience stores from about 7 years old, and I was taught how to run a cash register, how to count change, and how to “read” the gas pumps, but the most important parts of those businesses, in my mind, was speaking to the customer when they came in the door. The good example by those around me in genuine customer service with a smile, is what I think shaped my business mind the most.
In my mid-twenties, I sold Mary Kay. I was impressed by Mary Kay Ash’s story of working hard to raise her children and to put them first, while working to make enough money to support her family. Eventually, Mary Kay became wealthy by sharing her business skills to help other women keep their priorities straight while bringing in an income for their families. The motivational meetings were inspiring, and learning about “Think and Grow Rich” and listening to “The Road Less Traveled”, “The Power of Positive Thinking” and other motivational teachings inspired me in a way that I had never experienced before. I built a team, and won the use of Mary Kay car, and all of the things that can look so fantastic to a young entrepreneur. Mary Kay did motivate me, sort of like Jennifer Allwood does now, but I got caught up in it and was spending less and less time with my family, and more time trying to build a more successful business. I lost sight of my priorities for a time, but luckily I regained my senses and went another direction with my life.
What skills do you think it takes to be successful as a woman in business?
I think you have to want it, to really want it, to hunger for it like nothing else. I think you have to believe that failure is not an option, and constantly be looking for ways to educate yourself and keep yourself on top of the happenings in your field.
We can’t be mediocre, we cannot be in it for a paycheck, we have to take real pride in our “baby”. Sometimes we have to work when we don’t feel like it, watch others have fun while we work, and sometimes we have to remember that we are working to make a living, not living to work. It takes finding that balance, and often in the first few years, that is difficult. You have to be willing to put in the hours, put in the effort, and do whatever it takes to make it work.
Sometimes that means changing directions, tweaking your business to meet the demands of your customers, and the constant changing of society. In my opinion, you need to be open to success, add hard work and dedication, and it will happen.
What has been your proudest business moment?
I have so many proud moments, it is hard to narrow it down to just one, but I will try to narrow it down to just two or three.
I am so proud when a customer/client comes back into the store to thank us for helping them feel better. Nothing tops that, ever. When someone comes in feeling down and hopeless, when they just do not know where to turn and we are able to help, that is the best feeling in the world.
Other times that I have been business-proud, were winning Small Business of the Year from Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce for my flower shop, You Remembered!, and being nominated and in the Top 5 of several categories, including: Best Grocery Store, Best Local Coffee Shop, and Best Spa/Medical Spa, and best Customer Service in a contest that is running right now in Beauregard and Vernon Parishes, called Best of the Parishes.
What are your plans for the future with your business?
I plan to continue to study and conduct research to stay on top of my personal business game, and have started working to increase our online presence.
My goal for the future, is to decrease my presence in the day-to-day operations of the store/coffee shop/spa, and focus my attention on coaching other women entering the natural health field.
I have written a couple of e-books, and plan to work more in that direction, as well as instructional videos on natural health consultations, Iridology, clinical aromatherapy, and other health-related topics.
Do you have any recommended resources for women considering going into business?
Jennifer Allwood’s Inner Circle has been an invaluable resource for social media marketing, and the Small Business Administration has a lot of valuable reference materials. There are gurus in every field, I suggest finding a shining star in your field, and emulating what she does. Follow her on social media, watch her coaching videos, read her books.
Here is my affiliate link for Jennifer Allwood, if you want to check out her Inner Circle coaching group. Very worth the investment. https://themagicbrushinc.com/innercircle/?oprid=1608
What do you think has helped the most with the success of your business?
I think that keeping customer service a top priority is what has helped us the most. Our business is based on the fact that a customer can find a version of anything that we sell someplace else, but they cannot find us someplace else. Really caring about people is the cornerstone of our business, and is a job requirement of any new person that we add to our team.
I think we found a niche that was not being filled in our community, and that we do our best to fill that need, and to stay on top of trends. Education is key, too. I read every article and magazine that I can, we attend conferences, food shows, and continuing education classes. You can never, in my opinion, “make it” to the top and rest on your laurels. If you want to be the best at what you do, you make sure to put in the leg work, always.
Do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share with other Female Entrepreneurs?
I truly believe that you can do anything that you want to do. Your business will be as successful as you want it to be, and the example that you set for the generation of young ladies who come behind you is the biggest and best gift that you can give.
Choose wisely, do what you love, put your family first, then work harder and smarter than anyone else you have ever met. You can do it!
Last, but not least, take time to do things that YOU enjoy. Time with family, time to yourself, travel, whatever it is that you enjoy. For me, that is crafting, painting, cooking, just generally making things fun and colorful. Mandi made me a website for my birthday to showcase my creative side. If you are interested in checking that out, it is www.createdbyterri.com
If you would like to contact me, or visit any of my social media or websites, the following are my links:
Jewelsgrandma.blogspot.com (Food allergies)
We do have Instagram and Twitter accounts for each of the businesses, as well as a You Tube channel. Check out our Facebook groups, Get Healthy Group, and Jewel’s Grandma-Loving a Child with Food Allergies, too.