00:51  What is the BLS Award? 

 04:10  Hairitage Square was built in 1991

 05:09  At some point, pandemic opens up a surprising opportunity for other people

 06:06  Good location is one factor to consider when establishing a business

 07:19  In business, there’s always something new to offer

 09:36  Satisfied clients becomes a walking advertisement

 10:46  Take care of yourself so you can also take care of your business

 11:56  Keeping a healthy relationship within the family strengthens the bond

 13:23  How do you manage time juggling between business and personal affairs?

 15:21  Community Service is an indication that there is still humanity around us



 00:01 JoyGenea: Hi, I’m JoyGenea, with Solutions by JoyGenea…

 00:04 Michelle: And I’m Michelle, with BadCat Digital, and welcome to “If These Heels Could Talk.” Today we have a special guest with us. JoyGenea, who is joining us today?

 00:15 JoyGenea: Today our special guest is Mary Jane Skurat. And what makes Mary Jane super amazing for us is she is actually our first recipient of the Brilliant Leader Sole Award. Yay!

 00:28 Michelle: The Sole Award, S-O-L-E! Sole, see, it’s a shoe pun.

 00:32 JoyGenea: Yes. Yes.

 00:32 Michelle: Yes, like all the things. Yes.

 00:34 JoyGenea: Well, it goes with If These Heels…come on. I call it the BLS Award.

 00:39  Michelle: Yes. So, what is the BLS award given for?

 00:44 JoyGenea: The BLS award is given in recognition of, and in particular towards women, but we don’t discriminate, of course…

 00:50 Michelle: Of course not.

 00:51  What is the BLS Award? 

JoyGenea: But it’s given in recognition of the fact that so often, women business owners are unrecognized. And so often, their businesses are not the greatest revenue earning, they are not, probably…it would be hard, sometimes, for them to win awards, because quite often, women make sacrifices as business owners for their families or their community…

 01:12 Michelle: Sure.

 01:13 JoyGenea: Those types of things, which then cost them revenue at the end of the day.

 01:17 Michelle: And recognition.

 01:18 JoyGenea: Yes, recognition and revenue.

 01:19 Michelle: Yes.

 01:20 JoyGenea: And I had noticed this, and as we were growing the podcast, you and I had some conversations about what we were noticing, and we wanted to create something that we could use to acknowledge the amazingness of women business owners. We also wanted to not burden them with a whole lot of other stuff.

 01:37 Michelle: Right. So, what is the award?

 01:39 JoyGenea: The award is one of these itty bitty key chains, and everybody  inaudible 01:45  and you can do with it as you wish.



Michelle: Yes. Yes, I can tell you what I would do with it.



JoyGenea: But that’s your official item. Do you want to read what the award says?



Michelle: I think we should get right to Mary Jane’s bio, and get the focus on Mary Jane. So, Mary Jane was the owner of Hairitage Square, H-A-I-R…-itage Square…



JoyGenea: Yes, just like our Sole…



Michelle: Yes. And what else? What else should we let them know about Mary Jane?



JoyGenea: Mary Jane had this amazing Hairitage Square business in a town of 300 people.



Michelle: 300 people.



JoyGenea: 300 people, in the middle of Central Minnesota. So when we talk about the middle of Central Minnesota, she’s actually, like, literally, like, physically, pretty much the center of Minnesota. And people would drive miles, and I’m talking from the metro area and so forth, just for an appointment with her.



Michelle: Well, I…I mean, Mary Jane’s hair looks amazing, and I would drive for her hair.



JoyGenea: I know, and her skills.



Michelle: Yes.



JoyGenea: So, just a brief bio is the fact she’s an amazing hair artist, still is, but she’s not really taking new clients, so you can’t book with her, so too bad. She is a past business owner, she’s a wife, a mom, and a community member.



Michelle: I think you also said she was a first responder.



JoyGenea: She was, for 12 years.



Michelle: Wow. That’s amazing.



JoyGenea: So, welcome, Mary Jane. Thank you for joining us.



Michelle: So Mary Jane, we are dying to know, the first question we ask all of our guests, what is your favorite kind of shoe?



Mary Jane: Well, I think you’ll find out from a lot of cosmetologists they do wear Danskos, mainly because it keeps their body in line. And if I hadn’t worn Danskos all these years, I wouldn’t still be working behind the chair.



Michelle: Oh, sure.



JoyGenea: Hey, why don’t we have Dansko as a sponsor?



Michelle: I know, right?



JoyGenea: I think…



Mary Jane: Yes!



Michelle: You’re the second…we’ve had three guests, and you are the second one that wears Danskos.



JoyGenea: We’re going to have a conversation with them.



Michelle: Absolutely.



JoyGenea: And how many pairs of those do you own at this point?



Mary Jane: Probably six to eight, all different colors, all different…you know, pretty basically the clogs, the clogs with the big hard soles, mainly for standing. Yeah.



Michelle: Wow. Very cool.



JoyGenea: Very nice. How long did you owned your business? So, when did you open Hairitage Square, and how big did it get, and then…yeah, I’m curious about some of that.


 04:10  Hairitage Square was built in 1991

Mary Jane: Well, 1991 was when I opened this particular location.



JoyGenea: Oh, okay.



Mary Jane: It was the shift from six independent locations that I did have. So it was the longest lasting, and it was really, really an interesting journey for me.



JoyGenea: That’s awesome. When did you decide it was time to move on, and allow being a business owner…to take that hat off? Like, when did that kind of come about?



Mary Jane: Well, I received my cosmetology license in 1972, so that makes me 50 years in the industry.



Michelle: Wow.


 05:09  At some point, pandemic opens up a surprising opportunity for other people

Mary Jane: And at my 35th year, my son encouraged me to make an exit plan, which I easily avoided. So, what happened…what happened was COVID was kind of a gift and an opportunity, because all of a sudden, I had to shut down, and I magically had a buyer for my physical building. So, there was the gift and opportunity to get out from under, you know, at the…probably the 49-year mark, you know, of my  crosstalk 05:49 



Michelle: Wow.



JoyGenea: Isn’t that amazing?



Mary Jane: Yeah.



Michelle: Talk about seeing the silver lining. Fantastic. What do you think was the biggest challenge you faced, being a female business owner in a very small town?


 06:06  Good location is one factor to consider when establishing a business

Mary Jane: Well, you know, it’s geographic isolation out here, so we have…I think what happened was it was hard to gain their trust and build a clientele, but still sustain enough money to run a business in a physical, you know, in a physical building. So, that was part of it, you know, just funding it, and keeping…finding and keeping talent that wanted to stay in a small town. So eventually, I was really blessed by a talented, innovative creative person, who happened to be my daughter, moved back to the area, and she partnered with me.



Michelle: Oh, fantastic.



Mary Jane: So, that worked out perfectly.



JoyGenea: Nice.



Michelle: Yeah.



JoyGenea: So, I want to go back to a little bit, when you decided…I think people would be curious, when you decided you were going to take that hat off and sell the building, what were some other steps you kind of had to take as part of that process. A little of the mental, and a little of the, like, physical, like, what did that kind of look like for you?


 07:19  In business, there’s always something new to offer

Mary Jane: Well, it was very heartbreaking. It was just…you know, there was some discomfort, some melancholy, some grief, because all of a sudden, everything you’ve done was kind of pulled out from under you. So, but once I disassembled my physical building, it gave me the opportunity they look forward to something new and delightful which I could do with my life. So, I’ve actually continued in the industry, but I’ve cut way back, and just, you know, set some boundaries, and enjoy all of the things that I can do, the best things I can do, you know, narrowed down my skills.



JoyGenea: Nice. Smart.



Michelle: So, what is your kind of future plan? Like, what is the future looking like for you, your vision?



Mary Jane: Right now I’m really happy with…I am blessed to work for my daughter, so our hats have changed, and she has a really well thought out, beautiful salon that I can just enjoy going to, and I don’t have to think about very much, except showing up. So, you know  crosstalk 08:46 



Michelle: Payroll inventory, and…



JoyGenea: Oh, she became an employee.



Michelle: Oh, my gosh, it’s a dream.



Mary Jane: Or snow removal.



Michelle: Right.



JoyGenea: Oh, gosh.



Michelle: Or your appointment vacancy rate. Yeah.



Mary Jane: Mm-hmm.



JoyGenea: Restocking product, ordering the product.



Michelle: Yeah, wage compression, dealing with the raises. You know what? We’ve got to stop.



JoyGenea: Yep, got to stop. All the things you really enjoy.



Michelle: So, Mary Jane, when you disassembled Hairitage, obviously the building held value, then you were able to sell that. But what about the business assets, the name, the website, the clientele, what happened with that?


 09:36  Satisfied clients becomes a walking advertisement

Mary Jane: Well, the clientele pretty much moved over to my daughter’s salon, and I just…I no longer needed to advertise or do any of those things. I had a really good friend, JoyGenea, who helped me through a lot of that, and I just was able to downsize, you know, to the point where I feel comfortable now with what I’m doing two days a week, with a five-day weekend. So…



JoyGenea: It’s coming. That’s why we’re talking to these people.



Michelle: Do I have to wait 50 years? I don’t want to wait 50 years.



JoyGenea: You started later.



Michelle: I did. I did start late.



JoyGenea: You’re giving us hope. Like, you’ve kind of got to know that that’s…like, I know that’s out there, but like, in talking to her  crosstalk 10:33 



Michelle: Yeah.



JoyGenea: And it’s okay, there is life after business. Like, there’s life after that.



Mary Jane: Yeah.



JoyGenea: Mary Jane, what’s one thing in life or in business that you wish you had known sooner?


 10:46  Take care of yourself so you can also take care of your business

Mary Jane: Well, there’s a couple of things. I think…I think hiring my weakness, very important, so I can focus on what I’m good at. And the other thing is this industry, you know, there are so many expectations by the client, and needs by the client, that we kind of fall through the cracks. So, to definitely do more focusing on self-care, mental, physical, spiritual, you know, the emotional. And when you take care of that, the business kind of runs itself long term.



Michelle: Love it. Love it.



JoyGenea: That is good…that is darn good advice.



Michelle: That’s really good advice. I also have a curiosity. We’ve talked a lot on, If These Heels…about mothers and daughters, and relationships between women in business. How has the transition been, your daughter working for you, and then you working for your daughter?


 11:56  Keeping a healthy relationship within the family strengthens the bond

Mary Jane: Well, I think that I was mentally prepared for it, and I knew that if she asked me for advice, I could give it, but it was no longer my business. So I mean, she either had to make her own mistakes, and her own…you know, the things that she’s done really well. Hopefully, she learned a lot from me and others. But we both are very continuing education junkies. We’ve been to New York a few times, and Chicago, and Las Vegas, and Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, you know, wherever we can find continuing education, we just love that kind of thing. So, it really meshes, you know, when you have other people in the industry to help you out that way, too.



Michelle: That’s wonderful.



Mary Jane: So she not only has me, but she has them.



Michelle: That’s wonderful. And it really kind of speaks to communication and boundaries, and how those serve a relationship.



Mary Jane: Yeah, there are some boundaries that I have to respect.



Michelle: Yeah, that must be hard.



Mary Jane: So, it’s working out quite well, though. It really is.



Michelle: Good. Good.


 13:23  How do you manage time juggling between business and personal affairs?

JoyGenea: I have another question. I apologize, it wasn’t on the list, but I was thinking of this as we were talking about longevity, like how many years you’ve owned a business and done this. You, at one point, had small children while you were doing this, and you were juggling all of that, and then they became high… You know, how…were there times, because you owned your business and everything, were there times that you just had to shut the door, cancel appointments so that you could be home with the kids, so that… Was that kind of a common thing? I’m just kind of curious how you juggled that at the time.



Mary Jane: Yeah, I was very blessed because there were grandparents nearby. My husband’s parents were nearby. And I also had a really good client who lost her husband right when my daughter was born, and she…you know, it kind of filled the gap for her, plus, I could… And she lived so close to me, like, half a mile from me, so I could just…



Michelle: Well, it’s 300 people, where’s anybody going to go?



Mary Jane: I know. See  crosstalk 14:28  I think that is why I became a first responder, though, is because I had the small children, I was running the business, I had a busy road on one side of my house, and a lake on the other side, and I thought if something happened, I would know what to do. So…



Michelle: Yeah.



JoyGenea: That would be a woman’s reason for doing that, wouldn’t it?



Michelle: Yeah, it’s so a woman’s reason for doing that. Well, if I’m going to learn how to keep myself and my family safe in this treacherous environment, I might as well, you know, donate hundreds of hours to my community at the same time.



Mary Jane: Mm-hmm.



Michelle: Yeah. Why not?



JoyGenea: Because there’s not enough on my plate. Like, what’s one more?



Michelle: Yeah, no, not enough to do, what’s one more thing? I’m going to learn it anyway. Yeah.



Mary Jane: Right.



JoyGenea: So I might as well be good at it, and get reminders, you know, CPR reminders, and…right. You got it. And she said she was an education junkie. I get that.



Michelle: Yeah, I got that.


 15:21  Community Service is an indication that there is still humanity around us

JoyGenea: That is one of the things I really admired. When I first met you, Mary Jane, many years ago, I thought you were making a trip to St. Cloud because you guys were taking another class, and I thought, but you live out in this little town, why does that matter? That was my own small, narrow thinking. It mattered because you guys were making it matter where your location was, your quality. And who you were as people, the integrity of that was not going to change, no matter where the roof was of that business. And that was quite a statement to me. As a fellow business owner, I really admired that, and took that in. So, that’s part of the reason I also felt like you would be a great first recipient of the Brilliant Leader Sole Award.



Mary Jane: Well, I feel very honored.



Michelle: Well, I’m glad. We’re very glad. You know, we wanted to create the award because so many people, and so many of us spend so much time not being thanked, and 12 years as a first responder, the impact to your community, keeping a small business alive, and owning commercial property in a community that size, keeping it locally owned, and keeping those dollars in there, the jobs that you created, the lives that you touched, there’s not enough thanks on the planet. And so, we just wanted to have a little moment to say thank you so much for the sacrifices and the joys, and all of the things that came with it. It was lovely talking to you today, Mary Jane. Thank you.



Mary Jane: I appreciate it. Thank you.



JoyGenea: Thanks, Mary Jane, for being our guest. Bye, everybody, and thanks for joining.