By Rich Adams
Hills Helps Others in Finding their Look
Jessica Eunjoo Hill, a native of Seoul, South Korea, became enthralled with fashion at age 8, when she came to America.
“Being adopted from South Korea, when I was young and growing up … all I wanted was to ‘fit in,’ and to me that meant having the right type of clothes, the right type of ‘look.’ It took a long time – as I think it does for many of us – to learn to be confident on my own, as myself. But once I did, that is when I loved fashion even more.”
Hill said she wants to help others feel confident, to love themselves no matter what they wear, but to also let what they wear help boost their confidence even more.
“I always loved making others happy,” Hill said.
The first Omoni Fashions opened Oct. 26, 2016, in Saginaw. The Bay City store opened June 3, 2017.
Hill’s top priority is client service.
“We could have the best clothes, the best décor and design around, but if we don’t greet, if we don’t offer to help style, if we don’t engage, then what is the point?” Hill said. “I started this business to become closer to my community. I wanted women to escape and feel like they could be in a big city, to pump the music up, to have a glass of wine, to come out and model for us … to have that personal attention as if they were at Barneys in New York.”
Hill said the biggest challenge she faced was trying to understand the tax system. Another test of her business acumen is handling the pressure of owning a business and having employees count on her for their livings.
Hill said her advice for women striving to open a business is to have a contingency fund on hand.
“Plan the business for surviving at least three years. Have the cash reserves to pay for all your expenses for at least three years. Otherwise you may be in a bind if there are unforeseen hiccups or sales slowdown,” she said.
“But having said all this, I can’t help but say what needs to be said as well: Be confident; believe in yourself because you can do it,” she added.
Nichole Ward, owner of Eastman’s Forgotten Ciders in Wheeler, turned a family-owned orchard into a cidery specializing in turning heritage apples into apple cider reminiscent of the past.
“A few years back we were really questioning the sustainability of a ‘hobby’ orchard, and diversifying to this product made a lot of sense,” Ward said. “From there, we’ve just fumbled our way through and figured it out as we’ve been going.”
Apples are locally sourced from Ward’s orchard, Eastman’s Antique Apples, which produces over 1,200 varieties of antique and heritage apples.
“So much of what we do and why we do it is because of the unique apples we have and their histories, and the journey cider has had from way back when America was being founded to now,” she said. “As for the process, we try as much as possible to intervene as little as possible, and just let the apples speak for themselves.”
Ward has a litany of reasons why she enjoys owning her own business, most having to do with customer service.
“I love the opportunity to give people a good time – like a chill Saturday hanging with friends or family and just enjoying our little part of the world, out in the country,” Ward said. “I love changing someone’s mind when they say they don’t like cider. I love being able to connect with other businesses and other business owners. I love being fortunate enough to give back to great causes we support, the opportunity to be there more for family and being able to show my two young girls this side of business and working hard.”
Ward, a self-described Air Force brat who hails from Grand Fork, North Dakota, graduated from Michigan State University in 2004 “with a degree I’ve never used.”
Ward said it is difficult to pin down one piece of advice she would give to women striving to open their own businesses.
“There will be tears and there will be triumphs. Trust your gut and learn from your mistakes,” Ward advised. “Take in all the information and advice and well wishes, but filter accordingly. Find your tribe. Find the people who can help and support you – both professionally and personally.”
Not many people were jumping into the real estate market in 2005. Michigan was in the beginning of a one-state recession, which would spread to the rest of the nation in two years. Because of the economic crisis, there seemed to be more foreclosures than house sales.
Yet Paula Arndt was not about to let her dream of opening Broadway Realty & Associates in Mount Pleasant slip away.
“Because we are in a smaller town, population 23,000, and then double that when the college students are in session at Central Michigan University, I felt that it was an opportune time to open my real estate office,” said Arndt, a Sandusky native who graduated from CMU with a bachelor’s degree.
Arndt became interested in real estate because of her mother-in-law, who was a successful real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Mount Pleasant Realty.
“My children were at the age where they were both going to school, and I found myself with too much time on my hands,” Arndt said. “I am a people person and had been in retail sales most of my life – I knew it would be a perfect fit.”
During the first seven years that Broadway Realty was in business, it grew from a three-person office to one employing eight agents. In 2012, Arndt purchased into a nationally known brand and became Weichert Realtors, Broadway Realtors. The staff of agents grew to 12 and the company covers 11 counties.
Her business model had to be different for it to succeed in the crowded real estate market.
“I wanted to make sure we were different than the other real estate company in the area,” Arndt explained.
“I wanted to be able to provide a full-service business, meaning if you listed someone’s property for sale, you were there for them throughout the process, educating them on all aspects of the transaction.
Arndt, who also serves as president of the Michigan Broker Council for Weichert, said the best part of owning a successful business is the time flexibility it provides.
“You are only given 24 hours a day. However, you can maximize those hours and prioritize what is important to you,” she said. “Family is very important to me, so I was able to plan my appointments around my children’s schedules.”
Arndt said women planning to start their own business should concentrate on success.
“You need to be focused, organized, disciplined and write a good business plan. Some banks offer small-business loans to help offset startup costs,” Arndt advised. “Last but not least, dream big and put God in charge of your venture. Always stay humble.
When Susan Fassbender was growing up in the Philippines and traveling to other Asian countries, she loved strolling around street markets and visiting local eateries. She was taken by the simple art of Asian cooking, where a few ingredients can be transformed into a delicious dish.
When Fassbender moved to the United States with her husband from Canada in 1988, she believed one day she would open a restaurant. Fassbender became fascinated with TV chefs, such as The Food Network’s Robert Irvine and the late Anthony Bourdain, whose shows aired on The Food Network and Travel Channel.
She put those dreams into reality when she opened Asian Noodle in Bay City. Although not a classically trained chef, she knows the chemistry of Asian flavors and delivers that taste to her customers.
“I am a self-taught chef,” Fassbender said. “I always told myself that one day I would open a restaurant, and here I am today, sharing my fashions, my dreams, my culture and the authenticity of my roots – the cleanliness of good food.”
Asian Noodle offers tasty, healthy food, she said, such as vegetarian and vegan dishes. Many of the ingredients are locally sourced.
“We love supporting local businesses like city markets, local wholesalers and local meat markets,” Fassbender said. “We use a lot of healthy ingredients, like fresh garlic and herbs, and lots of healthy fresh vegetables.”
Fassbender said the best part of being a business owner and restaurateur is watching people enjoy her food.
“I love what I do and I love making people happy,” she said. “And I have met a lot of nice people who became our regulars. It gives me satisfaction to see my customers enjoying my unique and niche creations.”
She said she enjoys owning a business and networking with other business owners to spread success. Fassbender also donates her time to local causes, which is her way of getting more deeply involved with the community.
Fassbender advised women who are trying to start a business to stick with their dreams.
“Focus on what you are good at, surround yourself with positive people and give it your best,” Fassbender said. “Have determination and perseverance and don’t give up. If you fail, get up and try again.”
Kristi Kaye was mesmerized when she saw a hypnotist perform on stage. She spoke with him in depth after the show, and it was that conversation that set Kaye’s future profession into motion.
“He told us he had a clinic where he helped people overcome many issues in their lives,” Kaye explained. “I started doing research on what hypnosis can do to help people and I was hooked.”
Today Kaye is a certified hypnotherapist with the National Guild of Hypnotists and the owner of Midland Hypnotherapy, helping people overcome barriers through hypnosis.
“I became certified with the National Guild of Hypnotists and opened Traverse Bay Hypnosis in Traverse City, where I lived,” Kaye said. “When we moved to Midland in 2012 for my husband’s job (Midland City Manager Brad Kaye), I opened Midland Hypnotherapy, and the rest in history. I have an office in the middle of downtown Midland and love it.”
Kaye said she helps people quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress and anxiety, gain confidence and self-esteem, and overcome phobias – all using hypnotherapy.
“Hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestibility, focus and concentration. Clients will say that they feel totally relaxed, almost like being in a daydream,” said Kaye. “As their body relaxes, so does their mind. I offer hypnotic suggestions to help make the changes the client desires.”
Kaye said owning a business gives her more control over her life in many ways.
“Having your own business is great because you own your own destiny,” Kaye said. “The best part about owning this business is the ability to help people. Nothing makes me feel better then when someone tells me I’ve had a part in changing their life.”
She said women who want to start up a business should do so with gusto, but also know in advance it will take much work building a business.
“Go for it! Do something that you’re passionate about,” Kaye said “Do your due diligence and do market research. Talk to successful people in the same field and found out what they did to become successful. Build a strong network of people.
“Know that you are going to work a lot more than 40 hours a week in the beginning, but that’s just what entrepreneurs do,” she continued. “Stay focused and write out your goals. Know that you are going to have good days and bad days, but you have the opportunity to always tweak things and make them better.”