The announcement was made yesterday that the Twin Cities will be the recipient of $16 million in grants and loans for housing, businesses, and development for the communities affected by the Central Corridor Light Rail construction.
When Dominique Wells was 12 years old, he began cutting hair as a hobby, never imagining it would turn into a career. His aunt, Wendy Lane, had opened a salon on University Avenue in 1992, and Dominique put his hobby to work there. In 2005, when his aunt became too ill, Dominique took over the business, expanding the main floor salon to include a full barber shop in the back.
Since opening its doors, Ultimate Look has been a strong anchor for many other salons on University Avenue; four salon owners currently operating along the Avenue started their career at Ultimate Look by renting a chair and gaining a good flow of loyal customers.
From the day he took over Ultimate Look, Dominique has had a great vision for his business. Already a skilled barber and staffed with five stylists, two nail technicians, and two barbers, Dominique has focused on the professional and managerial side of running a business. Facing the upcoming disruption of the Central Corridor Light Rail construction along University Ave, he had been seeking help to improve his branding. Unexpectedly, the U7 team walked into his shop to drop off a packet of services that were available to him to enhance his marketing with their ‘results driven’ approach. “It was a little odd at first that people were willing to come help me. Usually you have to go out and seek help”, Dominique states.
Dominique has been working with U7 for many months, and is greatly appreciative of the help they have provided him. He commends the staff on their patience, creativity, and ability to be innovative. He now has a new logo, new business cards, a consistent brand, and is preparing to launch Ultimate Look’s website at the end of August. Dominique is more optimistic about finding stylists to rent out chairs, as well as increasing his customer base, and he is now confident of Ultimate Look’s ability to conduct business during construction.
“Our businesses are basically our livelihood. That’s how we support our families. Without the help [from U7], it’s hard to see a lot of these businesses staying open during construction.”
When asked what motivates him to keep his business thriving during and after the light rail construction, Dominique sincerely states, “It’s never just about me. I always consider the next man (or woman!)… …Our businesses are basically our livelihood. That’s how we support our families. Without the help [from U7], it’s hard to see a lot of these businesses staying open during construction.”
U7 is now helping Dominique with financial projects. He is putting together a plan to increase sales, and starting a savings account to prepare for any potential loss in revenue during construction.
*Neighborhood Development Center is the host organization of U7, a collaborative of eight organizations helping to strengthen small businesses along University Avenue before, during, and after the Central Corridor Light Rail project with free marketing services.
University Avenue Business Collaborative (U7), an initiative of eight local organizations, is helping to strengthen small businesses along University Avenue before, during, and after the Central Corridor Light Rail project with free ‘results driven marketing’. One of their clients is Flamingo Restaurant, a small restaurant in St. Paul that opened last January, serving Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Somali food. Flamingo is featured on the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press today.
Also, another great article on Flamingo from Twin Cities magazine, The Heavy Table.