Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Katie Steller-Schultz of Steller Hair Company
Katie Steller Schultz
945 NE Broadway St., Mpls.
At 17 years old, Katie Steller Schultz had no idea how to make a braid—but that changed with one trip to the salon.
Battling ulcerative colitis since she was 10, Schultz’s medications were no longer working properly, making it difficult for her body to absorb the proper nutrients and causing her hair to fall out. Depressed and feeling like she was losing her identity, the spa day was meant to be a pick-me-up from her mother before an upcoming surgery to remove her entire colon.
Sitting in the chair, “I realized that doing somebody’s hair is so much more than what you’re doing on the outside,” she says. “It’s about getting to know the person, what makes them feel good, and then encouraging that.”
And, says Schultz, being a good business owner is about having a staff that feels good, too. After graduating from the Aveda Institute and working at salons across the Twin Cities, Schultz saw the toxic environment growing in the local industry. She and husband Mike decided to open a salon dedicated to paying employees a living wage. “With each person we hired, we talked about what they needed monthly to survive, and then we tried to go a little bit above that,” Schultz says.
That business model caught the attention of WomenVenture, who partnered with the Two-Percent Loans program—an initiative in which the City of Minneapolis offers a portion of the loan and a private lender (in this case, WomenVenture) provides the rest—to make the couple’s dream a reality. Since opening last June in Northeast Minneapolis, they’re already past their three-year projections.
“If things had gone my way in the beginning, my salon would not be this incredible,” Schultz says. “I see all the layers of help from people that we know and love. The support from them and the hard work we have put in makes it so much sweeter.”