IT’S TWO O’CLOCK ON A MONDAY AFTERNOON,
and Susan Haise is hustling up five flights of stairs in a killer pair of stiletto heels.
“I’m used to this,” she says as she simultaneously dabs and blends Aveda concealer under her eyes, preparing for her next meeting with a representative of Easihair extensions.
It’s not easy to sum Susan up in words, but a few that describe her are: a go-getter, a service leader, an entrepeneur, and a visionary who will “find a way to make it all happen.”
It’s true. Somehow, Susan finds a way to make it all happen. She is the mother of two, a yoga enthusiast, a cosmetologist and esthetician, a student of marketing and HR strategy, a board member for the Milwaukee Film Festival and the Aveda Institutes.
Oh, and she’s the CEO of Neroli Salon & Spa, The Institute of Beauty and Wellness,
and the Aveda Institute Madison.
Like most days, Susan is busy on this Monday afternoon, but she still finds time to sit, pour a pitcher of water, and share her story about her journey as a young entrepreneur in the
beauty and wellness industry.
It started in her early 20’s, when Susan worked in sales and distributed Aveda products to salons and spas within the Midwest. The owner of one salon, based in Northern Illinois, was impressed with Susan’s knowledge, spirit, and passion for the beauty and wellness industry.
After years of distributing product to the salon, the owner made Susan an offer, stating that if she came up with a business plan, he would help fund her as an entrepreneur. Although Susan had never crafted a business plan before, she came prepared with a plan within two weeks of the offer.
The deal was sealed.
“I have always been passionate about the creative culture of salons and spas. I wanted to create an environment where both my team and our guests love who they are and what they do for themselves.”
So what was the plan? Twenty-five years ago, Susan found a 4,000 square foot space in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. It was here that Susan planned to open both her salon and spa and her beauty school within the same space.
But there was a problem. A good problem. The salon and spa took off, and it filled the entire space, including the portion that was intended for the school. In effect, Susan’s plan was amended from the start, as she needed to find a different building for her school. When asked what advice she’d give to herself as a young entrepreneur, she replied in her own humor:
“Buckle up, there’s a long road ahead.”
Most people in Susan’s situation would be loaded with worry and nerves. Admittedly, Susan was nervous, but explained that her nerves were masked by her passion to serve people wholeheartedly.
We can say her attitude paid off. Now, Susan’s company has expanded into five locations throughout the Milwaukee area. She recently acquired a sixth location in Madison, WI, and also owns The Institute of Beauty and Wellness along with the Aveda Institute Madison.
“Many assume that risk starts and ends with opening a company. That’s not true. Risk never ends. There is risk in every decision and action along the way.”
Susan continues to be a top player in the industry. In every realm of her business, Susan is present. A guest educator’s in the house? Susan’s got the presentation. The marketing team has a new project in mind? Susan’s there, fully equipped with magazine inspiration. There’s talk about a new featured product or service? Susan’s the model for the product or service.
She is engaged, always and optimally, on every level to ensure everyone finds success.
Today, Susan owns Milwaukee’s premier salon and spa in six locations, two fully established beauty institutes, and the Aveda Experience center in Brookfield Square. She says she is proud of her team members (she never uses the word employees) for being leaders in the industry.
What’s been the most satisfying moment in your career?
It is very gratifying to own a company that creates economic sustainability for others. I don’t know how else to say it; I just love that my team has the opportunity to earn satisfying paychecks.
Also, it’s a great honor to win Best Places to Work in the Milwaukee Business Journal. I’m not sure there’s any better compliment than that for a CEO. I am so grateful.
What kind of people make a successful team?
I look for people who are passionate about their work, but also about serving others.
I often hear people say everyone at Neroli so nice! and it’s because of the respect we hold for each other and our guests.
Here, we serve our team just as much as we serve our guests.
Where do you see your business in five years?
We’ll be at the next level of service offering, both for our team and guests.
I am working on a new benefits package for our team, which I am excited about.
Who is your industry icon?
Depends which industry. For salon and spa, I really admire Pam McNair and Eveline Charles. For fashion and cosmetics, I’ve always looked to Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, and Donna Karan. For hospitality, I’m a huge fan of Mandarin Oriental.
What’s your favorite color?
You can sum me up as a neutral gal: black, gray, off white, brown. You won’t find me wearing pink on my nails. Every now and then a color will leak into my wardrobe, but not often.
Wine – red or white?
Red. I also love beer. Stella Artois is my go-to beer.
What do you like in your smoothie?
Right now, my favorite is a blend of kiwi, kale, and granny smith apples.
Favorite song at the moment?
My kids and I love listening to music together. Right now, we love “Fighter” by Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.
We also love all of Katy Perry’s new hits.
Who’s your mentor?
My mom and dad.
My mom was a lover and nurturer, and my dad was a very hard worker.
If you were on a deserted island and could only have one Aveda product, which would it be?
Since I’m on a deserted island, I guess I won’t need anything for my hair!
I would go with the Beautifying Composition Oil. It cleanses, it nourishes, it moisturizes.
What does your ideal weekend look like?
On Fridays, my kids and I often go to Sky Zone, the pool, take a bike ride
or get ice cream at Rj’s in Elm Grove.
On Saturday, I like to focus on wellness. I go to our yoga sessions at Bayshore.
On Sundays, we use our outdoor movie theater, play cards (especially Uno), and enjoy family dinners.
Family is very important to me, so my weekends are full of family time.
Do you have a favorite quote?
My forever favorite quote is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
However, I recently saw a Disney quote that I love:
“First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.”
I think that’s really great advice for an entrepreneur.