Nokomis East Business Association

NEBA celebrates its women-owned businesses

Nokomis East is proud to call itself home to many women-owned and operated organizations, both storefront and home-based. 
We don’t know if this phenomenon is unique to the Nokomis East neighborhood, but it’s something the Nokomis East Business Association (NEBA) wanted to celebrate. Unfortunately, we could only share three in this column. 
Starting a Business in Nokomis East
Carolyn Faacks is the owner/CEO and founder of Nokomis Hardware, which has stood sentinel over the intersection of 52nd Street and 34th Avenue for 31 years. 
Faacks purchased the Nokomis Hardware building and opened her business while in her early 30s. It followed a stint in the Army and employment by the long-defunct River-Lake Hardware store at 36th Street and East Lake. That experience helped Faacks realize that she enjoyed helping people solve problems and working with her hands. 
She considered a number of South Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods for her new store before settling on Nokomis East. She cited housing density in the area and proximity to competing hardware stores as major influences in her decision to establish Nokomis Hardware in its long-familiar locale.  
Several blocks away at 50th Street & 28th Avenue is a charming free-standing building that houses Natalie Lyon Agency, Farmers Insurance. 
Lyon entered the insurance world 12 years ago while in her mid-20s after having been approached by a Farmers Insurance recruiter. Until that point, she’d never considered insurance – she had aspired to opening a running store. But, like Faacks, Lyon had quickly realized she enjoyed helping people and building relationships with customers. 
Now, Lyon owns her business and (since 2021) her current building. 
Lyon describes herself as self-driven and hard-working, which has resulted in her office having earned six times over membership in Farmers’ exclusive “Topper Club,” securing Lyon a place among the top 10% of Farmers agents across the US. Additionally, hers was the top-producing office in its local district last year. 
Further east, on the southeast corner of 54th Street and 42nd Avenue, where the Minnehaha and Morris Park neighborhoods meet, stands the Wellness Center MN – a woman-owned business for 24 years. 
One year ago, the well-established operation, which does not own its building, was sold by founder Terri Burks to longtime employees of hers, Kara Motta and Rachel Garrison. Both Motta and Garrison held earlier interests in the areas of art and dance but were led to massage by its relaxing peace. 
Motta, who studied dance at the U of M, said that movement within the context of massage was of particular interest to her. Her first job out of college in 2013 was with the Wellness Center. Garrison, who attended Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, has been a massage therapist for 13 years. 
Motta and Garrison present themselves as quite compatible with one another, and they feel it has been a great fit for them to have acquired the business. 
The Wellness Center provides massage therapy, bodywork, and float therapy. Though this scope of services offered under one roof is not entirely unusual within the metro area, it is somewhat so. 
They employ nine certified massage therapists who together offer many diverse modalities, styles, and skill sets to create individual care plans for their clients, many of whom are referred to the Wellness Center by the local chiropractic community.
The Importance of Community
“Women who operate businesses simply do not have as much time to devote to their work as men,” said Faacks, discussing challenges faced by women business owners. “70% of household responsibilities typically fall on women. In my case as a single parent, it has been closer to 100%.” 
Faacks added, “My generation of women were not trained to network like men were, and we still don’t have networking skills in the way younger women have.” 
Lyon would like to see women business owners in Nokomis East build a stronger network among themselves, potentially creating opportunities to learn from women representing a broad range of ages and diverse business backgrounds. 
“We could assist one another in learning about opportunities for grants, as an example,” said Lyon. “If women business owners connect and network, they can empower one another.”
Both Faacks and Lyon describe their respective industries as historically male-dominated. It is clear both are passionate about equal rights in the business world.
When discussing how she feels perceived by her store’s wholesalers, Faacks said she believes the terminology that is applied to women’s behavior as an owner of a hardware store is different than the terminology typically applied to men. 
“Large wholesalers tend to be more conservative which makes it hard for me. My store is in the throes of changing to a different wholesaler, one which is set up as a coop, and as a result, we will have access to a broader range of products.”
Around the time Motta and Garrison acquired the Wellness Center, they benefited tremendously from connecting with WomenVenture. The St. Paul-headquartered organization’s mission is “to empower women to achieve their economic goals by building profitable and sustainable businesses that transform communities.”
The Nokomis East Advantage
I like the independence that comes with owning my business,” said Faacks. “I would not have had it any other way.” 
When asked whether she holds concerns about the future for women business owners, Faacks said she is optimistic but that much depends on who we elect this year, adding that Minnesota is looking “pretty darn good.” 
Lyon, who always knew she wished to be self-employed, said that as a business owner she finds it difficult to achieve work/life balance. 
“Owning a business involves a huge risk,” said Lyon. “There are trade-offs. I have flexibility but I work a tremendous amount of the time. But it’s worth it not having to report to someone. And a good attitude goes a long way!” 
Lyon acknowledged having to face industry challenges that involve outside factors, but she feels she is evolving with the changes. 
Motta and Garrison acknowledged they work considerably longer hours as owners of their business than they put in as employees, but added it always feels good to them to be at work.  
“Our customers are awesome! I like the mix of people and the diversity in the area. The neighbors are so supportive and understand the concept of buying local. They know me and I know them,” said Faacks. 
Lyon also feels supported by the neighborhood, indicating her insurance business has benefitted from walk-in business at its highly visible location. Lyon described the insurance business as recession-proof, indicating her business has grown year-over-year, even during COVID. 
Worthy of note is that Lyon’s building sometime in the 1970s was known as Moon Sound Studios and was the music studio of Prince (yes, THE Prince)! 
Motta and Garrison find what they recognize as an increasingly diverse makeup of neighbors within Nokomis East as contributing to the area’s warm and comfortable vibe. They love the energy they feel here, adding it’s a fun community to serve with so much going on nearby. 
They also echo Faacks and Lyon in their observation that it can be hard for them to communicate with businesses that are not women-led. They feel excited about connecting with other women business owners recognizing that their predecessor, Burks, had excellent networking skills. 
Lyon sees Nokomis East as holding great opportunity for women who might be considering locating their businesses here. She also indicated there are several good properties currently available for both lease and purchase and that businesswomen benefit from community events such as Nokomis Days. 
NEBA board member Bob Albrecht owns Bob Albrecht Real Estate, LLC. He lives and operates his residential brokerage on Shoreview Avenue in Keewaydin. 


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