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October 21, 2019 in

Focus is on local female small business owners

Owning and operating a small business can be a challenging endeavor, whether someone is just starting out as an entrepreneur or they have years of experience.

Every owner has a different way to make their business succeed in the community, from offering something new and exciting at reasonable rates to catering to every whim of your clientele’s needs.

The Small Business Administration recognizes October as National Women’s Small Business Month. In celebration, three local women discuss what it takes to run successful businesses in Lodi.

Michelle Crandall, Lodi Funeral Home

For Michelle Crandall, manager and director of the Lodi Funeral Home, catering to her clientele’s needs is what makes her business a staple of the community.

“You need to be involved in the community you serve,” she said. “That was one of the things when I started that I would make my top priority.”

When Crandall took over as director last fall, the funeral home had some reputation problems.

While the business has been one of the top choices for families to handle the death of loved ones, Crandall said funerals and burials were treated strictly as business transactions.

Her goal was to make sure clients are both educated and properly guided through the entire death and grieving process.

“We sell love here,” she said. “If people really loved their family members, they’d want to take care of their end of life ahead of time. The amount of stress involved — especially if you wait until the last moment — can be very difficult.”

Crandall has begun holding monthly meetings with local religious leaders to describe what the death and funeral process entails, from mountains of paperwork that needs to be filed with San Joaquin County and banks to prices of caskets and urns.

The hope is that those who attend the monthly meetings can take the information to their congregations and inform members of what the funeral home can do for them, she said.

“It’s amazing how many people who deal with the death of a loved one don’t know exactly what to do,” she said.

In addition to walking clients through the grieving process, the funeral home has also hosted a Trunk or Treat event for Halloween and a 9/11 Memorial in the past year.

The business also hosted a Shred-It Day for residents to dispose of unneeded paper, as well as a Light of Hope event to memorialize loved ones during the holiday season.

“We have a very caring staff,” Crandall said. “If we can take care of families, then the business can take care of itself.”

Leila Morgan, Chill Nutrition

Leila Morgan, owner of the recently-opened Chill Nutrition on South Cherokee Lane, said the key to her success has been to offer something unique to the Lodi community.

Chill Nutrition may look like another juice establishment for those on the go, but what it offers is specialty shakes that Morgan said are not shakes, and not smoothies.

The business offers “meal shakes” that have less than 300 calories and can be consumed for any meal of the day, as well as an herbal tea and aloe offering loaded with antioxidants that promote digestive health and hydration.

“While many may think we’re just another drink place, we provide multiple facets so people can live a healthy lifestyle,” Morgan said.

Some of those facets include a Fit Camp at Salas Park on Sundays. Chill Nutrition customers can sign up for the camp in-store, then meet the staff at the park where they participate in exercises and fitness challenges.

The business also offers a “V.I.P Club” where Morgan and her staff create fitness plans for customers.

Morgan said another way to succeed in running a business like Chill Nutrition is to maintain a positive attitude during the workday.

“We take pride in the positive environment we try to provide for the customers,” she said. “We focus on bringing positive attitudes to work, learning all of our customers names and getting to know more about them.”

Employee Selena Leon had been working at a local fast food restaurant for the last eight years and recently signed on with Morgan at Chill Nutrition. She said the ambiance and workplace environments at the two establishments is night and day.

“Working there was so toxic, so to come to a place where I can just be me is great,” she said. “When we say Chill Nutrition, it really is chill, from the staff to our customers and to the community. There really is nothing in Lodi like this place.”

Morgan said the business and clientele she has attracted has been incredible. She has opened a second location in Lockeford and hopes to open a third in her hometown of Lathrop some time in the future.

Nancy Chambers, Elizabeth of Lodi

Nancy Chambers is no stranger to the Lodi business community, or Lodi in general.

In 2001, she started at the Elizabeth of Lodi doing alterations, and then bought the business from her employers in December 2014.

She said the key to success in her industry is to make sure the customer’s needs are met to their satisfaction.

“You just have to have the current styles, and you have to be customer service oriented,” she said. “When you come in to the shop, you can expect to be waited on immediately and taken care of. We make sure you walk out of here with what you want and with a smile on your face.”

Known primarily for its bridal gowns, over the years Elizabeth of Lodi has incorporated dresses for prom and quinceañeras into its offerings, as well as tuxedos for the men and boys and bridesmaids dresses for women and girls.

Chambers said she has tried to make the store into a one-stop place where a bride and her party can find everything at the same time.

She also tries to meet her clients’ needs as best she can, whether it’s an alteration to a dress or placing an order for a specific color a customer wants.

In addition, she dresses her frontage windows on a seasonal basis to let customers know she offers more than just wedding attire.

September and October are her heaviest months for weddings, while the spring months are the times when prom and birthdays take over, she said.

Not only is Elizabeth of Lodi one of the primary options for wedding and prom dresses, it’s also one of the oldest businesses downtown, taking up shop at its current location in 1979.

“This is the toughest industry there is to make things profitable,” she said. “With the Internet and online shopping, we now have a lot of competition. It’s getting harder for brick and mortar shops like us to stay in business.”

Despite the competition, Chambers said she can’t see herself doing anything else.

“When I first started here, the previous owners were not here a lot of the time,” she said. “I’d be the first face you’d see when you walked in. Now that it’s my business, I’ve always been about having to be present for your customers. I just love helping the brides.”

This content was originally published here.

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