A Home Skincare Business, Thanks to a Micro Loan

Each day as Ingrid Stewart organizes her skincare products, adjusts a spa bed for a client about to arrive or puts on her white coat, she smiles because owning a business is something she has always wanted to do.

“I wanted to be my own boss. I knew I had what it takes to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t have the money,” she said.

Stewart, a licensed aesthetician, says she learned the spa industry from the ground up, starting with school and working in every role at several spas and salons in Manhattan.

“What really made me want to have my own business in the spa industry was working with owners and just seeing everyday operations… I knew that I could do that,” she said.

Stewart started “Ramona’s Skin” out of her apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a year and a half ago. This business, which she titled using her middle name, specializes in skincare services including facials, microdermabrasion and chemical peels.

Using money from a tax return and a $1,200 micro loan she received through the Trillion Dollar Women’s Investment Group (TDWIG), the skincare expert was able to purchase spa equipment, products, obtain business cards and pay for some marketing.

“These are things I couldn’t do with my regular income so this investment group has helped me and my business tremendously,” she said.

Beyond funding, Stewart says being a part of the Trillion Dollar Women’s Investment Group has also helped improve her general financial standing.

“Every time that we finish the loans, and the loans are at least six months long, that is reported on to our credit,” she said.

“I know my credit was a little shoddy, so the investment group has shown that I can be trusted in terms of having a loan out there and paying it back.”

TDWIC members like Stewart receive their micro, or small, loans via leading microfinance organization Grameen America. After the initial loan is successfully repaid another may be applied for.

The 47-year-old says she is grateful that she joined the investment group after learning about it and microfinance from two friends in the fall of 2014.

For her, the group is more like a sisterhood because beyond the weekly meetings to make loan payments, the group leaders regularly support each person’s business venture and group members attend each other’s events. They also attend networking opportunities together and sometimes even collaborate.

“Nicole and Alishia, who are the president and vice president of the group, any time I call them… I mean anytime, I can pick up the phone and call them and say I have an idea or event and they are literally like ‘OK.’ What’s going on, what do you need us to do,” Stewart said.

“The other women in our group are that way too. We connect really well and support each other.”

With the support of TDWIG and the local community “Ramona’s Skin” currently has 50 clients, but Stewart’s goal is to reach 200 through expanded marketing and hosting mobile spa parties across New York City. For her, the hard work necessary to make that happen is actually exciting because she is doing exactly what she always wanted to.

“I can talk about it [skincare] all day and do it for free, that’s why this is my passion, for me this is my calling… microfinance has helped me get my dream business off the ground. It is truly amazing,” she said.

Within the next four years, Stewart hopes to be at the point where she can expand to a storefront space and looks forward to growing her relationship with the Trillion Dollar Women’s Investment Group and Grameen America.

This story is the final of three stories on the Trillion Dollar Women’s Investment Group and how microfinance is helping fuel small businesses for women in New York City.

Melissa Noel is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Voices of NY, NBCBLK.com and Ebony Magazine. This article was written as part of the Business Reporting Fellowship of the Center for Community and Ethnic Media and funded by a grant from News Corp. 

2 Comments

  1. Arie Jackson says:

    Ingrid I’m very proud to you and the person you have become. When I first met you, I knew you would go somewhere in life. You trusted me in helping to raise you son and I’m very grateful. You are shinning honey, keep up the good work. Love you much. COOKIE

  2. I am wondering if this is the same Ingrid Stewart that attended IS 174 in the Bronx? Please contact dorje22@gmail.com if indeed it is.

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