Success Stories

Darnell Carter and Dana Cochran, owners

Styles & Smiles

Friendship, experience foundation for salon

Highland, IN – Darnell Carter and Dana Cochran went to beauty school together 30 years ago. Since then, their careers paths have stayed connected, culminating with their partnership at Styles & Smiles, a complete hair and natural nail care salon.

With a soft opening in November, they recently celebrated their grand opening, bringing together their staff, families and clients for a VIP party after a week of service promotions. That resulted in their biggest sales week to date.

Carter is building on this growth as they now have a staff of eight, look to update the styling area and consider expanding down the road. Seizing opportunity is how they launched their business in the first place, taking over an existing salon and making it their own.

"The salon was a turn-key kind of thing," Carter said. "The opportunity presented itself. We named the salon Styles & Smiles because we want to do great styles and we want happy people. That environment is a win-win for us, the stylists and the customers."

Carter says customer service and communication are her focal points as a business owner.

"You have to make sure that communication is here and everyone is on the same page. You have to make sure customers are getting what they need out of the experience," Carter said. "You have to have your game face on every day."

With a strong managerial and marketing background, Carter was seeking not only advice, but also assurance when she connected with Cindy Bertram, a business advisor with the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center. Bertram offered start-up and marketing/sales assistance.

"When I had talked to Cindy, there were a lot of things that I already knew, but it’s great support that you are on the right track, making sure that you have dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s," Carter said. "It’s important to know you’re going in the right direction."

Joshua Lybolt, regional director of the NWI SBDC, said being a support structure is an important function of the NWI SBDC.

"It is inspiring to help all levels of entrepreneurship," Lybolt said. "Even though Styles & Smiles is a new business, Cindy was able to be more of a guide than a teacher for Dana and Darnell as they both brought rich backgrounds of experience to their business."

Carter said if she could offer advice to new small business owners it would be to concentrate on the moment.

"It’s that old saying ‘Don’t put the cart before the horse.’ Make sure you have done your homework and have all of your ducks in a row. Even anticipate, ‘I’m prepared if this happens,’" Carter said. "You can’t get too far ahead of yourself. You have to take care of the moment before you go to the next one."

Styles & Smiles is located at 3036 45th Street in Highland. The salon is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 219-922-4100.





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