The cozy shop in Oconomowoc has walls of Cream City brick bathed in soft light, mainly from large glass windows facing busy Wisconsin Avenue. It has an old punched tin ceiling, and the display cases filled with hand-made soaps, essential oil and bath salts are mainly antiques purchased locally. It smells wonderful.
The culmination of much hard work – with advice and training from the UW-Milwaukee Small Business Development Center – Scentsory Bath and Body Boutique is Sophia Barry’s dream.
The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a statewide network supporting entrepreneurs and business owners through no-cost, confidential consulting and targeted educational programs. Regional SBDC – such as Milwaukee’s – employ experts who facilitate improvement and growth for small and emerging mid-size companies and help launch successful new enterprises.
Jason Mueller, program manager UW-Milwaukee’s SBDC, described Barry’s new business as “a real success story.”
Barry’s parents were university professors (UW-Milwaukee and Marquette University, respectively), but Barry caught the entrepreneurial bug early, working in local and national retail stores on Milwaukee’s East Side. As she moved up to management, she still enjoyed the one-on-one with customers. Later, she studied health and wellness through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York.
That led to an early career as a life and wellness coach. She visited clients in their homes, armed with a yoga mat, essential oils, body weights and nutritional advice.
“These were people who were too busy or didn’t have the opportunity to visit a gym. It was a great business, but I realized I was limited by my own time because I was doing it alone. So I started hosting seminars for larger groups.”
In 2012, she also began talking with Mueller about her goals and dreams. She took the First Steps to Starting a Business course and the Entrepreneur Training Program – the latter being a two-month course in which participants learn how to identify and appeal to customers, apply for financing and manage their proposed companies efficiently.
“The training I received through the SBDC helped prepare me to write a business plan for funding through the Oconomowoc Bureau of Business Development,” Barry, 30, said. With that low-interest financing in hand, Barry scoured the area for antique furniture, painted and spruced up and created signage in anticipation of the July 15 opening.
All the while, she kept in contact with Mueller for advice and guidance.
“My vision for this business includes the exploration of quality for my customers,” she said. “I love Oconomowoc and the way it supports small businesses.”
Added Mueller, “I’m so impressed that Sophia continued to develop her business offerings and model with what she learned from her clients. By piecing together the financing opportunity she really pulled her new model together efficiently and effectively. It’s great when location, opportunity and timing all come together like that.”
Barrry’s shop sells handmade shea butter soap, small and large bath bombs, bath salts, mineral soap, sugar scrub, and has a create-your-own fragrance station. Rather than overwhelm, the combined scents are almost dreamlike.
Most of the products are intended for women, but the shop also offers shave jelly and soaps for men.
Barry is starting small, but has large aspirations. She is combining her entrepreneurial spirit with her commitment to health and wellness. “I want to be a place where residents and visitors to Oconomowoc are comfortable and can find the things they need to make them feel better.”