JULIE EBNER, 46, of 11th Street near Green in North Philly, owns Juju Salon & Spa in Queen Village. The Temple grad started a small, organic hair salon in 2005. Four years later, she launched a website offering all-natural, plant-based products. Ebner, a divorcee, has two daughters, ages 9 and 11.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the business?
A: I was a paralegal and also worked in salons. I felt like the environment in most salons was toxic. The interiors were boring and not what a stylist wanted. I felt like all the chemicals in the products was a lawsuit waiting to happen. I had an epiphany my salon would be all-organic.
Q: What's with the name Juju?
A: That's my nickname, and it's also a charm believed by West Africans to have supernatural powers, and it can be good or bad.
Q: I guess for you it's good juju.
A: I think so.
Q: What's the biggest challenge to growing the business?
A: Training employees is hard. You must find the best people and educate them in organic lifestyle.
Q: Please explain that lifestyle.
A: The products I use and sell are plant-based, no chemicals and certainly no synthetic chemicals. I believe what's more important is what's not in our products.
Q: Can you elaborate?
A: Yes. Greenwashing is where somebody makes a product, labels it organic and it may contain an organic plant but also has a synthetic fragrance or preservative, so it's still toxic.
Q: How did you find money to start the business?
A: I put everything on credit cards. Keeping the business afloat is more difficult in the city because of taxes.
Q: It's a complaint I hear a lot.
A: Last year, $1 million walked through my door, and the city taxes you on that. My accountant says if I moved to Bala Cynwyd I'd save $25,000 a year in taxes.
Q: Well, you got a city-tax credit for being a sustainable business. What makes you sustainable?
A: Besides all-organic products, we're totally wind-powered and recycle all trash. We have mostly secondhand furniture, and spa sheets, blankets and robes are 100 percent organic cotton.
Q: Who are your customers?
A: Mostly women, maybe 15 percent men. A lot are moms, maybe my age or younger. Lots of professional women, for sure, but we also get lots of students.
Q: How many employees?
A: About 25. I probably have only two that are over 34 hours per week. The rest are part time.
Q: What part of the business produces the most revenue?
A: The salon, by far.
Q: You're a working mom, and Mother's Day is coming up.
A: My kids see me at work all the time and help out. I give them a little bit of money and they're here after school most days. I'm raising two girls and they know what I do and how hard I work.