Success stories

PM School

Escanaba, Michigan

Mary Doyen and Peg Lippens have made some pretty savvy decisions for a couple of new business owners.

“We had students who were completing school and not taking the certification exam” to be a licensed cosmetologist, said Mary, the business manager for the PM School in Escanaba, which the women bought in 2017. “We wrapped the fees for the certification into tuition. It’s paid for now, no excuses!” The school has a 100% passing rate on the state certification exam.

They also struggled with students spending too much time looking at their phones. Now the gaggle of phones rests face down on a counter. “We didn’t want to forbid them,” Peg said, “so this was a good compromise.”

“The free coaching, I can’t say enough about it. I’ve learned so much.” – Mary Doyen, co-owner

Operating the PM School, named for Peg and Mary, maximizes their individual skills. Mary manages the business side while Peg takes care of education. “If there is a challenge that needs to be discussed, we just talk it out until a solution is found. We rarely disagree on decisions.” said Mary.

The two women worked at the school in its previous incarnation and, when that owner decided to move, they took the leap into small business ownership – mainly because they couldn’t bear to see the demise of the school. There had been a cosmetology school in Escanaba since 1947 and Peg had taught at them for the last 46 years. “The last owner was the 9th one I had worked for,” she said.

Becoming business owners brought new ladders to climb, not to mention a pandemic. When they couldn’t find a bank to loan them the money, the banker told them about Northern Initiatives. Their SBA microloan in November 2020 helped them consolidate debt and free up resources for the day-to-day operation of the school, which is back to maximum capacity.

“The free coaching, I can’t say enough about it,” said Mary. “I’ve learned so much.”

Along with regular visits from Business Coach Jody Lindberg, Mary took Northern Initiatives’ online Strong Bottom Line Boot Camp course, to help her learn about profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cash flow, and more. “We met every Tuesday for an hour. We even learned QuickBooks,” she said.

The Boot Camp, which covers a different topic each week, taught by a coach skilled in that topic, is designed to give small business owners a better understanding of key financial statements and what each of them means. Paired with the one-on-one coaching, entrepreneurs develop the true story of their business – key trends, financial health, operations, etc. – thus allowing them to make solid decisions as the business grows.

“I know what I paid for continuing education and now she’s getting it for free,” Peg said.

Even with the learning leaps and pandemic problems, the women are thrilled to be business owners. “I never want to go back to being an employee,” Mary said. “But be ready to put in sweat equity – emotionally, physically, in relationships – and be ready to do it all.”

Peg is still tickled by the nuts and bolts of business ownership. “Our meetings are pretty quick,” she laughed. “Decision-making is instant. It’s not waiting for a week and a half for someone to get back to you.”

PM School Impacts:

    • Women Owned
    • Saved a school that had been in the community for 75 years
    • 100% certification rate for graduates
    • 100% employment for graduates


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