Co-founder's death alters Naked Monkey's growth plan

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The Naked Monkey started 2009 on a tear, giving the then-3-year-old Carmel waxing spa’s owners welcome momentum as they opened a second location in Fishers. By fall, the recession had stopped their progress cold.

“We got hit hard,” co-founder Brenda Schultz recalled. “It was like someone opened a Monkey across the street and was charging $20 less.”

rop-naked-vert-051313-1col.jpg Schultz is growing the company’s base of male customers. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Business picked up again the following year, and the partners emerged from the rough patch with their sights set on franchising. Their attorney began the process as the beauty school buddies fine-tuned the company they had launched with $1,000 and three credit cards.

Then everything changed.

Schultz and business partner Jeniffer Webber were working toward their goals, talking to contract manufacturers about making private-label products for the spa, when Webber fell ill in June 2011. The 44-year-old thought she had food poisoning. She actually had suffered a heart attack, then later died in her sleep.

naked-monkey-factbox.gifSchultz decided she wasn’t ready to try franchising on her own. She put expansion plans on hold to focus on her family—at home and at The Naked Monkey.

“It’s funny, I don’t really revisit that very often,” she said. “I’m a business owner, an esthetician, a mom and a den mother to all these women. … We laugh a lot. And sometimes we cry.”

The mood has been light recently, as The Naked Monkey eases back into growth mode. Sales are on track to reach $1.2 million this year, due in part to a smaller-scale “Mini Monkey” that opened six months ago inside the new MDG Salon in downtown Indianapolis.

It has been successful enough that Schultz is exploring the idea of continuing the partnership in other markets. (Bloomington is at the top of her wish list.)

MDG Operations Director Travis Moore is equally enthusiastic. He courted Schultz’s cooperation as his family’s salon—formerly known as Meridian Design Group—sought to draw like-minded service providers interested in sharing space.

“We want it to be as successful as she does,” Moore said. “In a situation like this, your reputation is only as good as those around you.”

The Naked Monkey is among “the best of the best,” he said, citing its discreet staff and savvy boss, whom he considers a mentor. Moore appreciates Schultz’s analytical mind and what-you-see-is-what-you-get mind-set, among other qualities.

“She’s hilarious and very compassionate, very warm,” he said. “She is very much Brenda all the time. That’s a refreshing quality in a businessperson.”

Schultz, who became an esthetician after working in clinical research, admits to being the more reserved of founding partners. Webber was the company’s idea person, she said, while Schultz took a more conservative approach.

“She would push and I would pull, for sure,” said Schultz, 45.

Webber’s death forced her to explore her creative side. And conservative doesn’t necessarily mean stodgy. Humor is an important part of The Naked Monkey’s success, Schultz said.

That starts with the name—as irreverent as it is descriptive, given the spas’ focus on removing unwanted body hair—which has drawn curious customers since the first sign went up. It’s also memorable—something that helps make the company’s radio advertising effective.

Schultz is particularly proud of the spas’ growing base of male customers, which the radio ads target.

Women might pick a waxing spa based on recommendations from friends, Community Manager Carrie Kleiman said, but men are less likely to discuss such personal matters among themselves. So a memorable commercial or tweet becomes that much more valuable.

“We definitely offend people,” Kleiman said with a smile before rattling off a favorite example: “I’m not going to beat around the bush: You should wax yours.”

A new series of ads now in production feature “fractured” fairy tales, starting with the story of Rapunzel, the long-haired princess trapped at the top of a tower. Let your imagination take it from there.

Kleiman serves as a sounding board for Schultz and handles the company’s social media efforts, which is a point of emphasis this year. She credits her boss’s hands-on approach and caring attitude for helping The Naked Monkey attract and keep quality employees.

“There’s a lot of laughter,” Kleiman said. “We have fun.”

Both women said Webber would be thrilled with the company’s progress—if not last year’s decision to close the spas on the anniversary of her death for a company-wide lunch and cemetery visit.

“She would be so pissed,” Schultz said.•


  • Happy for them but...
    Glad to hear that they are having success in lieu of all they have been through. To me though, this place is more like the hair salons that focus on blow-outs or the massage places where you to pay a monthly fee to get frequent massages....it is tough to attract top talent when all they do is a certain service. I personally have not had any luck with Naked Monkey....it seems it is always tough to get an appointment (and a not very accommodating customer service staff), and when I did get in, the service was not at all what I had expected. (i.e. when I got home I noticed there were quite a few areas that were missed!) I have since taken my every 3 week waxing needs elsewhere...

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim