When you first walk into Savanna Beauty on Eagan road, you are bound to be greeted by warm colors and brown woods — chosen intentionally to make customers feel relaxed — a broad array of kinky, curly, coily hair products, and the welcoming smiles of owners Stephanie and Beran Sarr.
When the couple decided they wanted to open a business they were unsure of what the business would be, but they did know that their intent was to help people.
For a year they carried around “idea notebooks” jotting down whatever business venture would come to mind.
“I had a long list of things and it all had to do with helping people,” said Stephanie, who was an insurance agent at the time.
The two came up with and even pursued many ideas, but in the end only one proved to be the right fit.
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The idea for a beauty supply store came from Beran after hearing a radio segment in which Black UW-Madison students talked about having limited options for hair care products.
“I thought that’s going to be a tough industry to get into, because it’s not too many people who look like us doing that, but if you’re up for a challenge I’m up from a challenge too,” Stephanie said.
Though there was no shortage of challenges, the couple still managed to open Savanna Beauty in 2015, learning the ins and outs of running a business as they went along.
“Some of the biggest challenges starting the store were the little things,” Stephanie said. “There’s so many little things you have to do when you’re opening a business.”
She continued to work as an insurance agent for the first eight months the store was open, dedicating full time hours to both.
“Giving up a secure job with benefits can be scary, but then you say, ‘I want to take this risk,’” she said. “When it started to become a struggle for me in terms of where my passions was, that’s when I knew I had to leave. I knew my passion was here.”
Now, after just celebrating its two year mark, the store continues to be a labor of love for both Stephanie and her husband as they continue to go above and beyond to provide customers with more than just hair care products.
“People have options to shop but I wanted to give them another option, something different that you haven’t experienced before,” said Stephanie.
“Beauty supply has been in the world for years, so this is not something new, but we’re trying to bring in a motto that would be new,” Beran said.
That new motto starts with building a space with the customer in mind.
“I wanted the design of the store to be warm,” said Stephanie. “I wanted to create something where customers can feel relaxed and comfortable to ask questions.”
Even the store’s name is meant to convey a relaxing and warm environment.
“When I think of Savannah, I think Savannah, Georgia or the savannah desert and it just reminded me of beauty with warm, rich colors and relaxation and it just fell in line,” Stephanie said. “We want people to feel comfortable and warm.”
The efforts to create an experience for Savanna Beauty customers also go beyond the store’s atmosphere.
The Sarrs have a built a network of beauticians from all over the nation specializing in a range of hair care methods and types to use as a reference for when customers may have questions.
“Somebody gave me the knowledge and tools and I’m definitely not afraid to share that with anyone else,” Stephanie said.
Her connection with her customers is the lifeline of her business.
“The thing that I love most is my customers. They are what keeps me opening the doors,” she said.
She strives to be a resource to customers, but also remains responsive to their needs often basing store inventory off of customer suggestions and feedback.
“It’s more than just me providing products to them, it’s like a knowledge sharing because I learn from them just as much as they learn from me,” she said.
Customers can also come to Savanna Beauty and make their own shea butter whips adding their choice of essential oils for their hair and skin.
In addition to the ambiance and product help Stephanie strives to create community hosting events like spoken word performances and tea parties. The store also offers warm beverages in the colder months. Local artist Melana Bass was commissioned to create a painting for the store’s one year anniversary.
“I try to get to know my customers as more than just a transaction but on a community level,” she said.
Sometimes people come in just to talk Stephanie says.
“Me opening these doors is not just to sell products, so many people come in and share their stories with me when they didn’t have to,” she said. “It’s so amazing what one person can go through and see, good or bad, and you’d never know unless they told you and I am so blessed to interact with my customers and hear those stories.”
Both Stephanie and Beran hope that they can continue to grow their customer community base and become a staple in the community.
“I knew I always wanted to do something with helping people, but that’s so broad,” Stephanie said. “I’m glad I narrowed it down to this.”