Sister entrepreneurs support each other’s ventures
Vintage store expected to pass $500K in sales; skincare business plans to launch product lineJune 8th, 2023
Entrepreneurial sisters Emily Elizabeth Johnson and Jenny Cashion say that although they own distinct small businesses, they frequently lean on each other for support and advice.
“We always say we’re in the same boat, but we’re in different waters,” says Johnson, owner of The Emily Elizabeth Empire LLC, which does business as Emily Elizabeth Skincare Studio. “Just the vulnerability of being a business owner, we put ourselves out there because we love what we do. We love our craft.”
Her younger sister, Cashion, owner of the Chic & Shab LLC vintage and antique store, agrees.
“You can kind of lean on each other and get that support,” says the 39-year-old artist turned business owner. “Because there’s so much about being a business owner that I did not even realize—how much of it falls on you, all the decisions. The success and failure of your business relies mainly on you.”
Johnson says their support goes beyond business. For example, as an aunt to Cashion’s two young kids, Johnson says she will drop kids off at sports practices or pick them up from school at times.
The sisters are born-and-raised Spokanites, having grown up on the South Hill. While neither sister had any formal training on how to run a small business, their late grandfather, Glenn Johnson, founded the costume and decoration store Party Palace, which ran for nearly 33 years at its North Division Street location until it closed its doors in 2020. The sister’s aunt and uncle, Dan and Michelle Duncan, ran Party Palace in its latter years. The sister’s grandfather also founded Spokane Pull Tab & Bingo Supply Inc. located at 726 N. Helena, which now is operated by the pair’s uncle, Scott Johnson.
“I think some people just have a knack, a gift for it (business),” says Cashion, whose grandfather had a 10th-grade education.
Cashion and Johnson’s father was a traveling salesman who Cashion says could “Sell ketchup to a lady wearing white gloves.”
Cashion established Chic & Shab, in Hillyard, in January 2018 and moved the business the following year to its current 6,000-square-foot space at 2321 N. Monroe, in the Emerson Garfield neighborhood. Chic & Shab has two employees and 17 vendors who rent space at the store and sell their vintage and restored finds.
Cashion says she takes a 15% commission from vendors and charges a monthly rate of $2.25 per square-foot which ranges from $150 to $600 per vendor.
Chic & Shab was Becoming Vintage before Cashion took over and renamed it. Cashion says she had started out painting furniture as a hobby and selling it to antique shops as a vendor, and after about nine months of selling her work, she was approached by Becoming Vintage’s owner, Kim Lee, about purchasing the Hillyard shop.
Cashion says she purchased the business for $5,000.
“For me it was like, what do I have to lose?” she says.
In its first year, the shop’s annual revenue was $120,000, Cashion says. Since moving to the Monroe location, it has increased its revenue every year, and she’s projecting over $500,000 in revenue for 2023.
At the time she was offered the vintage business, Cashion had gone back to school for accounting, but once the opportunity to become a business owner presented itself, she went all in as a business owner and didn’t pursue an accounting degree further.
Johnson, 42, says, when she first formed the Emily Elizabeth Skincare Studio in June of 2016, she was working full time in health care while she built her skin care client base on the side. After about a year, she quit her full-time job and went into business for herself, she says.
“I just decided to take the leap. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, but I’ve been pretty much busy since I did that, and I’m grateful for that,” she says.
After five years of working in a small one-room space in downtown Spokane, Emily Elizabeth Skincare Studio now occupies a three-room, 1,000-square-foot space in a multitenant building at 2607 S. Southeast Blvd. Cashion decorated the studio, says Johnson.
Johnson is a licensed aesthetician and sees between 15 and 20 clients per week. She doesn’t have employees, but rents out space to another aesthetician, a lash artist, and a massage therapist. Depending on the renters’ hours, Johnson says she charges between $350 and $650 per month.
The skin care studio’s projected 2023 revenue is $100,000, which is consistent with previous years, says Johnson.
Johnson started out in the skin care industry when she moved to California in her 20s. She worked at makeup counters and eventually became the assistant to an aesthetician in Hollywood, which she says further sparked her passion for skin care.
In the fall, Johnson will launch her own skin care line, Emily Elizabeth Skincare Collection.
“I’ve always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to brand my own skin care line,” she says. “I’ve been working with labs to formulate my own skin care collection.”
Emily says she has a handful of products for sale now, with a full launch expected in the fall. Emily Elizabeth Skincare products currently available include oils, creams, and cleansers ranging from $29 to $59 per product. Currently, she’s working on creating facial serums—a lightweight skin care product with a high concentration of active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, and vitamin C.
Emily says the products are formulated based on the needs of her Spokane clients.
“My goal was to create skin care specifically for those who I’ve worked with in the past,” she says. “I’m going to start with my hometown, my homebase, and see where it goes from there.”
Johnson and Cashion both say that they would not be in business without the support of their family, especially each other.
“It’s been really nice to have my sister. We’re really close anyway,” says Johnson.