Success Story

Business Name: Merle Norman

Owner: Karen Gara


Two years ago, Farmington business owner Karen Gara expanded her Merle Norman store, opening a wig studio and spa, with help from CEED's Oakland County Loan Program.

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The organization provided a microloan at low interest, but Gara said she got much more than cash out of the program.

"It was an intensive application," she said, "I learned a lot about my business ... You learn what you need to succeed."

CEED Lending offered a variety of classes, and the loan officer with whom Gara worked provided encouragement and advice. Rather than just looking at dollars and cents, she said, "It's about what you can bring to the community, and your personal success."

Merle Norman, a state-of-the-art cosmetics and skin care franchise, has been in business for 80 years. The Farmington studio has been open for more than 42 years, and Gara has owned it for nine. She went from managing the studio to purchasing it when the previous owners retired. “Merle Norman is known for its trademark ‘try before you buy’ concept, offering free consultations in a warm and inviting environment that is comfortable and suitable for women of all ages,” shared Gara. “I have incorporated a mini spa, full wig studio and small specialty boutique into my recently expanded studio, which provides a wide range of interest for my present clients and has brought me a variety of new customers as well. I was able to expand my business and add a beautiful new store front on Farmington Road with the assistance of CEED’s Oakland County Loan Program.”

The program worked so well for Gara, she was honored two years ago with the CEED Microloan Outstanding Achiever award for her "strong business management and growth, support and mentoring of other business owners and community commitment and support".

Gara, received a second loan from CEED Lending to open Services by Rebecca's Wigs, the New Reflections Boutique located on the second floor of the Botsford Cancer Center offers many other products to help women feel beautiful and cared for while healing. Merchandise includes personal hygiene products, headware, inspirational jewelry, key rings, greetings cards, and bookmarks.

"Some who use our wig service at Botsford Cancer Center are unable to drive or do not have access to transportation, so we are a one-stop shop for them," said Karen L. Gara, owner, New Reflections Boutique as well as its parent store, Merle Norman of Farmington. "We schedule personal consultations with patients in private rooms where my staff assists them in selecting a flattering wig style. We offer these same private appointments to cancer patients at our store in downtown Farmington, where we've just added a new wig studio featuring more than 100 wig styles and other accessories."