St. Anthony: Driven Minnesota entrepreneur’s three-salon business still growing

ByFrancoise Ardion

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Melanie Richards could teach us all about grit — and the long hours it takes to build a business.

She has spent her career in service, particularly to women. She spent 14 years as a probation officer, 12 of them for Hennepin County.

In 2010, she bootstrapped goGlow — a skin-care company rooted in plant-based products and salons — with $5,000 on her credit card. She attended Aveda Institute nights while working days in criminal justice.

For 10 years, the company has grown 40% each year — profitably, she said.

She couldn’t get a loan at first.

“Bankers were hesitant,” Richards said. “They didn’t see goGlow as a business.”

GoGlow now has 35 employees and should cross $2 million in revenue this year. Add to that 12,000 fervent followers on Instagram.

Richards, 47, was raised with a sister by their working, single mom. Her mother, Terry Magaard, sometimes brought the girls from home in Esko about 15 miles to night-school classes at the University of Minnesota Duluth. They saw Magaard graduate and proceed to a successful career in accounting and small-business management.

Richards’ late grandfather, a Minnesota StatePatrol trooper, was her surrogate father. And Magaard, now retired, was a hard-working inspiration and supporter.

Richards, divorced and a single mother herself, also worked her way through UMD. She worked part-time jobs and paid student student loans for 15 years.

Richards worked a short time in California before joining Hennepin County as a probation officer in 1998. She was increasingly interested in the family members who sometimes were victims of those convicted of crimes. Two women and a grandfather were murdered by two probation clients.

“We realized we had to do more for victims,” said Nancy Halverson, Richards’ former supervisor at Hennepin County.

Richards and Halverson were integral to the county securing federal money to establish one of the first Domestic Abuse Service Centers nationally, in the County Attorney’s Office.

“A victim could come in and talk to an advocate,” Halverson recalled. “Melanie was the probation officer in that office. There was assistance, including a police officer, a prosecutor and protective orders.”

Halverson called Richards smart, energetic and compassionate.

“She also supervised a small group of women convicted of domestic assault, but who also were victims,” Halverson said. “She made that position work. She doesn’t sit in an office waiting for the work to come to her. I’m not surprised she’s a successful entrepreneur.”

After 14 years as probation officer, Richards also was burning out. She went to night school in 2010 and graduated from Aveda Institute as an esthetician. She eventually developed plant-based, alcohol-free sprays and other skin products, including a gradual self-tanning moisturizer packed with antioxidants and plant extracts as part of the secret sauce.

Richards started out working remotely, from her car. She lacked the capital to lease retail space.

Eventually, she was able to concentrate on her business full time, quitting her $70,000-a-year job that she loved in a daunting but inspired move.

Richards was encouraged by the growing number of women who would pay $45 to $65 per session, plus buy products. She said she also enjoyed the confidence they got from a moisturizing, healthy glow.

About 10% percent of customers are men.

GoGlow operates clinics and retail salons in Edina, Maple Grove and Chicago. An Uptown Minneapolis location closed after the 2020 riots over police shootings.

The next step: Richards recently filed legal documents with Minnesota and other state commerce regulators to sell franchises.

Her salons averaged an operating profit of $154,000 on sales of $509,000 in 2021, according to the franchise documents.

GoGlow employees make $25-plus an hour, including commissions and tips.

“I pay myself more than I made as a probation officer to support my family, but the profits have largely gone back into growing the business,” Richards said.

Scott Larson, an independent financial adviser in Wayzata and also brother-in-law to Richards, said she has willpower and tenacity.

“Every entrepreneur is driven,” Larson said. “There’s a fire in [Richards] I’ve never experienced.”

Richards’ sister, Stacy Larson, also an entrepreneur, is the veteran owner of a women’s-clothing boutique in Uptown called Covered.