Successfully running a small business for more than four decades is no small feat, particularly if you start off with little prior industry experience, as was the case for Madelin White, owner of Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs, and Day Spa in Lacey. “My father and I were both working for the state when he suggested we start a beauty-related business. He believed it was one of two types of businesses that could make it through a recession,” recalls White. “The other option was a tavern, and neither of us drank,” she says laughing.
Her father wasn’t wrong. The business has weathered seven recessions and diversified its services to include hair styling, massage therapy, facials and waxing—in addition to the full line of Merle Norman makeup and skin care. Over the years, White has built a loyal following that she describes as an extended family. “Today I have great grandchildren as clients who are the fourth generation of families that have been with me since the beginning,” she says proudly. “I haven’t retired because I would miss all of them so badly!”
The loyalty of her community is well-deserved. White has always tried to provide the best service possible and she goes even further by being a champion for small businesses and nonprofits. She has worked tirelessly to protect small businesses at the state and local level as a board member of the Washington Retail Association and the Lacey Chamber of Commerce. She has also advocated for grandparents raising grandchildren through programs at Family Education and Support Services and given countless hours to the American Cancer Society.
White’s support for cancer patients and education programs is something that hits close to home. “I’ve lost my whole family, except for my kids, to different types of cancer,” she explains. “Teaching classes at hospitals is one way I can offer my support. I try to give them a little fun, in an otherwise tough time of their lives, by showing them ways of camouflaging the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.”
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