Northwest Business Magazine

Success Story: Mia Sorella

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Growing up, these twin sisters dreamed of starting their own business. Today, with the help of a friend, they’ve fulfilled that dream, creating a unique combination of clothing boutique, hair salon and spa.

Mia Sorella, which means “my sister” in Italian, has a hair salon, spa and fashion boutique, all in one spot, and pampers women with attentive service. Owners Mary Sirois (left) and Molly Kiefer, who are identical twins, say success comes from building relationships – with their customers, employees and community. (Rebecca O’Malley photo)

The name of this unique hair salon, spa and fashion boutique means “my sister” in Italian, which is especially fitting, as it not only reflects the owners’ business philosophy but their relationship – Mary Sirois and Molly Kiefer are identical twins.

“We treat everyone who walks through the door as a sister,” Molly says.

The two opened Mia Sorella, 104 S. Cook St. in Barrington, in March 2009, but the seeds for their collaboration were planted much earlier.

“We had dreamed of owning a business together since we were little girls, imagining this or that,” Mary says. “Molly’s great with fashion and style, and I’m great with the financial side.”

The pair has never lived farther apart than the distance from Elgin to Chicago; they were even college roommates. As adults, each pursued her own career, Mary as a commodities trader on the Chicago Board of Trade, and Molly as a high school family and consumer finances teacher. Both married and began families.

After trading on the floor went digital, Mary moved back to the suburbs and started her own home-based commodities trading business. Molly was now a stay-at-home mom, and she and her husband, both working as pastors, had started their own church. Eventually, the sisters, each a mother of three, found themselves talking about their childhood fantasy.

Mary was taking some time off from the trading floor following the birth of a child. “I was bored, basically,” she says with a laugh.

“We’re both very high-energy people, and every experience we’ve had, every event of our lives, we’ve gone through together,” Molly says. “We know how each other thinks. Friends say that we’re the ‘twiniest’ twins they’ve ever met. We’ve always worked well together.”

The idea for the business really took shape when the sisters found a kindred spirit.

“We met and became friends with Jessica Heckman, our salon manager, and she was so young and energetic and full of ideas,” Mary says. “She’s a fantastic stylist. She’s done hair and makeup for the Chicago Bulls cheerleaders. The three of us started talking about opening a salon, and we got more and more excited about the possibilities.”

Although the threesome originally envisioned a smaller space, the spot they found, in the heart of downtown Barrington, was too good to pass up, and the business took off. Within the 3,000-square-foot storefront is a boutique, salon and spa.

“We saw a need in Barrington for a place for women to get pampered,” says Mary. “They can come in here and get their hair done, get a facial or mani or pedi, and then pick out a cute top, dress or necklace to wear out that evening.”

The 1,500-square-foot boutique offers a selection of denim, tops, dresses, skirts, jewelry, purses and accessories, from designers like Tulle, George Gina & Lucy, Charlotte Tarantola and AG Adriano Goldschmeid. Here, while children are entertained in the play area, customers are treated to beverages and their own personal shoppers – a leisurely, upscale experience without the upscale prices.

“I have a passion for shopping,” says Molly. “I look for unique pieces that are affordable, and I hand-pick things that no one has seen around here. Our employees really develop a relationship with our customers and know what they like. Mary and I always relied on each other to say, ‘Try these earrings with that,’ or ‘This color is better on you.’ Our customers get that same one-on-one feedback from their personal shoppers.”

The 1,000-square-foot, full-service salon provides hair styling and cuts, coloring and conditioning, and makeup application. Spa customers can get facials, massages, manicures and pedicures, paraffin treatments and more. “We’re still growing in the spa,” Mary says. “We just added an additional eyelash extensionist, to keep up with growing demands for this service.”

Mia Sorella also has bridal services, which include consultation with the bride on hair and makeup, and hair styling and makeup application for the entire bridal party. “We specialize in on-site services – touch-ups or total hair and makeup – to make the day stress-free for the bride,” Molly says. Additional services, such as airbrush makeup and hair and makeup lessons, are offered, too.

The sisters have 15 employees on their payroll, about one-third full-time and the others part-time. “We have stylists, a nail technician, two eyelash extensionists, a massage therapist and boutique staff, and everyone is great at what they do,” Mary says. “We empower them to make decisions that will keep our customers happy and the business on track.”

“They love fashion and style, and they keep on top of the trends,” Molly says. “Our staff represents us well, no matter the situation.”

With their busy schedules, the sisters know the importance of maintaining confident, reliable employees.

“We’re almost ‘retired’ small-business owners,” jokes Mary. “We have total peace of mind when we’re not here. Our employees give us the ability to come and go, and with our second jobs and young children at home, that’s just fantastic.”

“It’s a huge blessing to have such a talented staff, and everyone loves to be here,” agrees Molly. “We all complement one another very well.”

The Mia Sorella staff also works hard to support its community. Last winter, the sisters helped to spearhead Barrington’s Winter Wine Walk, and the event was held again this summer, with even greater participation from downtown businesses. The shop also hosts other events during the year.

“We do a kick-off to fall, called Fashion’s Night Out, which is a global celebration,” says Mary. “In cities across the world, designers and celebrities come out to preview the new styles and raise money for charity. It’s on Sept. 6 this year. We’ll be donating 20 percent of our sales to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We also partner with our neighbor, McGonigal’s Pub, who will provide hand-picked wines for tastings for the event.”

The sisters are excited that empty storefronts in Barrington are seeing new life. “The downtown was fairly barren, and now, spaces are filled again,” says Mary. “The village is growing with us, and more shop owners are getting involved in holding events.”

While they have no large-scale plans on the horizon, these two aren’t content to rest on their laurels. “We like being innovative – we’re growing our bridal services,” Molly says. “We value the creative, and we’re always looking for something new.”

As they continue to nurture and build relationships, the owners and staff at Mia Sorella are also working to build on their success.

“We look at what other businesses are doing and try to learn from them,” Mary says. “We ask ourselves, ‘What can we do to make Barrington a destination?’ We want to enrich the community and meet the needs of our clients.”

“We’re part of that community, and we really love this place,” Molly says. “It’s our core philosophy, taking care of people – our staff, our customers, our community.”

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