Family is Everything
The concept behind Carissa Kerner Ramirez’s spa business — if you’ll excuse the Mother’s Day pun — was born thanks to Jack, Chloe, Carsan, and, within a few hours of this photo shoot, the arrival of Catherine Vivian, Ramirez’s fourth born child.
Ramirez’s on-site, full-service spa — dubbed The New Orleanian — delivers esthetic services to clients and visitors across the city. More importantly, it allows Ramirez to follow her dream job in the spa services industry without keeping spa service hours that cut in to her time with family.
It also enables its service providers (around 30 licensed and experienced hair stylists, makeup artists, massage therapists, nail technicians and estheticians) to pick and choose their schedules, and work around their families too.
The idea for The New Orleanian came to Ramirez on New Year’s Eve five years ago. She had rushed around to get her two kids to their grandparents’ house, assembled a beautiful outfit and shoes, and was ready to head to a downtown hotel for a night on the town. But looking in the mirror, she was deflated. Her roots were showing and her nail polish was chipped. Multiple phone calls and no available appointments later, a light bulb began to glow in her head.
“‘This is insanity,’ I remember saying. ‘I would pay someone $1,000 to do my hair, nails and makeup right now.’ It was supposed to be a romantic night out with my husband, and I looked like Cruella,” she says. “You can order a dress and shoes online, but you can’t order someone to do your hair and makeup and make you look good.”
It took years of planning and networking, but, for the past two years, The New Orleanian has grown as a business with bridal parties, out-of-town visitors, corporate groups looking to pamper employees, magazine photo shoots, women on pregnancy bedrest, the elderly and even the ill. Entire families have their hair cut with The New Orleanian stylists (“After 7 p.m. sports practice when Fantastic Sam’s is closed … we’re not,” Ramirez says). The stylists also do onsite spray tans, host children’s parties and donate their services to causes like Dress for Success and the New Orleans Women and Children’s Shelter.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Where are you located?’” Ramirez says. “I’m located wherever you are.” (504) 559-9994, gettheneworleanian.com
Not her first rodeo: After losing her medical equipment sales job post-Hurricane Katrina and delivering her first baby eight days later, Ramirez was forced to fly to Houston frequently for work. When doctors made their way back to the city, she followed and started Urosource, LLC, a urological supply company. It was a stepping stone to freedom from work restraints that kept her from her family.
Most popular services: Ramirez says the mani/pedis, massages and spray tanning keep them busiest. The number of wedding parties they service continues to grow too: “We have a lot of destination weddings in NOLA. We’re like No. 3 in the nation now. In comparison to other cities, you don’t really need to decorate much and it’s a lot more inexpensive … I mean, who does a destination wedding in Los Angeles?”
Building a business: “The climate for entrepreneurs is great here … as long as you’re out there,” Ramirez says. “Everyone says, ‘That’s such a great idea! Give me your information.’ That’s New Orleans. It’s comfortable and laid back … you can always find a niche.” She also supports other entrepreneurs by using locally made products whenever possible.
A future in franchise? Before year’s end, look for two new locations — The New Orleanian Baton Rouge and The New Orleanian Lafayette — to take off running, hopefully in time for fall sorority formals. Ramirez is also planning a Memorial Day pop-up event somewhere along Highway 30A in the Florida panhandle to gauge interest with the local beach-going crowd. And finally, she’s planning a small brick and mortar location in Uptown. (But first … the baby!)
The dream job: “I just love everything about making other people feel good,” Ramirez says. “And who doesn’t like to feel good?” She’s only once had to deal with an unhappy customer, and her service providers stay happy too. She knows each of them is going to work hard — she charges clients an automatic 20 percent gratuity.
Embracing the chaos: Without the “truly tireless” support of husband, Jeff, and her assistant, Dawn Spooner, running The New Orleanian wouldn’t be possible for Ramirez. And while mixing business and family can sometimes be clunky, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “The other day we were doing spray tanning at my house,” she says. “I had my baby and someone else’s child over here, and it was craziness. My friend said, ‘I don’t understand how you do this.’” Ramirez says, laughing, “We just roll with it.”
Photo by: Geovanni Velasquez
Brows: “Brows by Bryan,” Bryan Metoyer, wax-free tailoring and tinting
Hair Color and Blow Out: Emily Chopin-Naquin
Make up: Carissa Kerner Ramirez
Nails: “Hotter Sauce,” Native Nail Color, local vegan, cruelty-free polish
Earrings: Hemline, Metairie
Shoes: Chatta Box Boutique
Chloe’s dress: Little Miss Muffin