River Reflections spa earns chamber’s Small Business of the Year award

Posted February 10, 2016

The River Falls Chamber of Commerce held its annual Awards Banquet on Feb. 4 in the University Center ballroom, hosting over 240 business representatives from the River Falls area.

Represented among these businesses was River Reflections Medspa & Salon. It was awarded the chamber’s Small Business of the Year award, beating out the other nominee, Fox Den Used Books.

Marandah Mahr, events coordinator for the chamber, said River Reflections had to meet several criteria to earn the award.

“The award is member-driven,” she said, “so members of the chamber vote on which business they think best meets the criteria we lay out.”

Some of these criteria include customer service, community outreach and promotional standards.

“We decided a while back that it was important to have two awards when it came to business of the year, since large and small businesses are so different but so important to the heart of this community,” Mahr said.

The River Falls Chamber considers small businesses to be those with less than 25 employees.

While large corporations dominate the news media, Mahr said small businesses are important to the economy. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, there are between 25 million and 27 million small businesses in the U.S., accounting for 60 percent to 80 percent of all jobs. To be considered a small business on a national scale, the requirement is less than 150 employees.

River Reflections falls into this category, employing around 10 beauticians and esthiologists. Crystal Knotek is the owner of River Reflections, which was started “about 10 years ago now,” she said. The salon is located in the lower level of what looks from the outside to be just a dentist’s office at 650 S. Main St., just across the bridge crossing the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic River.

Knotek’ husband Tim is the dentist in the building. This results in the building almost having a “family business” feel about it, she said. Knotek previously worked as a senior vice president at Northwest and Delta airlines, and wanted to put her business experience to use. Owning a high-end salon was an idea she’d had for years, and the opportunity finally arose when a building remodel left the lower level unused.

Being a small business owner takes gumption and business savvy to render a company successful, and Knotek knew they had to have a vision that would set them apart. She said it felt natural to incorporate her family’s faith-based values into River Reflections’ mission statement.

“We strive to keep our mission faith based. We want to reflect God’s love by serving others,” Knotek said.

A banner of scripture running across the bottom of the salon’s Web page reads, “Our mission is to reflect God’s love as we serve others and provide an environment that refreshes our clients and employees inspiring joyful and productive lives.”

A wide variety of services is an obvious difference between River Reflections and other businesses of this kind in town. Aside from offering typical beauty services such as haircuts and coloring, perms, and styling — as well as waxes and dermatology-based services — River Reflections is also the only business that offers cosmetic injections, such as botox. After opening the spa, Tim Knotek decided to get certified to administer these to help set his wife’s business apart.

Another aspect of River Reflections that set it apart from other businesses is the staff’s commitment to community outreach and service, and to providing a comfortable, loving atmosphere for their clients.

A recent partnership with the women’s shelter Turning Point is one way Knotek has achieved this. Klass Act is a beauty product line Knotek developed, and each time a client in the salon buys one of these products, such as lipstick or gloss, another is donated to women when they leave the shelter. The idea of supporting women locally through her business was a model she wanted to work towards form the start.

“When these women leave they sometimes leave with nothing,” Knotek said. “We have a beautiful, wrapped gift for them after they leave the shelter, and they seem truly touched that somebody did that for them, even though it’s such a small thing to receive.”

Since July, River Reflections has donated around 2,000 of these products to Turning Point and another women’s shelter it has partnered with in Madison. Knotek said she also donates time or product to around 60 other fundraisers or charitable events each year.

Knotek also has a deep understanding of what it means to be a small business, and makes a point for her business to support others in the community.

“I was raised in a small town, and was always told ‘shop locally.’ It’s tempting when we’re so close to the cities, but as a business model it’s important to do what you can to support each other. For example if I want to have a recognition dinner for someone on our team, we go to Mariachi (Loco),” she said with a laugh.

Being able to work with such a great team is how she personally sees her business as set apart from the rest, Knotek added.

“My staff was thrilled when they announced we’d won,” she said. “They’re completely supportive of our faith based business model, and I’m blessed to work with these women every day.”

Having a solid mission like this is important to the success of a business, Knotek said.

“Whether it be the economy or your opinions or religion, the decisions we make going back to what we believe in,” she said. “If you do that, what you truly believe in, good things will happen.”

River Reflections is expanding westward into Woodbury this year. The salon offers a 10 percent discount to college students on all products and services.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Crystal Knotek’s surname.