In 1998, Maria Caravati started her business as a massage therapist, renting space in a building near the lake in Kenosha. Then, in 2000, she and her husband at the time, Curzio, purchased a brick and mortar building downtown and EQUINOX botanical boutique is still thriving there today.
When Maria first moved to the downtown community, she partnered with a veterans’ support organization across the street to create a large, beautiful garden space. She also worked on the Keep Kenosha Beautiful committee and, as part of the Downtown Business Improvement District, she helped bring beautiful hanging baskets and other plantings and installations to downtown.
The business, then called Body & Soul Boutique, offered only massage therapy services at first but soon added body treatment and facial services as well as instructional classes and retail sales of skin care products, candles, hats, sandals and other boutique items. She taught a wide variety of courses including yoga, writing, aromatherapy and Houseplant 101. These offerings have changed over the years, but Maria is thrilled that her boutique now has a focus on one of her true passions: gardening. She came to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in 2018 for help adding plants and plant therapy to her existing wellness business.
Mary Fischer-Tracy, the interim director at the UW-Parkside SBDC, helped Maria with her business plan and financial projections and introduced her to many resources. “Mary was amazing!” Maria said. “Her knowledge and insights, her own business experience and her calm demeanor were so valuable. She was so supportive and knew how to keep me relaxed and keep me on track.”
To help market her new plant services, Maria became a vendor at the Kenosha Public Market. This strategy was also one way she created some relief from the effects of the COVID pandemic as well. When COVID hit, her classes had to stop and the shop had to close, so Maria got creative. She implemented online sales as one idea. She also created “window shopping” that she combined with Venmo payment and curbside delivery to allow her to take advantage of the beautiful windows on three sides of the shop. She also established private shopping in the store by appointment and organized local delivery services.
The thriving business still makes the great community impact that it did in its early days. And that community support was needed when downtown Kenosha suffered from riots in 2020. Many businesses in the area had broken glass and other vandalization during the political upheaval. Maria said, “The shop provides a place where people feel comfortable. Even outdoors, people walking by stop to talk to one another here.” Her organic products help nurture the idea of sustainable living and respect for all living things. Plants are proven to reduce anxiety and give a sense of purpose. Maria truly believes as Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where there are flowers, there is hope.”
Accomplishments with UW-Parskide SBDC:
- Resource information
- Business plan
- Financial projections
The future of EQUINOX botanical boutique is hopeful indeed. Maria looks forward to expanding her staff, classes and house plant and gardening services. Until then, she is embracing all four seasons, appreciating the time to rest and reflect as well as restore, renew and grow. Much like plants change in spring, summer, winter and fall, people too have a cycle of sowing and reaping.
Want to see more? Check out the EQUINOX photo collage!