How Jenna White founded Empire Body Waxing SLC
tarting Empire Body Waxing just made sense. After working in the esthetics industry for over a decade, I decided to bet on myself. It was the first of many decisions to lead in the direction of my dreams; some have been realized, and others haven’t yet. I only wish I’d started sooner, but there’s a lot more to that story.
Before Empire, I ran a local waxing salon that became so successful I helped grow it to three locations. But in 2020, I was dealt a one-two punch of the ownership falling apart and being deemed a nonessential worker during COVID-19. All estheticians stopped working.
I created a do-it-myself solution later that year. My friend (and former co-worker) Avery Brush and I started Empire Body Waxing together, and I’m so glad we did. It’s one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. Why help build another person’s dream when I was perfectly capable of creating and fulfilling my own?
A philosophy that goes beyond beauty
We improved our business model with Empire and implemented everything we felt could be done better, with one major difference: we would build and serve our community. I call it our Empire Empowers initiative.
What that means is a portion of all revenue goes directly back to the community to support the causes we care about. It can mean giving a waxing scholarship to a few moms each year, for example. I was a single mom for a long time and understand all too well that self-care is the last thing mothers are capable of providing. To give women an experience to look forward to every month—one they wouldn’t normally be able to afford—means the world.
One local organization we partner with annually to assist with fundraising efforts is The Family Support Center. As an entrepreneur, I’ve discovered if you’re in business to make money for yourself (and little else), it doesn’t feel right. Every chance I have to throw the rope back and offer a helping hand to someone in need, I take it.\
Being part of this industry means I get to enable people to feel like the best versions of themselves, which is so empowering. We do that by offering body waxing in all the places you might need or want it. From lash tinting to eyebrows to Brazilians, we do everything. We’re hardly against body hair at Empire; we just believe that if you’re already shaving or trimming, you should switch it out and try waxing instead. Beauty isn’t only seen with our eyes. But when we look and feel like ourselves on the outside, it can help us feel so much better on the inside.
Turning pain into purpose
My reason for wanting to help The Family Support Center of Utah is simple: I know what it’s like not to receive support when it’s needed. I was in an abusive marriage for a long time, even though it took a while for me to acknowledge that. The first time your partner is abusive, whether it’s really demeaning verbiage or physical, it’s so easy to disregard it altogether and think you are the exception to domestic violence instead of recognizing yourself as a statistic. Sadly, it’s more common than not—one in every three women is the target of intimate partner violence in Utah.
Even though I knew what needed to happen, I couldn’t figure out how to leave with my kids. There was nowhere for us to go, and I was working a job that wasn’t sustainable. We stayed at the YWCA a few times, but that was difficult. Often, we found ourselves trying to live on donated food that was stale and past its expiration dates. I finally decided I could no longer live that way.
My solution included putting myself through esthetics school so that I could begin a new life with a far better outcome. Empty promises were made by the beauty school—millions of dollars would be ours for doing three facials a day at $800 each, and we’d only have to do it part-time!—but it was a lot of work. Once I got my bearings in the beauty industry and knew I could use my newly acquired skills to succeed, I did it: I left my former husband for good.
It takes the average person seven attempts to leave after being abused before they actually escape the relationship. Others never get out. Many women don’t leave similar situations because it’s too difficult to become the sole provider for their families. It’s exhausting to find resources and assistance.
At Empire Body Waxing, we want to serve as one of those resources. Flyers in our salon bathrooms pose a question: “Are you or someone you know in an abusive relationship?” They can use any of the listed resources or call a phone number for help. At least once monthly, someone reaches out about a sister or neighbor who needs help. I’ll provide a list of trusted shelters and food if they’re lacking. If someone needs help and I can provide that, I will—and if I can’t, I’ll find who can. I’m vocal about what happened to me. If someone can see my situation as similar to their own and compare where I was then to where I am now, it might allow for a little hope. That’s all I’m trying to do.
Helping women was always going to be a part of Empire’s business model. I’ve benefited from so many resources in my own life that it would be an injustice not to provide assistance in return. How dare I get to where I needed to be and not help others reach that same point?
“The intimacy and connection we foster within the community is why people choose us over other salons. There are a lot of places in Utah to get waxed, but our customers know their dollar goes further here.”
Building an empire
If you have a business idea in your heart or mind, something you really want to do, do it! Ask the necessary questions. Contact your local small business development centers, like the Women’s Business Center of Utah. There are many people who are willing to support you along the way.
On one hand, I see all the growth I’ve created with Empire. On the other, I often think, “Did I really do that? Did I actually accomplish that?” Anxiety, stress and impostor syndrome are real obstacles to progress. Many are so frightened by what people will say about us if we fail.
If we had to one day close shop for good, I know I could pivot and try something else. We don’t die as a result of failing. Society is strange that way: first shaming someone trying to build a business, then, if it doesn’t work out, shaming you all over again.
But we will fail. We will be embarrassed, stressed and in tears. But at the end of the day, I’ll be able to live a fuller life for my family because of my entrepreneurship. I get to hang out with my kids during fall break. I took all my kids to Costa Rica for my brother’s wedding recently. Beauty is often a byproduct of the stress you experience, and as Empire grows, I’m able to do more than I’ve ever been able to.
Waxing for a cause
I have a dream of one day opening a number of safe haven homes, actual houses in neighborhoods where families can live and attend good schools nearby. Nobody will pay a dime in rent, and everyone will benefit from living in safe places. It’s hard to take your kids out of your husband’s house and move them into a shelter because you don’t want to get beat anymore. You uproot everything, and these homes will alleviate some of that.
The intimacy and connection we foster within the community is why people choose us over other salons. There are a lot of places in Utah to get waxed, but our customers know their dollar goes further here. People are beginning to understand that we are actively improving the communities around us. One way that’s done is by selling memberships, which include monthly perks or discounts from other local businesses. That helps embed Empire even deeper into the fabric of our communities, networking with business owners who invite collaboration. They share us with their people, and we share ours in return. It’s a beautiful way to connect.
At Empire, we set ourselves apart by being intentional. The money we’re paid doesn’t just fund my lifestyle; I’m putting those dollars to good use, especially in the way we structure pay for our employees. One day, I’ll create an employee ownership track, one that allows a woman who works with us to eventually own her location. Creating spaces like that for people—making it a little easier for them to own a business than it was for me—is a gift I want to give over and over again.
Powerful thoughts lead to actions or should. Someday, Empire will take over the world; I can feel it.