Business owner Carlene Carlson owns and operates Dancing Crane Imports in Salt Lake City. Long-time friend and SLCC schoolmate, Erin Arrigo, owns and operates Café Solstice, which sits inside the emporium. The two say that the educations they received at SLCC prepared them for business ownership.
“It taught me more life skills and it taught me that I can do anything that I want to do, or what I set my mind to,” says Carlson.
“Being in school helps you to start the learning process…and keeping that going your whole life,” says Arrigo.
Carlson and Arrigo teamed up in business just three and a half years ago when Carlson and her husband Jimmy decided to buy Dancing Crane Imports from the retiring owners. Going through school together and becoming best friends helped Carlson and Arrigo forge a respect that has carried them through their business relationship thus far.
“It’s been really nice having this kind of relationship—business relationship—between the two of us because not only do we respect each other on a business level, but we’re good friends,” says Carlson.
The two women lived in the same apartment complex and became friends while attending classes at SLCC.
“The funny thing is, I was her neighbor in a duplex, and she was going to school—hair school—at SLCC, and I was doing my prerequisites. So, we were both in college,” says Carlson.
While attending classes at SLCC, Carlson worked at Dancing Crane Imports, eventually becoming store manager and then store owner.
Dancing Crane Imports at www.dancingcranesimports.com
Café Solstice at cafesolsticeslc.com
Cosmetology and Barbering at SLCC at www.slcc.edu/barberingcosmetology
SLCC’s Nursing program at www.slcc.edu/nursing
SLCC’s School of Business at www.slcc.edu/schoolofbusiness
Carlson was on the waiting list to attend the Nursing program at SLCC when the opportunity to purchase Dancing Crane Imports opened up.
“Later on, I ended up getting married and kept working here [at Dancing Crane Imports], and when the opportunity came I asked [Arrigo] if she’d like to come and do hair or something in this space, and she said, ‘No. How about a café?’” says Carlson.
Although Carlson’s dream to become a nurse was not realized, she says she feels like she is still helping people, but in a different way.
“I wanted to go into nursing because I did CNA work for a lot of years beforehand, and I knew that I loved helping people. But I help people here too,” says Carlson. “I feel like our mission is [creating] a little community center. But you have to have a business to support the building and all that stuff.”
Education played a key role in helping Carlson succeed in business.
“I didn’t do so well in high school. I didn’t really believe in myself, but I did really well at SLCC. I got a 4.0 and just fell in love with learning,” says Carlson. “What an awesome experience SLCC was, because it really prepared me for believing in myself. I loved all the professors, and I just thought, ‘Wow, I never thought I could do this, but I can, and I love it.’”
Arrigo, who obtained her Cosmetology degree from SLCC, had recently decided to pursue a degree in English and teach when the opportunity to create her own business was presented.
Even though she is not using her formal degree in a traditional manner, Arrigo is glad she made the leap into business ownership, and says that her education helped her prepare.
“At this point in time, I’m learning so much on a personal level, and just kind of on an emotional level—spiritual level—just constant learning, that I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be for that reason,” says Arrigo. “Being in college, and no matter what you decide to do, any knowledge that you glean from your time there, even if you don’t think it’s relevant, will pop up at some point in your life and it’s all useful.”
Both women take pride in their businesses and the time they spend there, but they acknowledge that it is difficult at times.
“You can’t not think about it. A lot of people have the luxury of being able to work a 40-hour-week. They work 9-5, but then they go home and they can just detach and disconnect and do what they need to do at home,” says Arrigo. “But I feel like as a business owner, you don’t really get that luxury.”
Carlson says the difficulties are worth the rewards.
“It’s your baby. I feel like we take so much pride from what we do, and we’re giving out so much that it’s worth it,” says Carlson. “So many people enjoy coming here and sitting in the café, and it’s such a huge thing for people. Erin works so hard and then all these people benefit from it. So, that’s the reward.”