FARMINGTON, MI (April 23, 2012). Karen Gara, independent owner and operator of Merle Norman in Downtown Farmington, was recognized at the 28th Annual Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED) Award Celebration for her ‘strong business management and growth, support and mentoring of other business owners and community commitment and support.’ Gara was honored with the CEED Microloan Outstanding Achiever award. 

Merle Norman, a state-of-the-art cosmetics and skin care franchise, has been in business for 80 years. The Farmington studio has been open for more than 42 years, and Gara has owned it for nine. She went from managing the studio to purchasing it when the previous owners retired. “Merle Norman is known for its trademark ‘try before you buy’ concept, offering free consultations in a warm and inviting environment that is comfortable and suitable for women of all ages,” shared Gara. “I have incorporated a mini spa, full wig studio and small specialty boutique into my recently expanded studio, which provides a wide range of interest for my present clients and has brought me a variety of new customers as well. I was able to expand my business and add a beautiful new store front on Farmington Road with the assistance of CEED’s Oakland County Microloan Program.” 

Gara’s focus has been in retailing and marketing the brand she has come to know and love so well. “Karen put together an extensive, detailed business plan and projection in order to qualify for the loan she received,” said CEED Oakland County Microloan Program Loan Officer, Belinda Turner-Dubois. According to Gara, “It took nine months of Sundays at the computer to complete the plan. I really learned a lot during the process.” 

“I am so pleased to be a part of such an amazing group of entrepreneurs, including women and minorities working hard to be successful business owners in their communities. What a wonderful event the Award Celebration was. I was very grateful to be included, and am extremely proud to be recognized with this honor from CEED, such an important organization inspiring business growth and stability."