Jennifer, Owner of Skin Chic in Missoula

I own Skin Chic, a small business in Missoula, and I completely support a state program to fund paid family and medical leave.

I know how hard it is to grow a business. When I started out we were very small and times were tough. It took a long time to find the exact balance to make us profitable. But with persistence, smart decisions, and simply loving what I do – we made it when many small businesses didn’t. The great thing is – we are growing.

I pride myself in listening to my staff and putting them as a business priority. Their roll and importance in Skin Chic is equally, if not more important than mine.

Because for so long our margins were small, I have not been able to offer paid time off to most of my employees – but I want to. Most of my employees are women, and when anyone has a baby I protect their job for up to 12 weeks – just like the federal law – even though my business is small enough that I am not required to.

However, I want to do better for my employees. I know that providing paid family and medical leave to my workers will help my employees and make my business stronger.

At first, to many businesses this sounds scary and expensive, but I stopped and did the math. I have 17 employees, earning an hourly wage of about $15-17, working an average 30 hours a week. This policy would cost me about $80-100 a month. I feel so strongly about this benefit and opportunity that I would also be willing to pay the employees portion for them so it would be at no cost to them. We spend more than this a month to have our bathrooms cleaned at our store. I think this is a better investment in our people.

Together for so little, we can provide a value to our employees and our business that I could not afford alone.

The other benefit to my business is that I can reduce the costs of turnover, which are nearly $3,000 each time I need to recruit and train a new employee. Locally owned businesses are what make Missoula and Montana unique, however, the cost of doing business and competing with box store benefits can prove challenging.