Jill Miller realizes her specialty — advising creatively oriented small-business startups — isn’t the highest-paid gig in the consulting racket.
“But I find a lot of pleasure in doing what I do, and that’s the payoff,” she said.
That’s especially true when a client of Creative Solutions goes on to become what Miller calls one of Wichita’s “iconic” businesses, such as Planet Hair, Tanya’s Soup Kitchen and the Donut Whole.
“I’ve had the good fortune to help some businesses that I think make life better in Wichita,” she said.
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On the other hand, when a client such as Bluebird Arthouse closes, “That still makes me sad,” she said.
Miller knew from the time of her childhood in Wichita that she wanted to own her own business. “I just didn’t know what I wanted it to be.”
She worked at the Hair Force salon through the 1980s, though not doing hair. “I was the manager. Somebody’s got to herd the cats.”
She then spent eight years working for Aveda, selling its cosmetics and hair products to local salons. It was during that time that she started offering business advice to some of those clients.
“I felt if I could help the businesses I was selling to be more successful, I would be more successful.”
Miller returned to Wichita State University to finish her degree in entrepreneurship, graduating in 1998 and starting her consulting business. She contacted some of the salons she’d sold products to “and they said ‘yeah, when can you start working for us?’”
Miller said her services vary according to a client’s needs. “People come to me a lot of times when they don’t know where to start,” she said. “We meet and talk over ideas. I try to find ways to make a business more unique. That’s truly what makes a sustainable business — to have a unique, competitive advantage. Then we work on a business plan.”
Miller also helps clients with financing, personnel and marketing, often continuing the relationship after a business opens. Planet Hair and Lucinda’s are two examples of that.
Not all her clients are creatives or located in Wichita. She consulted for an Internet-based business located in Dubai and has several clients on the East Coast.
Miller considers working with female clients another specialty. It was out of that experience that she started a second business, The Finishing School for Modern Women, two years ago. Despite the name, the school has little to do with traditional etiquette.
“A big part of what I try to do is to help build confidence and help women own their power,” Miller said. When it comes to negotiating in business, Miller said, “many women would rather concede than go into battle for negotiations.” She suggests a third path: “Negotiate collaboratively instead of looking at it as a battle.”
The school mixes career-oriented classes such as “Boss Lady” and “Enterprising Woman” with more lifestyle-related classes like “Classic Mixology” and “Just Breathe: Meditation for Joyful Living.”
Miller, who often brings in co-teachers for the sessions, said the most popular class so far is one her mother suggested: “Cutting the Clutter.”
“That class is more of a personal class to help people organize not only their space but their minds.”
Miller plans to launch online version of her classes in 2018.
Like the classes in Wichita, the online version will have an interactive element to them. Even though Miller touts herself as the school’s “headmistress,” she doesn’t claim to have all the answers.
“Part of what makes The Finishing School strong is getting women together to share information and realize they’re not the only ones having problems with this.”
Now you know
CREATIVE SOLUTIONS/THE FINISHING SCHOOL FOR MODERN WOMEN
Address: 340 S. Main
Owner: Jill Miller