Mia Bella!

The 2017 Business Woman of Style proves one can persevere over obstacles to make the dream of owning a business come true. Next, she wants to empower other women to succeed, too.

Story: Theresa Campbell // Photos: Fred Lopez

Danielle Daugherty and Dawn Couliette

Danielle Daugherty, 32, and her mother, Dawn Couliette, 53, broke down in tears and hugged each other when they realized one of them would grace this month’s Lake & Sumter Style magazine cover as the 2017 Business Woman of Style.

“My heart is just completely bursting,” says Danielle, immediately after Mia Bella Salon and Spa in Fruitland Park, the new business she opened Feb. 1 with her mom, was chosen for the cover story. They won a reverse drawing in April during the seventh annual Business Women of Style gala at Leesburg Opera House, home of Akers Media.

“It’s like we won the lottery,” Dawn adds.

The pair felt like underdogs in the midst of competing with women who have been in business for years, yet they are experienced in their fields: Dawn, 16 years as a massage therapist; Danielle, 13 years as a hairstylist.

A little more than two years ago, Danielle was eager to go into business with her best friend/mom: “Look, lady,” she told her, “it’s time we do this!”

“I knew without a doubt the minute she said, ‘I’m ready for it to happen’ that we are going to be successful in what we do,” Dawn says. “Danielle is somebody, who, if she wants something to happen, it’s going to happen.”

The pair also felt Mia Bella, Italian for “my beautiful,” was the perfect name for their salon at 201 W. Miller St., off County Road 466A. The former warehouse shell has been converted into a warm and cozy farmhouse setting, and it’s often filled with fresh-baked cookies and lavender lemonade.

The Mia Bella Team. L-R: Jessica karpowicz, Robin Bracco, Sarah Richey, Dawn Coulliette, Mia Daugherty, Olivia Daughtery, Danielle Daugherty, Kayla Smith, Angela Spears, Angelica McDowall

“Everyone said to be cautious going into business with family,” Danielle says, recalling disappointment set in when plans fell through for a historic building they initially wanted. But, with faith and determination, they forged ahead.

“I was a single mom and I raised Danielle to believe if there is anything you want in life, and you really want it and truly feel it in your heart, then you just have to make it happen,” Dawn says. “We had to wait for the right moment.”

Danielle credits her mom as her role model, a woman who once worked three jobs.

“It’s her strength that inspires me. She is the strongest, most confidently beautiful woman, and I am so proud of her,” Danielle says. “She wanted to be a massage therapist, she wanted to do good for herself. I was in my teens when she worked and went to school. I saw that if you wanted something, you have to work to make it happen.”

Dawn became a single mom when Danielle was 5, after ending a rocky relationship.

“I could not allow her to grow up thinking that it was OK for someone to put their hands on you in anger,” Dawn says.

Danielle believes her mother showed her that challenges in life can make a woman stronger.

“Of all the obstacles, and there are some rough ones for women and for all of us, but as long as we push through and really believe in ourselves, success can happen, and that is what she taught me,” Danielle says. “You can be a mom, you can be young, you can be old, and at any point in your life, you can be starting over. Whatever it is, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.”

And following their dreams is what they did in fixing up their salon to look completely different from the norm.

“We did everything ourselves,” Dawn says. “When we walked into the place, it was an empty shell and it didn’t even have floors.”

With help from Danielle’s husband and a few friends, the mother and daughter installed flooring, built walls, and added special touches to each room.

Mia Bella’s owners say they are blessed to have a “dream team” of four stylists, a massage therapist, and employees experienced in nails and facials.

Customers comment on the “good vibe” they feel at the farmhouse salon, and they also love seeing Danielle’s daughters, Liv, 9, and Mia, 5, don their aprons to serve cookies after school.

Kindness runs in the family, as Dawn reflected on her daughter’s positive spirit and passion to go on church mission trips.

“God has blessed me with being a mother to someone who is so amazing. She really has that giving heart to give to people who have less than her,” Dawn says, adding her daughter wants to empower others.

“We want to do one day a month where we open our salon up to families who don’t have homes in the Lake County area, who are struggling; a day where our stylists will give them makeovers so that they can get jobs and opportunities. It’s really important to us,” Danielle says.

Dawn also believes it’s the right thing to do.

“There are so many single moms out there, and I do know how hard it can be,” Dawn says. “We want them to see there are people who care.”

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