Their business partnership dates back to when they ran lemonade stands together as girls growing up in Colorado.
So it wasn’t surprising when sisters Melissa Mickelson and Jessica Stellwagen joined entrepreneurial forces as adults to launch Bodify, their CoolSculpting-only boutique, in 2015.
Their joint venture had been long in the making. As they went to college and pursued careers in different industries – Melissa in the medical spa field and Jessica in marketing and business coaching – they threw ideas out, but nothing stuck.
That changed when both sisters became disenchanted with their chosen professions
Years ago, Melissa owned a cosmetic surgery recovery business in Southern California, where she cared for liposuction and tummy tuck patients after their procedures. She got upset by all the promises made to get clients to sign up for services.
“Surgeons downplayed the time it took to recover. The pain, the leakage… they felt like they got hit by a train,” Melissa said. “I liked that with CoolSculpting, you could be doing a kickboxing class an hour later.”
CoolSculpting is a non-surgical fat-reduction treatment that eliminates stubborn fat by utilizing controlled cooling. It’s commonly used to treat the stomach area, love handles, arm fat, under the chin, outer and inner thighs, bra fat, and even the knees.
Melissa went on to run a Valley medical spa and did CoolSculpting treatments. She asked Jessica to do the marketing for the business. Jessica had owned a business-coaching franchise, which brought her to Arizona after college. She moved on to work at a marketing firm and was helping Melissa on the side.
One day, Jessica and her boss had a disagreement. She quit and did marketing for her sister full time.
Melissa’s unsuccessful attempt to purchase the medical spa from the doctor who owned it inspired the sisters to fulfill their longtime dream of going into business together. Three months later, Bodify opened its doors.
Their combined business ownership experience proved to be key. Between Melissa’s extensive experience in running two businesses in the industry and Jessica’s marketing and business coaching experience, they covered most of the bases typically left vulnerable by rookie business owners.
“We definitely had a leg up,” said Jessica, who is 2½ years younger than Melissa. “We think it was just meant to be.”
Together, they raised money and renovated a suite for their new facility. They encountered perhaps their biggest stumbling block early on: getting people in the door. Most CoolSculpting machines, Jessica explained, are into an existing practice so all that’s needed is an email blast to let clients know that a new and exciting service is being offered.
“For us, we didn’t have a single person to reach out to,” Jessica said.
They pushed marketing hard, doing radio and events, and working strategic partnerships with small businesses that had clients that would be interested in their services. They also mounted a powerful social-media campaign. The results started to roll in.
“It’s for people that are healthy but frustrated that diet and exercise doesn’t get rid of it,” Melissa said. “The fact that we could change people’s bodies in a positive way and have them feel better… it was amazing to find something that worked and people came back.”
This was Maggie Silva’s predicament when she contacted Bodify not long after it opened. She eats well and works out regularly, but found that the little imperfections that used to firm up with an extra cardio session seemed inexorable at the dawn of middle age.
Silva tried CoolSculpting in California, but it didn’t work out well. She blamed the tech’s lack of knowledge. But, she found the opposite experience at Bodify, with Melissa and Jessica at the helm.
“They’re just knowledgeable about the equipment and they’ll advise me whether something is a good idea or if there’s a better way to get the results I want,” said Silva, 59, who lives in Gilbert. “They really care about their customers.”
Melissa earned her degree in biochemistry at Arizona State University. Jessica graduated from Santa Clara University with degrees in marketing and Spanish.
Their fields of study reflect their different personalities. Melissa loves the technology and science behind the process and keeping up with the research. Jessica is the social butterfly, working the front-of-house duties, calling clients and selling to prospective ones. Then, Melissa takes over.
“I like doing the treatments and the attention to detail,” Melissa said. “She loves decorating and makes sure everything is perfectly placed.”
Jessica added, “Melissa is more shy.”
They don’t describe their relationship as a best-friend one. But hearing them talk about and to each other reveals one that’s rooted in respect, admiration and a sibling bond. Melissa said they’ve fought fewer than five times about the business since starting it.
“I love my sister. I recognize she has skills that I will never touch,” Jessica said.
“The fact that I get to hang out with my sister every day and we are totally goofy and hang out and have a good time… After we leave (the office), we call each other in the car and talk,” Melissa said.
And what their venture accomplishes for thousands of men and women makes their success even sweeter.
“I like that we can uplift people and truly make them feel better in their own skin,” Jessica said.