Rowan’s Sensible Approach to a Sensitive Procedure

Should ear piercing be viewed as a medical procedure? While many people might not think so, given that it is an invasive incision into the human body, it may be wise to reconsider.

Louisa Serene Schneider, founder and CEO of Rowan, which recently opened on Magazine Street, unequivocally calls ear piercing “a medical procedure, and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.”

Coming from a family full of doctors and nurses, several of whom performed ear piercings, Schneider took her own daughter to a pediatrician for her first procedure. She pointed out that in addition to the procedure itself, “some people faint, some have anxiety, some just want to understand more about their ears.”

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Schneider’s own background is in investment banking, which included considerable study of retail malls. She observed that even as malls generally declined, ear piercing still drove traffic to these facilities. Yet customer satisfaction from the experience was low, and Schneider saw an entrepreneurial opportunity.

“I wanted to create an experience that was safe, but also fun and celebratory,” she explained. To the first point, all of Rowan’s piercings are performed by Registered Nurses, and all the earrings they sell are hypo-allergenic.

To the second, Schneider noted that “most people don’t get their ears pierced alone. It may be a small milestone, but it’s worth celebrating.”

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While the greatest percentage of Rowan’s clientele is women in the 20 – 30 range, one recent customer was a woman 101 years old. At the other end of the spectrum, parents bring children as young as six in to get their first piercing.

Although Schneider launched her business in New York, she has a long-time connection with the New Orleans area. “When I went to summer camp when I was 13 or 14 years old, my best friend was from Metairie,” she recalled. “Visiting her was my first life experience. I had my first Vietnamese food, my first flaming dessert.

“Magazine Street is a special stretch of retail anywhere in the world,” she continued. “I always wanted to do something there.”

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The store manager and all the RNs are locals. One example is Miriam Featherston, whose regular nursing job of more than five years is with a local hospital, on an orthopedic and surgical unit. However, she loves her extra work at Rowan.

“I try to bring my bedside skills from my past experience when taking care of our guests,” she said. “I do everything I can to make our guests feel safe and heard in our studio. Almost every client mentions how they have been wanting something like it when they had piercings in the past. They really appreciate the safety of our studio and the nurse approach to piercing and aftercare.”

In addition to improving the safety and overall experience of ear piercing, Schneider had an additional motivation. “I was watching men invest in the mall shops from a profit standpoint, but not reinvesting in the business itself,” she noted. “But the customers were almost entirely women and girls. The opportunity existed because a woman hadn’t yet looked into it.”

Schneider is proud to be a successful woman entrepreneur, and this spirit drives her to continue seeking ways to improve the customer experience. This includes supporting research on ear safety and health, with the goal of improving the piercing procedure where possible. The company also works to educate its clients about ear health, and follows up with guests after their piercings.

Not that Schneider wouldn’t mind having more male customers. She estimates that at present, men comprise less than five percent of her business, and many of these are fathers coming in to support their daughters. Rowan is currently doing some rebranding to try to draw more men into their locations.

The name itself reflects Schneider’s desire to be inclusive. “Rowan County, North Carolina is where I’m originally from,” she elaborated. “A rowan is a type of tree, and it can be both a girl’s and a boy’s name.”

While a medical approach to ear piercing may be the cornerstone to Rowan’s success, offering an extensive line of earrings (hypo-allergenic, as previously mentioned) and other gifts and jewelry is also a vital part of the brand. Bright colors and a festive atmosphere round out the Rowan experience.

And obviously this approach is being well-received by New Orleans customers. Business has been consistently strong since the April opening.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the great reception in New Orleans,” stated Schneider. “We’re looking forward to being here for a long time.”

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