Entrepreneur investing nearly $3 million; staff of 50 and up to 250 students

[caption id="attachment_34380" align="alignright" width="324" caption="The Paul Mitchell California Academy in Sacramento."][/caption]

PETALUMA -- A Novato serial high-tech entrepreneur is expanding a complementary foray into high-style by opening a Paul Mitchell salon trade school in Petaluma.

Bryan Johnk, who runs Novato-based skin and teeth treatment equipment maker Aesthetic Solutions and a Paul Mitchell the School franchise in Sacramento, purchased a 31,000-square-foot office building at 1415 N. McDowell Blvd. for $1.65 million and plans to spend about $1 million converting up to 17,000 square feet of it into Paul Mitchell the School of Sonoma County.

There are more than 100,000 salons in the Paul Mitchell network in 81 countries and nearly 100 corporate and franchise schools nationwide.

The plan for Petaluma is to have about 50 full- and part-time staff and "learning leaders" ready for up to 150 day and 100 night students by year-end. Costa Mesa-based Paul Mitchell the School is designing the interior. Construction bidding is set to open in early June.

"We really focus on enabling the cosmetologist to be a business professional," Mr. Johnk said.

The Paul Mitchell Schools training program takes 11 months for daylong coursework and 18 months for night classes. In addition to achieving the minimum of 1,600 hours of technical instruction and practice required for state hair-care licensing, the program includes business development and management skills as well as financial literacy.

Day and night programs cost about $20,000, including books, equipment and supplies. Government student grants and financing are available.

Sonoma Bank was the lead U.S. Small Business Administration lender for the building purchase and tenant improvements, and Capital Access Group of San Francisco was the SBA conduit.

Mr. Johnk also is expanding in Sacramento and the South Bay. The school in the state capital expanded from 10,000 square feet to 22,000 square feet this month. In January 2012, construction of a 20,000-square-foot school in Milpitas is planned to start, and it would open that August.

With a San Francisco State undergraduate finance degree in 1986, Mr. Johnk started a career with health-related startups. He was the first employee of Oclassen Pharmaceutical, managing finance and administration, and later became a shareholder before it was sold to Watson Pharmaceutical in 1993. After a brief stint at Adaptive Video, he started analog-to-digital medical imaging system developer Signal Stream Technologies, which was acquired by Merge Technologies two years later. He then joined Allerderm of Petaluma as general manager under Gordon Dow, later founder of Dow Pharmaceutical Sciences.

He left in 1998 to form Aesthetic Solutions and since 2003 has been a founder and chief financial officer of Carlsbad-based LW Ligand, a developer of more-accurate tests for newborn jaundice set to seek public and private funding this year. Aesthetic Solutions makes Dermaglow skin treatment devices and Thermaglow teeth whitening machines targeted at beauty schools, health care organizations and spas. Revenue has shrunk to $2 million a year because the spa and beauty industry was hit hard by the economy in the past three years, Mr. Johnk said.

"I got into the beauty business because at trade shows I heard from customers that it was hard to find good employees," he said. He started The California Academy in 2005.

The academy offers training in Aesthetic Solutions devices. The Petaluma school is expected to open with 10,000 square feet initially, expanding by 7,000 square feet with the addition of training on Aesthetic Solutions equipment.

James Manley of Keegan & Coppin represented Mr. Johnk's real estate entity, Fuegogrande Properties LLC, in the May 13 purchase of 1415 N. McDowell from Basin Street Properties. Force10 Networks occupies the other 14,000 square foot of the building. The structure was one of five former Equity Office buildings Basin Street repurchased in March, immediately selling the day care center building to an investor.

Paul Mitchell the School isn't the only beauty trade school expanding into the North Bay.

Whittier-based Marinello Schools of Beauty, which started in 1903, opened its 45th training center in January, located in San Rafael, and its 46th in March, in Napa. The nearly 5,000-square-foot San Rafael location at 854 Fourth St. offers courses in cosmetology and aesthetics. The 4,300-square-foot Napa facility at 2110 Main St. offers cosmetology and manicure classes.