Kristy Dean loves being a licensed massage therapist. It has been her full-time profession for 20 years, during which time she’s developed an extensive clientele. Actually, she can’t imagine doing anything else.
For 19 years, she rented space as a solo practitioner in executive office suites and chiropractic offices to run her small business. Business was good, but the seasonal, summer months always proved to be a challenge in Southwest Florida—that is, until three years ago. That’s when she started having great seasonal months and “very lucrative” summers, both of which came through a lot of massage hours.
Dean was inspired by this shift, yet realized that she needed to start planning for her future, because massage can be hard on a therapist’s body, she explains. She came up with three, possible options: Build a therapeutic wellness center with other practitioners; accept fewer clients and raise her rates (not an option because she loves to help people); or leave the profession altogether (also not an option because she loves the profession).
And so Therapeutic Bodyworks, LLC was created in October of 2014, opening just in time for the seasonal months when business tends to peak. To launch the business, Dean approached the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) one year prior to receive guidance on how to get a business loan. In the process, working with one of the SDBC consultants, she created a business plan. Dean’s mother ultimately helped fund the transition into the 2,200-square-foot space that is now home to the wellness center.
At the center’s grand opening in March of 2015, Pam Oakes, a successful client of the SBDC, encouraged Dean to reach out to Pat Kirkpatrick, a certified business consultant at the SBDC. “She said, ‘He will blow this business up for you,’ ” explains Dean. One month later, she and Kirkpatrick were busy strategizing with regular in-person and phone meetings.
My biggest goal was to get the business to make money, she says, explaining that her overhead had jumped from $300 to $2,000 per month by starting the new venture. The two focused on bringing in healing practitioners as renters within the seven-office suite, and on strategic, low-cost advertising to announce the available space and the new center itself.
Kirkpatrick also reached into the SBDC consultant pool and pulled out those he thought could help Dean, knowing that her marketing budget was tight. Specifically, he brought in the social media consultant, Theresa Ayers, to help with low-cost, online advertising. He also encouraged her to meet with the SBDC’s website expert, Marc Farron, to evaluate her site.
As Therapeutic Bodyworks, LLC entered the slower, summer months, she worked with Kirkpatrick to obtain a $7,500, short-term business loan to get through the off season until business picked up again in October.
As Dean had envisioned it, the wellness center now offers many modalities in addition to massage, including CranioSacral therapy, Reiki, yoga, facials, and manicures and pedicures. The new business just celebrated its one-year anniversary.
I love that the SBDC can provide free services to businesses like mine to give me the advice I need, says Dean. “Pat [Kirkpatrick] has given me the strength I’ve needed to go on, and has introduced me to key people that can take my business further ahead.”