From Massage Therapist to Franchising Entrepreneur
June 02, 2008 // Franchising.com // Hollywood, MD- First and foremost; she wasn't born an Entrepreneur, she was blessed with common sense and a desire to help people and see them succeed...
It was winter, 1988 when Michelle Lea learned the importance of health and physical well-being. While stopped at a traffic light; an out-of-control truck driven by a drunk driver ran head-on into the car she was riding in. As you can imagine, the accident was dreadful but through the grace of God everyone walked away from it. Her parents suffered only a few contusions and fortunately for Michelle only whip-lash and a head and knee injury. Looking at the totaled car would make anyone go to church.
Michelle tried various forms of therapy for almost a year after when she decided to get her first massage. She knew she needed something natural and get away from the pain medications and other treatments that were "masking" the problem but not addressing the issue.
She decided to try massage therapy and explains that within the first 5 minutes of the session she was sold. She knew this form of therapy was for her and that it was the "medicine of the future". She thought "Why don't more people do this"? After that day she decided to learn as much as she could about the alternative healthcare industry and began taking classes in medicinal herbs and massage. She studied, interviewed, read books and lectures and dedicated her career to the industry.
Michelle had a 12 year back-ground with the Government and walked away from it knowing as she says "It's not what I want to be when I grow up" but it gave her the confidence to pursue her dream because she knew she needed to help people. Before her career change she often wondered "How am I making a difference?"
But now, when she walks into her clinic, she knows she is making a difference. She knows when folks come to her office she's helping them. She knows they appreciate, enjoy and look forward to the experience.
In 2001 she couldn't keep up with demand; it was like the dam broke and there weren't enough hours in the day to help people. She picked up more staff expanded the office and hours but the demand was overwhelming and soon they grew out of that office and needed even more space. Shortly after moving to a new office and much soul searching she decided to kick it up a notch and go nation-wide with her business pursuits. Her thoughts were: "If I can sell a massage from the Amish to the Admirals this can sell".
"I decided to franchise my office because many of our clients would travel good distances to see us and would always comment on how they wished we were closer to them. I thought; how can we do that economically? Through more intensive research and self-examination, my husband/Vice President, Dave Collins and I decided to franchise the business. Some people think we are commercializing the industry but those are the folks that have never expanded their visions or perhaps don't understand about investing in a meaningful life pursuit."
Michelle explains to folks who question why they should buy into her franchise with common statements like:
- We don't need another spa in the neighborhood...
- I can do what you've done for 1/2 the cost...
- Anyone can hire therapists, put some tables in a room and open...
"These comments explain why 90% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years. First and foremost, we're not a "spa" we are alternative healthcare and the keyword is healthcare. When a person buys into our franchise, they are buying into a proven system or business operation. We have done all the research and learned from experience.
Also noted statistics derived from the AMTA:
- Baby Boomers have tripled their use of massage
- 98% of Generation X & Y believe and use massage as an effective way to relieve pain.
- Physicians, Chiropractors and Physical Therapists are referring patients for massage therapy.
The costs involved in buying into a franchise are primarily that of construction, furnishings, computers, software, advertising slicks and the official manual on how to run the company. These are the essential building blocks that I didn't have when I started out and had to create through direct experience (and noted failed attempts) as the business demanded. My initial costs and "stumbles" were most likely well above the franchise costs of today as I worked through misguided efforts and expenses toward unnecessary equipment. My experience will guide my franchisees around such obstacles. A business owner can either pay through the school of trial and error or pay for a proven system.
When you buy into a proven system, you are also getting ongoing support, training, field representation and corporate management assistance on a regular basis. This support is there when you open your doors and for the entire term of the agreement. Something you wouldn't have if you were doing it by yourself (hence the failure rate).
"I take this company seriously and personally. I am passionate about helping people and want to see them succeed."