Relaxing Their Way To Profits

Spa partners Townes and Williams came close to calling it a wrap

There’s no place like home for the holidays. And when you walk into the HomeSpa, home is where you’ll be.

Of the nearly 150 day spas in New York City, the HomeSpa is unique.

The humble hideaway in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn is eclectically furnished with soft, cushiony chairs, antique fixtures glistening in the flicker of aromatherapy candles, and a fireplace that adds a special home feel to the 1,000-square-foot shop. HomeSpa houses four therapy rooms and a shower facility.

Approximately 20 to 30 customers are indulged each day in body wraps and salt scrubs in this holistic spa, where only natural ingredients can pass through the doors. What now seems like a dream come true for partners Debra Townes and Monica Williams, who opened the spa in 1998, at one point became an all-too-real nightmare. The partners, took out an $80,000 loan toward the opening of the spa.

“Immediately, that $80,000 seemed to have disappeared in preparing for the business, as bills grew faster than profits,” remembers Townes. “I thought, ‘We must be out of our minds. What are we doing? We’ve never owned a business before.'”

Townes said the bill collectors began calling faster than clients could make appointments. And no matter how much they dreamed of making people feel special, they awoke to the reality of the calls from collectors.

A third partner, Yvonne Bernard eventually quit because of the madness of starting and operating a business.

“I was close to just throwing in the towel. But with complete faith, strong parents, and energy I didn’t give up,” Townes said.

Last year, the company made more than $500,000. Today, the HomeSpa has a mailing list of more than 3,000 customers. With additional capital from investors, the partners plan to open other spas. One this year, in Brooklyn, and another, next year, in New Jersey.

Those trying times are what Townes encourages new business owners to expect and prepare for. Her advice for new business owners derives from the company’s biggest challenges.

Find someone who can help you structure your finances. they did this through Dorothy Quintero, an accountant and financial consultant in Montclair, New Jersey. “Otherwise you are just putting money into a bottomless bucket.”

Marketing to a clientele that is 15% African American was a challenge. “You have to let people know they deserve your service. Our people are so used to taking care of everyone else that we don’t take the time to pamper ourselves.”

The combination of advertising over the Internet, word-of-mouth advertising, catering to clients of all backgrounds and ages, along with ethnically diverse practitioners provided the ingredients for success.

Lou Cornacchia, a client of the spa since its inception, says, “When I first walked in, immediately there was this friendly atmosphere. [At] some spas, you walk in and ask yourself, ‘Do I belong here?’ At the HomeSpa, you can walk off the street [and into] a robe and feel like you’re among friends.”

Townes says owning a business is an amazing experience, and those who stick it out will continue to be faced

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