Massage Studio of Hillsborough County
Veronica Swiatek always knew she wanted to own her own business. She just wanted to make sure she found the right one, and did it the right way.
So in April 2007, she went to Washington, D.C., to a national franchise show to see what her options were. “I wanted to do my research,” she said. “I wanted to see what businesses were out there and what it would take to open up a business.”
She became acutely aware of the increasing demand in the healthcare industry and discovered that Americans were looking for an alternative health care option. After weighing her options and finding out that people are generally concerned about their health and wellness, she decided to open Massage Studio in December 2007 on West Bay to Bay Boulevard in South Tampa.
“We provide affordable, convenient, luxurious massage therapy to a wide range of guests that come in for different reasons. There are guests that are stressed and need to relax, guests with chronic pain that need immediate relief, athletes looking to improve performance and guests that just to be pampered,” she said. “We have approximately a 50/50 male to female ratio that spans a wide range of ages from high school students to retirees.”
From the moment she decided to take the plunge, she knew she would need some guidance along the way, so she took several courses offered by the Florida SBDC at USF to grow her knowledge base. “I took several courses from April to October 2007 – how to start a business, business plan, marketing and accounting,” she said. “I thought they were so informative. I loved the size of them and the personal experience the consultants draw upon.”
After going through the courses, Swiatek decided she needed more one-on-one assistance. She took advantage of the no-cost consulting offered by the FSBDC at USF for everything from Web site design to business plan review. “Once you go in and you meet with a consultant you realize how easy it is and all the resources you have at your fingertips.”
While Swiatek had prepared herself to run a business, she had not prepared for a downturn in the economy. She identifies this as one of the biggest hurdles she has encountered along the way. “It was a tough couple of years but I learned so much because you just have to dig in deep and keep going,” she said.
Swiatek has attended five FSBDC at USF events, and had nearly 140 hours of professional consulting with eight different consultants.
Since she began working with certified consultants at the FSBDC at USF, Swiatek has added 18 employees and nearly tripled revenues. The studio is doing so well that she is now ready to take the next step and grow, through expansion. Due to the advice offered on the business plan by consultants Marty Zients and Jim Parrish, she landed a $194,000 U.S. Small Business Administration loan, to assist in opening her next location.
“My goal has always been to expand to multiple locations but I didn’t want to expand until I felt comfortable with the economy. I feel a huge responsibility to [my employees] to make sure we’re not stretched too thin,” she said.
While researching possibilities for her next location, Swiatek was also able to use research capabilities of the Florida SBDC at USF.
Growth Acceleration Services consultant, Parrish, said Swiatek has done an excellent job positioning herself for growth along the way. “Her performance exceeds the industry norms,” he said. “Her strength is her ability to learn and then apply what she learns to the growth and development of her business.”
Swiatek plans to continue to grow her South Tampa Massage Studio location and open a second location in the Tampa Bay area by December 2014. She says she will continue to use the services at the FSBDC at USF to keep her business on track.
“I contribute so much of what I’ve learned and the practices that I’ve learned from the Small Business Development Center to the success of my business,” she said. “I think it’s essential for businesses.”