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Business Rx: Her point is to grow

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By Special to Capital Business
Monday, September 27, 2010

THE ENTREPRENEUR Tori Paide didn't know where she would end up when she left her high-stress office job in Washington. She saw how acupuncture treatments were benefiting her health and decided to make a change to pursue a career in the wellness industry. After earning her master of acupuncture degree, Paide's choices were to work at a spa or wellness center where she would have to give half of her profit to the owner, or to go it alone as acupuncturist, worrying not just about serving clients, but also about marketing, booking her own appointments, bookkeeping, insurance and all the other things that go along with running a business.

She decided to try the latter and leased a space in Takoma Park. New to the practice, she had a small client list, a space bigger than she could fill alone, and clients who were interested in additional wellness services that she couldn't offer. What she did have were friends and contacts who were trained in massage therapy, rehabilitation, nutrition and other wellness practices. So Paide opened her space to some of them and agreed to split the rent. And then it dawned on her -- she had hatched a new business model. By allowing several practitioners to work under one roof, the group could afford valuable support services and offer clients a full range of services.

THE PITCH

Paide calls her business The Still Point, a holistic spa and wellness center in Takoma Park. It provides wellness services such as massage, acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutritional counseling as well as natural beauty services and a natural and organic skin-care boutique. She is also environmentally conscious, running 100 percent on wind power and offering only organic and naturally produced products for facials, nontoxic nail polish, paraben-free massage cream and innovative eco-makeup lines.

Paide

"Since we opened in July 2007 we have seen positive growth every single month, despite the economic climate. Our main business model is based on 'renting' space by the hour to our practitioners as opposed to setting a 'split' that is standard practice in most spas. We believe this has attracted us the best practitioners who are also entrepreneurial enough to fill out and maintain their own practices. We encourage Still Point practitioners to build their own practices and emphasize retaining clients while staying faithful to our model that enables success for everyone.

"My question: Where do we go from here? Our physical space is only so big, and I'd like to expand. What's the best way to go about this? How do we choose between opening a new store or franchising?"

THE ADVICE

Asher Epstein, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

"You need to ask the question 'What's the end goal for expansion?' Think about what you're trying to accomplish by growing this business model. Growth just for the sake of growth doesn't always work."

Paide

"I am really committed to helping industry practitioners earn a very good living in a collegial work environment -- to replicate what we currently have with The Still Point."


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