West Brighton business inducted into hall of fame
Doreen Zayer received her first massage as an exchange student in London and "just loved it." This love inspired her to open her own massage therapy practice, and over the past 11 years, that practice has grown into a successful business. Today, Ms. Zayer will be inducted into the state Small Business Development Center's (SBDC) Hall of Fame in Albany with two other business owners from Niagara and Westchester, N.Y.

"It's exciting to be acknowledged," she said. "It's an honor."

Ms. Zayer first visited the College of Staten Island's SBDC in 1994 to seek help in turning her idea for a massage therapy practice into a reality.

"We made a business plan, and I realized that this idea would work," she said.

Ms. Zayer scaled down her vision for the time being, borrowed on credit cards, and in 1995 opened Relax on Cloud Nine, which focused on chair massage with $1 per minute back rubs, in the Staten Island Mall.

Three years later, her business moved from the mall to the ground floor of her 135-year-old Clove Road home in West Brighton and expanded to a full-service spa.


Today, Relax on Cloud Nine encompasses that entire house, with a second location in the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield. She employs about 15 licensed and certified independent contractors and four employees, and said that she enjoys the aspect of growth within her business.

"I've had people who started as part-time massage therapists and moved up to operations managers," she said.

Both Relax on Cloud Nine locations offer body treatments, massages, facials, hydrotherapy and yoga classes.

To accommodate customer demand, Ms. Zayer began offering spa packages, including those designed for couples, as well as sauna and steam.

She also has a mobile unit that she brings to events, like golf outings, and provides complimentary massages.

Thirty-five other small businesses in the state have been inducted into the SBDC Hall of Fame for their "outstanding vision, persistence, ingenuity and innovation."

According to Dean L. Balsamini, director of the Staten Island SBDC, Hall of Famers are chosen based on their ability to a establish a business over a period of time and sustain it. Although he said that more than 60 to 70 percent of businesses fail in the first five years, Ms. Zayer's business is still going strong after 11 years.


"Ms. Zayer is a high energy, focused entrepreneur who has expertly managed to balance her home life and parenting young children while running a successful business," Balsamini said.

Ms. Zayer urges others who are interested in opening a business, or who are hitting a roadblock in one they already own, to use the resources available to them.

"I'm surprised how much they're underutilized," she said of these resources.

The College of Staten Island's SBDC offers free business counseling, financial planning and marketing services to residents of New York. It is administrated by the State University of New York and its educational partners, and is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Christina Lundy is a business reporter for the Advance. She may be contacted by e-mail at lundy@siadvance.com

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