Duo balances personal touch with business sense
Startups traditionally don't get bank loans until they have at least two years under their belt. At least that's the general trend. But things worked out differently for Drusilla Burrough and Michele Scotto-Rosenblatt when they opened Inner Balance, a nearly 2,000-square-foot massage therapy center that once served as a chiropractor's office in Copiague.

They managed to secure a $35,000 loan from Community Capital Bank to launch their venture, which they opened in April. And for that opportunity, they thank Mark Wan, a business advisor at the New York State Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State University of New York. Wan, who assisted them with their business plan and projections forecast, also helped the partners target bankers that would believe in the enterprise.

Both licensed massage therapists, Burrough and Scotto-Rosenblatt already had impressive track records, Burrough said. Each had worked for a massage therapist in Babylon and left to pursue private clients. "We both had a large following before we opened," Burrough said.

Today, the company has a roster of more than 200 clients, three additional massage therapists and two receptionists, one of whom will double as a business manager handling no-fault medical billing starting in January 2005. And they're looking to hire more therapists. Burrough plans to collect resumes at an upcoming job fair at the New York College of Health Professions in Syosset.

Meanwhile, the company's revenue has increased every month by about $2,000, said Burrough, who is projecting $10,000 for August. "Each month we say, 'Will this be a fluke?' And it's not. We're so busy, it's unbelievable," she said. "Our bookkeeper shakes her head. She says this doesn't happen in a small business."

To help spread the word, the partners advertise in South Bay News, a community newspaper that targets residents both east and west of the company. "It's been a big draw for us," Burrough said.

In addition, the partners send out monthly postcards, offering coupons and different specials for massages, aromatherapy, reflexology or collagen eye treatment. "That's how we introduce people to different therapies," Burrough said.

She herself recently secured an $11,000 grant through Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID), which strives to help disabled people live and work independently. Burrough is hearing-impaired and underwent hip replacement in 2002.

Still, the duo operates on a shoestring budget, having bargain-shopped for Inner Balance's decor at Home Depot, where they found magnolias and window coverings that look like stained glass. "People come here for a getaway," Burrough said. "They walk in and feel relaxed."

The partners are also working with a contractor who, in September, will renovate the basement downstairs, where they plan to offer yoga, tai chi and belly dancing classes, as well as holistic seminars. Also in the works: an additional treatment room and a small, on-site retail operation through which Burrough and Scotto-Rosenblatt plan to sell gemstone jewelry and aromatherapy candles.

"We're being careful with capital," Burrough said, adding that most vendors seem open to bartering. The contractor, for instance, is receiving 20 massages in exchange for renovations. "We don't have to lay out the money," Burrough said. "It's known in this business - everybody loves a massage."

Newer Story Return To List Older Story