Welcome to the first Flourish Friday of 2019!
If you’re new to How I Flourish in Des Moines, this blog series shares the stories of local women in business. Get ready to learn more about these passionate women, how they started businesses in the Des Moines area, and advice they have to share.
Today Cassie Sampson is taking us behind the scenes of her business, East Village Spa. A Des Moines staple, East Village Spa offers an array of wellness-focused services (read about them below!) with an emphasis on friendly customer service and safe practices.
As a client, I can’t say enough fantastic things about East Village Spa. From the soothing atmosphere to the skilled, caring team members, Cassie has created a true gem in the Des Moines metro.
Read on to learn how Cassie grew East Village Spa from a staff of one to Des Moines’ best spa voted every year since 2011!
Introducing Cassie Sampson and East Village Spa
1. What is your business, and what do you do?
I own East Village Spa. We offer skilled massage therapy and skincare, safe, comfortable waxing, and natural nail care. We also have a large gift shop full of self care and gift items, with a focus on supporting women owned businesses.
2. How long have you been in business?
East Village Spa opened in 2008, but I’ve had my own little massage therapy clinic in the East Village prior to expanding into a spa. Fun fact: I signed my first lease for East Village Spa one day before the stock market crashed in 2008.
3. What sparked your interest in becoming a small business owner?
I have a degree in healthcare (Recreation Therapy) and I’m also a licensed massage therapist. I originally studied massage therapy thinking I could apply it to my work in long-term-care settings but at that time, massage was just starting to appear in hospitals and care centers so I had to recalibrate my goals if I wanted to make a living doing massage. I worked in a few massage therapy settings and realized that at the time, there were not great employment opportunities for Licensed Massage Therapists in our area.
Typically compensation and physical needs like adequate break time weren’t in line with the nature of the work and many business owners were misclassifying massage therapists as 1099 contractors. While some smaller business owners may have been skilled at delivering health and beauty services, they lacked business and marketing skills to build their practices. Health insurance and retirement benefits were almost non-existent.I decided to open my own private clinic. I quickly found working alone to be isolating and I missed collaboration with other professionals. I figured if my perfect workplace didn’t exist, I needed to build it.
4. What gap does your business fill?
Really, I think when I opened East Village Spa, the gap I was looking to fill was a gap in good employment opportunities for licensed massage therapists. That has grown to include licensed estheticians and nail technicians, and employment opportunities for people who have disabilities. I expect a high degree of professionalism, warmth, and skill in exchange for the opportunities East Village Spa offers. Because we strive to create a good work environment, our clients receive incredible services. We’re not overworking care providers, so whether a guest is someone’s first or last massage client of the day, they can be assured they will get a great service because their therapist has the time and tools needed for self care. Our service providers genuinely love what they do and have so much respect for each other. Our guests are not seeing someone who is merely “going through the motions.” They’re also able to develop lasting relationships with providers as our team members tend to stick around a long time.
5. What do you enjoy most about operating a business in the Des Moines metro?
The size of the Des Moines metro is just right for me. We are big enough that there are really cool quality-of-life opportunities, and a great pool of potential customers, but small enough that I can reach out to city council members or law enforcement to schedule meetings to discuss issues of importance to my industry like massage ordinances and human trafficking and feel like my voice is heard. I appreciate the wisdom and support from people who have come before me in shaping the metro and I appreciate that I’m getting to a spot now where I feel I can help offer some support and mentoring to those coming after me.
6. What is the best business-related advice you’ve received?
Hire good people and let them do their jobs. I wish it were that easy, but it is true. This also extends to working with experts in areas like human resources, accounting, and legal matters. Just like you are an expert in your field and expect clients to hire you for your services, they are the experts in their field. You can’t do it all or know it all. Don’t shy away from the expense of an expert up front, it will pay off in dividends later on, especially when we’re talking about things like quality contracts, an employee handbook, and an accountant who understands business deductions.
7. What tip do you have for other women in business?
Find an in-person or online group to support you outside of family and friends. For me, that is a professional business owner support group called MOXIE in the FuseDSM Chamber and an online group of spa owners. We need a place to blow off steam and get feedback from others who who understand the challenges of business ownership before it boils over (too much!) into our work or family lives.