Road to Recovery

After a run-in with a drunk driver left him in critical condition, Chicago Southland police sergeant Willie Robinson turned to LaVida Massage for relief from the aches and pains caused by his life-threatening injuries. As his therapy progressed, he recovered in leaps and bounds—Robinson now walks, drives, and is such a strong proponent for the power of massage that he and his fiancée, Brenda Miller, opened their own LaVida Massage (Crestwood, IL) in November 2012. “I discovered ­ rsthand the bene­ ts of massage through my LaVida therapy and am now a ­ rm believer in and advocate for massage therapy as a necessity to injury recovery and in improving the quality of life,” says Robinson. As the former U.S. Marine learned, relaxation massage modalities can help reverse the shock and trauma suffered by the nervous system during an injury by promoting blood flow and relaxing tight muscles. That knowledge and experience prompted Robinson and Miller to provide continued on page 42 affordable massage-therapy services to their community with their LaVida franchise. Located in a shopping plaza adjacent to a major highway and anchored by big-name retailers, the 2,900-square-foot health and wellness center boasts 10 treatment rooms, 15 therapists, and two estheticians. As the only massage provider in Crestwood, the company’s clientele has grown by 70 percent since its first full month in business. Here, Robinson and Miller share their secrets of success.


What prompted you to open a LaVida Massage location?

A. Massage was always something that we did as part of a health regimen, but aer sustaining life-threatening injuries, massage was looked at as a necessity for mobility and pain management. We entertained other franchises and companies but found that LaVida promoted franchisee individuality yet maintained a family mentality.


What made the massage business so appealing to you?

A. It promotes a sense of health, stress, and pain management. Massage is quickly gaining recognition as an affordable, non-medical approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. People are slowly learning how important it is to take care of themselves, and with disease and stress-related physical conditions on the rise, we hope to educate and promote massage even further.


How do you attract new and repeat clients and encourage them to visit?

A. For our existing customer base, we often provide loyalty perks, such as a 30-minute upgrade. If it is a slower day and the therapists are being paid to provide therapy, we will call and email incentives to our current customers. We also use social media to let our existing clients and friends of clients know of last-minute cancellations or to promote a new or unscheduled therapist or esthetician. We send email blasts to promote repeat visits, offering free upgrades or limited-time savings. Additionally, LaVida Massage Franchise Development has recently launched its own mobile application to promote business and attract clients with ease of access to services—something that we’ve begun to utilize. This new technology allows us to continue our commitment to customers with convenience in booking sessions and providing specialized features such as promos, therapist bios, schedule information, and more.


What lessons have you learned from your first year in business?

A. We’ve learned firsthand the necessity of allocating enough money for advertising. It’s also extremely important to take the extra step to research different marketing vehicles to weigh their specific benefits and returns on investment. We want to ensure we utilize the most appropriate avenues that are aligned with our objectives. And, with no entrepreneurial or retail experience prior to opening our LaVida Massage center, we’ve learned that to be successful, it’s very important to maintain a commitment to delivering great customer service. Exceptional people skills are key management traits that really go a long way in driving business operations that meet rewarding goals.


Did anything surprise you during your initial year?

A. The many different mediums from which today’s consumers are obtaining information came as a great surprise to us. Be they advertising platforms, public relations activities, or socialmedia communications, you can never really exercise them all enough. We’ve really relied on trial and error to learn which are most effective.


What advice would you offer to first-time business owners in the spa and wellness industry?

A. Early on in our venture with LaVida Massage, we adopted a family mentality with our staff, members, customers, and, essentially, our community. That’s critical in nurturing satisfied clients, especially when your bottom line is delivering services that provide stress-relief, relaxation, and overall experiences of wellbeing, which is the essence of the core philosophy within this industry.—Compiled by Maya Stanton