First-time small-business man Martin Snell holds staff meetings that could be nicknamed “Lessons I’ve learned.”
But to Snell, who recently opened Charlotte’s second Hand & Stone Massage Spa franchise, this particular learning curve – from lease negotiations to the daily laundry pile – has been a labor of love.
Snell celebrated the grand opening of his business, located in the Village at SouthPark, on the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday.
And it marked the biggest turning point of 51-year-old Snell’s career: Just one year earlier, he was the director of oncology service lines for Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast, an administrator with one of the nation’s largest hospital systems.
Now, Snell oversees a staff of 13, who offer their own brand of healing, he says.
“I spent a lot of time developing the mind, body, spirit approach when I was working in health care,” Snell says. “We built a spa here ... where they aren’t just giving massages or facials but they’re really rejuvenating people’s spirits.”
Eventually, Snell said, he’d like to offer respite care for cancer patients as well, and one of his therapists is pursuing certification.
Partnering with his counterpart: After deciding to open his own business, Snell opted for a Hand & Stone franchise so he could take advantage of the network of company franchisees. He has been able to study their trials, mistakes and successes. “I don’t have to (re)create the wheel – I just have to modify the wheel.”
There also is a Hand & Stone in the Ballantyne area, along U.S. 521. Snell and the other franchisee decided to work together and split advertising costs, which makes the expense more palatable, Snell says.
Finding the right spot: Snell knew he wanted to be located in a densely populated, high-traffic area and in a building with roadside visibility. After studying a “competitive analysis,” Snell decided on a 3,000-square-foot building in the Village at SouthPark – also the location of Crate & Barrel – where his sign would be visible from the intersection of Morrison Boulevard and Sharon Road. But, as Snell discovered, everything about starting a business takes longer than anticipated. “I negotiated for at least six months for the lease alone,” he said.
The value of aesthetics: It was important to Snell to create an aesthetic that fit with the upscale nature of SouthPark. So he got approval from Hand & Stone corporate to make some upgrades. For example, Snell opted for a warmer tone of tile, wall inserts with art, and architectural water fountains, twice the price of the typical water fountain.
The typical Hand & Stone costs about $300,000 to $400,000, Snell said. His cost more – about $500,000 – because of the prime location, the space, landlord requirements and the special touches he added. “We were fine with that,”Snell said. “It’s always the little touches that give the overall feeling of luxury and warmth and healing that we’re trying to have here.”