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It’s your business: She went from employee to owner. Here’s how she did it.

Rosalyn Johnson
Rosalyn Johnson

Of all the small business owners I’ve written about, the story of Rosalyn Johnson may be the most unusual.

Several months ago, as her employer was preparing to close the Healing Waters day spa in Durham, Johnson looked around and decided she would buy the business as a franchisee. The deal closed two months ago, and Johnson, who also works as a surgery assistant at a Durham hospital, said she could not be happier.

Unlike some entrepreneurs who are driven by vision or even personal ambition, Johnson said she simply couldn’t bear to see co-workers laid off.

“We have a great group of people working here, and I just didn’t want them to lose their jobs,” she said. “I’ve been like a part of a team.”

Healing Waters was started in 2002 by the husband-wife team of Amanda Gorecki and John Gorecki, a Durham neurosurgeon. In addition to the North Carolina location, they also have locations in Columbia, S.C, and Wichita, Kansas. In Durham, the couple retained ownership of an adjacent medical practice that performs cosmetic procedures such as Botox injects, fillers and laser treatments.

The idea of closing the Durham day spa first surfaced when Amanda Gorecki was contemplating a move that would see her focus more on building her husband’s practice. And that’s when Johnson got an idea.

After getting approval to buy the spa, she cashed out her 401(k) retirement plan and went in with a friend who agreed to be a passive investor.

As a franchise owner, Johnson said she has no plans to change the business, which she described as currently successful.

“I knew how well the business was doing,” she said. “We have a lot of repeat clients; they have memberships and have been coming here for years.”

After just two months of owning the business, Johnson said she has been most struck by the responsibility of making payroll and paying vendors. And then there’s the daily deluge of cold calls.

“When people think you have money, they’re ready to come get it,” she said. “I have so many people calling here now trying to get me to buy whatever they’re selling. Whenever the phone rings, someone is calling wanting me to buy their products.”

Johnson said she has faith that all will work out because of her commitment to the company.

“I was a dedicated employee before I became the owner,” she said. “I didn’t really do it for myself. I’m already rich. I have my life, health and strength.”

Glenn Burkins is editor and publisher of Qcitymetro.com, an online news site targeting Charlotte’s African-American community. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Charlotte Observer business editor.

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