It is no secret that running a business is hard. But, I would venture to say that running a small business takes a certain kind of person with a certain kind of grit. Add in being a woman-owned business in a major metropolitan area where competition isn’t only stiff, but conceivably present everywhere within a 10 to 20 mile radius and you’re looking at nothing short of a super-heroine. In honor of small business month, Saya and I sat down to talk about what it really takes to run a small business, what it means to her, how it inspires her, and how she keeps on keepin’ on.
What does running a small business in a major metropolitan area mean to you? Why do you think they are important?
There is an overwhelming sense of pride when I digest the fact that I own a small business in a busy, important city. It’s a unique niche to exist in and I’m able to provide more personalized experiences that meet the needs of our clients. I love that we’re keeping it local by buying and selling within our small community.
What do you think Ohana Wellness brings to the community and their patrons by remaining a small business?
Definitely individualized attention. We always try and provide a sense of belonging. Ohana means family, so we try and live into that by allowing our clients be a part of the business – not just shopping at our business. They are part of our whole.
How do you stay true to your core values in the face of stark “big box” competitors?
It’s not difficult to stay true to our core values – what we receive in return for what we are able to give our clients is so incredibly rewarding. Our core value is about creating and building relationships with the community. Providing the community with the love and attention, empathy, compassion, and deep care is what building that relationship is all about. We know that massage is vulnerable, and we work very hard to remain open as a business to give them what they need.
How would you define success for Ohana Wellness as a business?
Success is about consistency. No matter what day you come, no matter what treatment you receive, or who you see, the feeling you leave with should always be one of peace. Some of my favorite things to hear from our patrons are “I don’t ever want to leave here,” “I’ve been looking forward to this all week,” “this is the best gift I could have ever received.” We are fortunate enough to see physical changes in our clients after spending 30, 60, 90 minutes with them. That is success, and it is everything that Ohana Wellness stands for.
What motivates you as a small business owner?
I’ve mentioned this already but it’s about finding the need in a community and being able to cater to that need. I love seeing the difference that we can make in our small part of the DMV. I want to continue to create a special place that is unique and stands on its own. Watching our “ohana” – the clients, the employees, continue to grow is what motivates me every day.
What has been your most satisfying moment in owning Ohana Wellness?
Honestly, seeing and hearing my daughter talk about me with pride. For any young girl, to see a strong (successful) business woman.
What was your key driving force to becoming a small business owner?
It was my daughter. I wanted to have the flexibility to be with her when she needed me the most. I wanted to be able to make my own schedule. But, with our most recent expansion, it was about continuing to support her in new and different ways – helping her get into an excellent school. She is my driving force!
What is your best advice for someone who wants to open, run, and manage a small business?
This is really where I had to stop myself from writing too much, but here are my biggest pieces of advice:
- Don’t go too big all at once, take it one step at a time.
- It’s much more work than you can possibly imagine – take it slow.
- Find your mission statement, early. Find your “why?”
- Know what makes you different, what sets you apart.
- Reach out to people who have done it. Learn from others, live into those experiences, find people you admire and soak up their knowledge.
- If you feel like you know it all – you don’t! Stay humble!
What’s the most valuable help you’ve received in building Ohana Wellness? Honestly, following my own list of advice. I am never done learning and I never stop trying to learn more. The ups and downs of owning a small business can be extreme. If you build a strong support system, they will help lift you up when you’re down and boost you when you’re up.