Susan McCrary’s start-up story begins like those of many other entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to: She was passionate about her work, had a lot of ideas, but didn’t find other companies gave her the right outlet for those ideas. A trained massage therapist, she had a vision of a bringing the spa experience to the local Charleston market. This led her to founding Urban Nirvana in 2000, which she has since grown to nine spas and salons in Greenville, Columbia, Lexington, Charleston, and Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
As with many other entrepreneurs, Susan found that securing financing was her biggest challenge. "It’s difficult enough as a first-time business owners, but even more so when you have a new idea. When you’re presenting something bankers haven’t seen before, they don’t understand it. In my case, there weren’t a lot of spas at the time. Bankers would look at my lounge design as dead space, a waste of money, and then tell me how to fill it. They kept telling me how to make my space more like everything else out there."
To other business owners, she advised, "You have to be careful of compromises. In the beginning, a lot of people will tell you what to do or not to do, based on what they know. You will get a lot of advice. It can be hard because you yourself may want to compromise, like on location or space, because your want to get to market sooner. But it’s better to wait for those things that will help you stay true to your own vision."
Rather than compromise herself, Susan decided to move forward with her plans without financing, hoping her own capital could carry the business for a while. When she found the right space, she signed the lease. "I just believed that the financing would come." Then, as she was telling one of her clients about it, it did. "Sandra (Leibowitz) was an attorney, and her connections alone were enormously helpful in helping us get started. But even better, she then quit her law practice to help run the business." And so Susan found both her financing and a partner in the business.
In recognition of International Women’s Day and as part of our ongoing commitment to support women business owners, American Express OPEN is producing an online resource center with information to help women business owners grow and manage their businesses. Visit OPENForum.com/women for our “New Rules for Business” Guides and additional insights from our 2010 Women in Business Summit.
For more information on Susan McCrary (Cardmember since 2000) and Urban Nirvana, visit www.urbannirvana.com.