Money can be therapeutic Featured

10:07am EDT July 22, 2002

Massage Away owners Diane Sater and Helen Yee can hardly believe their good fortune. Fall enrollment figures at the Columbus company’s massage therapy-school skyrocketed 500 percent as of early July, thanks to a $750,000 loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Two years ago, Sater says, members of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, steered the duo to the SBA to expand their growing business.

“The SCORE counselors were absolutely wonderful,” Sater says. It was the third time Sater and Yee had consulted SCORE about the business.

“They were a great venue for bouncing off ideas,” Sater says, “and they offered free, well thought-out advice when we showed them our business plan for starting the school. They told us about the benefits of leasing vs. building a building.”

Massage Away started as a 400-square-foot clinic in Westerville. The owners then added a 1,200-square-foot school near the clinic in 1995 and a small clinic in Grove City in 1996.

Massage Away has since moved to 2.2 acres in an 8,000-square-foot facility at the corner of Doubletree Avenue and Schrock Road. It includes two large classrooms, one each for anatomy and massage, and a clinic. The company, which employs 42 part-time workers, has maintained its Grove City clinic.

Sater credits her excellent relationship with Star Bank for helping to get the loan approved for her company’s most recent expansion. Representatives of the Columbus Countywide Development Corp., the local screening arm of the SBA, were friendly and helpful, as well, she adds.

Sater says the Massage Away school, which offers a yearlong program to become a licensed massage therapist, accounts for about 75 percent of the company’s business. She maintains that much of the stigma about massage therapy is gone. Contrary to what some may still think, the average person interested in massage therapy training isn’t “flaky and into crystals.” A typical student, Sater says, is age 37, has a college degree, and is looking for a career change. Clients, she adds, range in age from 3 to 93.

SBA lending activity in Central Ohio

Columbus Foam Products Inc., Westerville, $1,020,000

Made From Scratch Inc., Marysville, $1,000,000

Massage Away Inc., Columbus, $750,000

Winchester Veterinary Clinic, Canal Winchester, $725,000

Modern Copy Systems Corp., Columbus, $610,000

Great Clips, Columbus, $245,000

Davidson Rentals, New Albany, $98,500

Ruth Wilson Showroom, Columbus, $80,000

American Coating Corp., Dublin, $50,000

Mille Fleurs Flowers & Gifts, Gahanna, $40,000

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration Columbus District Office