Thanks to New Lending, Message Spa Owner Finds Her Zen

There’s a new way for minority-owned businesses in Broward County to get access to capital. The new Capital Access Fund (CAF) is a lending initiative which provides capital and business education for minority entrepreneurs. It’s available through a partnership between Morgan Stanley, National Urban League Urban Empowerment Fund, National Development Council, and the Urban League of Broward County.

Message therapist Irica Dore used the fund to grow her spa business in Pembroke Pines. Here is her story:

We are all looking for our Zen moment.

For Irica Dore, it occurs each time she does what she truly loves: messaging her clients.

With low lights and soft music playing, she stretches tired muscles and overworked joints, as her mind focuses on her mission of helping people feel better, physically and mentally.

“This is my zone. I love messaging people,” she says.

Irica is providing her brand of therapy from a new office in a strip mall in Pembroke Pines. She’s been a massage therapist for more than a decade, but has only recently opened her own spa, complete with therapy and skincare rooms as well as a lounge to sip tea, read, nap or contemplate.

For the 36-year-old who was born in New York City and raised in South Florida, her business – Blu Bliss – is a dream come true. She knows it won’t be easy growing her clientele, paying the rent, and keeping the place beautiful so it can compete with the myriad of other spas and salons. Yet, she is optimist that her business acumen and her passion for massage therapy will bring her many successes.

“Running your own business is risky. I know that. But I’m in the business of making a difference in people’s lives,” she says. “I’ve always been a people pleaser. Through massage therapy, I can help people feel better and give people a sense of wholeness and balance in their lives. If I can do that well, people will come and bring their friends. That’s how my business will grow.”

And it’s grown a lot. Since going out on her own in 2010 after working at Memorial Healthcare System as a massage therapist, she built up a clientele from 20 to 100 regulars. She wants to get to 500 steady customers.

Thanks to the loan from CAF, Irica is confident that she’ll reach her goal. The funding has allowed her to buy new equipment and signage, pay for building maintenance, and focus on marketing and advertising, Irica says.

Over the years, she’s invested close to $35,000 of her own money into the business, mostly in renovating her current space into a multi-room spa. But the loan has given her room to concentrate on expanding her services and worrying a little less about financing.

“This assistance from the Urban League has been so great,” she says. “Without it, there would be no way I could have qualified for traditional financing. I wouldn’t have met many of the qualifications.”

Several other massage therapists work at Blu Bliss. But Irica’s favorite worker is her 9-year-old daughter who visits after school and enjoys helping out.

“She loves answering the phones and running the front desk,” Irica says. “I love her enthusiasm. She’s seeing how I run my business and she’s picking up great values of what it’s like to work hard and be successful.”

Irica spends a lot of her time planning for the future. She’s constantly looking for clients but she’s also thinking of other business ventures with her family members – perhaps buying apartments and renting them or catering special events. No matter what she does, though, massage therapy will always be a part of her life.

“I love it too much,” she says. “We live in a crazy world. We all need a mental break once in a while. For me, that break comes when I do messages. I find it really soothing. It’s something I’ll always be doing.”

Blu Bliss is located at 9930 NW 6th Ct in Pembroke Pines. To make an appointment, call 954-361-9015. Learn more here: www.feelblubliss.com