The player: Puseletso Modimogale
The business: Therapeutic Touch Studio (2002)
The concept: Massage and wellness services for stress management
Contact: +27 (0)82 689 9611 or www.therapeutictouch.co.za
When qualified somatologist Puseletso Modimogale started her own stress relaxation business in 2002, she wore all the hats a start-up entrepreneur does. But as her business grew and she added products, corporate services and more staff to the equation, she learned important lessons about the risks involved with expanding too much too fast.
While completing her 2 year work experience with another company, Modimogale saved as much money as she could and bought some necessary equipment. But it was some of her loyal clients and family that helped with other furniture to get her started. Modimogale still needed additional funding and support though, so she approached the National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Trade and Industry for advice.
Modimogale explains that while she was a one-man band she could maintain her profit margins, but she experienced trouble with breaking even one the business began to expand because each time the business required additional staff, her expenses grew too. “We also bought premises instead of renting and because of these things we actually only started breaking even as recently as this year,” Modimogale explains. She now has six full-time employees and 25 casual staff available for corporate events.
She also experienced the disruptive and negative impact of not hiring the right candidate because of budget restraints. “You’re so focused on cost cutting in the beginning that I made the mistake of not putting enough emphasis on marketing strategy, and hiring the wrong person because the price was right. I didn’t realise that if I hired the right person from the start, the money would come and a lot of problems could have been avoided,” she says. One of these problems was hiring leadership not capable of delivering, which had the compounded effect of losing sight of the business plan that hindered its growth and success.
Bending with the wind
Despite these growing pains, the recession became an important turning point for the business. Modimogale realised that low entry barriers into the beauty industry made competition fierce and trying to keep up was unsustainable. “Because of this I shifted the business’s focus away from the salon (50-50) and placed greater emphasis on corporate services (80-20).
Sometimes life forces you to change even when you’re not ready, and making the shift from salon to corporate was a challenge because it forced me out my comfort zone, but it also helped the business,” she says. “I had to learn the corporate language and put a lot of effort into getting them to sign long term contracts and get referrals for other corporates corporate clients,” Modimogale says.
I’ve had a lot of guidance and mentorship that has helped my business evolve and grow, but I attended the Microsoft Women Entrepreneur Development Programme, because I want to develop my business skills more. My vision is to build a business that will live for my kids and grandchildren. I don’t want it to end when I die like a lot of other businesses. This means I have to develop the business and separate myself from it,” she says.
Modimogale has been approached by her corporate clients to offer her services in other provinces. Where in the past she collaborated with other salons to provide the service she is currently in the piloting stage of developing a mobile salon that will allow therapists to buy a fully equipped mobile unit and sign licencing agreements
“Women are emotional beings and business doesn’t need emotions,” says Modimogale. “Our decisions are often cluttered by many other things but at times you have to be able to say ‘a cup is a cup’ and not read into it personally,” she says.
To Modimogale, business is like a marriage. “You go in not knowing everything and you learn things as you go along. You have to work on things. So you mustn’t think divorce the minute you find dirty socks on the floor,” she laughs. “Go into business with open mindedness”.
Modimogale also stresses the importance of getting to know your business and yourself within the business before adding partners. “Many people make the mistake of thinking a partner will be the solution. But finding a partner means you have to understand that person while you’re also trying to understand the business, so you’re giving yourself double the work. Believe in yourself first,” she says.