SBA Success Story: Elle Day Spa
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SBA Success Story: Elle Day Spa

Berkshire born and raised, Michelle McGuire has always known she wanted to own her own business. In 2006, her childhood ambitions came to fruition in the form of Elle Day Spa. Eighteen years and one relocation later, she’s grateful she followed her heart and for the support of the community that literally made her dreams come true.
 

We recently caught up with Michelle to learn more about the experience of building Elle Day Spa into the thriving business it is today and the resources and partners to whom she entrusts her success and future.
 

1. What inspired you to open the Elle Day Spa?

As a young girl, I was fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs who worked for themselves. I decided early on that’s what I wanted for myself, but I wasn’t sure what form it would take.

After I got my license as an aesthetician and nail tech at the age of 21, I took a job at the then-Cranwell Resort. My arrival happened to coincide with their opening of a formal spa. I don’t think I appreciated it at the time but that front row seat to building a business was incredibly invaluable. I learned so much just watching them build out services and make decisions about everything from software and hiring to marketing and budgeting. It was like going to grad school without the price tag.

Overall, it was an amazing experience but there were things lacking for me personally. I wanted to develop relationships and connections with my clients. But as a resort, there really wasn’t that opportunity. I also wasn’t a fan of the corporate nature of a big operation like that. I understand the how’s and why’s of the structure, but it simply wasn’t fulfilling for me.

I found myself thinking more and more about how I would do it differently if it was my business. Then, in 2005, I decided to make it my business.
 

2. How has your business evolved since the initial opening?

When I opened the doors of Elle Day Spa in 2006, I was renting space from the Crown Plaza Hotel. We had four treatment rooms, a great team of seven to ten employees, and a loyal customer base. For a long time—18 years in fact, it was more than adequate for our needs and what I could handle as a first-time business owner.

As I got more seasoned and confident in running the spa, I began thinking about what I could do to take Elle to the next level. The first realization was that we needed a space big enough to handle our growing client list and one that offered a peaceful experience from arrival to departure. I wanted a more serene setting than what we had downtown and one where parking was super easy. As they say, easier said than done.
 

3. What challenges did you face in finding and establishing a new location?

To say it was difficult to find a commercial location that checked all my boxes is an understatement. I spent five years, including the COVID years, looking at properties. For reasons ranging from price point and taxes to square footage and getting approval from the building inspector, it was a long and difficult search. Somewhere along the way I realized the perfect property didn’t exist; I was going to have to buy something and renovate it to my vision.

Eventually, I circled back to a property I had looked at in Lanesborough the first year of my search. I initially wrote it off because the price was north of $200,000. At some point it went off the market. When it went back up several years later, the owners were eager to retire so they dropped the price to $75,000. I paid cash two days after it was listed.

 

4. What role did your banking relationship play in making a new location a reality?

Elle Day Spa wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for my banking partner, Pittsfield Cooperative Bank. But to be honest, I didn’t start there.

At first, I turned to the bank I had been using for 18 years. It just seemed logical that they’d be vested in my business growth. Instead, it felt like they didn’t take me seriously and they kept throwing up obstacles that made it incredibly hard to get the financing I needed. After hitting brick wall after brick wall and, really, being made to feel like a number not a person with a dream and solid business plan, I approached Pittsfield Cooperative Bank.

I can’t express what a night and day experience it was and continues to be. The loan officer was genuinely excited about my business plan. I immediately felt like they were partnering with me rather than doing me the favor of considering my needs. Calls and texts were returned promptly, they helped with the paperwork, and I wasn’t bounced around from person to person. Honestly, they were running their business the way I was running mine, with integrity and a personal touch.

Even when I went over budget and called up crying (I really did that!), the loan officer talked me off the ledge and said, ‘let’s just re-evaluate what’s going on.’ Getting the second part of the financing was so easy and seamless.

When we had our ribbon cutting, the bank president Jay Anderson and my loan officer were both on hand to celebrate what we had done. And I really do mean “we.” I went from being a number at my last financial institution to being a part of a supportive community that worked as hard as I did to make things happen.

 

5. What’s the next big dream and how and when do you anticipate that coming together?

What’s next is even more growth!

Since we opened in Lanesborough, we’ve doubled our book of business. Every day we see at least eight to nine new customers. It’s so much more than I imagined.

This spring we’ll be expanding from the current seven treatment rooms to 10. We’re going to add more chairs and tables for manicures and pedicures and I’m even considering all-new services. Plus, we’re going to pave the parking lot.

What’s really nice about building out the vision this time is I’m not wondering who’s going to help me. I already know that Pittsfield Cooperative Bank is in my corner and they’re going to be in my corner for as long and as big as I want to build my business.

 

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