Selling relaxation can be a stressful business, says Nova Scotian entrepreneur Catherine Whittaker.
The reiki master and reflexologist started Summerhurt Healing Retreat four years ago as part of a move from working for a medical manufacturer toward offering holistic healing herself.
“I was really up for the challenge. I was just so passionate about what I did; the passion is what pushed me through. Had the logic kicked in, I don’t know if I would have gone as far as I did,” she says.
Summerhurst (summerhursthealing.com) offers full- and half-day “healing packages” at its tranquil rural setting 75 kilometres north of Halifax. Whittaker got it running with the help of a critical start-up financing loan from the Canadian Small Business Financing Program. It started life as Cozy Corner Sauna in Dartmouth, but after two years, Whittaker decided to go in a different direction. She consulted with her clients and created her healing getaway.
“I’ve had months that are like, ‘Wow,’ and months that are like, ‘Oh my heavens, what am I doing?’” she says. “Most business owners will tell you — although they don’t want you to print it — that they’re doing it because they love it, not because of the money.”
Self-employment has big benefits, too.
“You can think outside the box and not be shut down. The market can shut you down, but at least you can go ahead and try it,” she laughs. “Market research only goes so far: You’ve got to have a vision and go for it.”
Asked what advice she would have given herself four years ago, Whittaker thinks for a moment before deciding she wouldn’t offer a word of warning.
“I learned so much about business and myself,” she says. “Yeah, you do take a few extra turns along the road and it takes you much longer to get from point A to point B, but you have so much return when you get there.
“Had things worked out exactly as I was hoping in my business plan from day one, my business would be completely different and I think I would be bored to tears,” Whittaker says.
“You have to keep moving and changing in order to grow.”