Small Business Invests in Retreat for Women
For any start-up, a noteworthy milestone is the owner’s first paycheck. For Michelle Long, owner of Bloom Retreat in Walnut Creek, the key to sustainability was evolving her concept and growth strategies with the steadfast support of the Contra Costa Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
Michelle enrolled in a business planning and marketing classes in 2010 at the SBDC and initially identified her target market as mothers with young children residing within a 10 minute drive from her location on North Main Street. With an investment of over $100,000 and sales far below projections, Michelle realized she needed a loan to sustain her operations and reach the break-even point.
With the guidance of the SBDC she was able to secure a line of credit to stabilize her cash flow and one year later was approved for a working capital loan of $40,000. She continued to refine her product/service mix based on her observations of the consumption patterns of her clients.
The company truly began to bloom when Michelle discovered that the classes she offered gave clients too much flexibility to drop-in/pay as you go as opposed to prepaid packages. This made cash flow more difficult to predict and perhaps most importantly, her vision for Bloom, a supportive environment and community for building mind, body and spirit wasn’t fully realized.
Through trial and error as well as countless conversations with her clients, supported throughout with advising from the SBDC, Michelle realized her target market was too narrow. There simply weren’t enough mothers with young children within driving distance to support her business model. So, Michelle expanded her marketing efforts to include all women within a 10 mile radius of her location.
A second important change was no longer offering drop-ins and requiring clients to purchase packages. With this pivot in her operations and the client experience, classes and enrollments doubled almost immediately with a corresponding increase in revenues. After four years of fine-tuning and listening to her market, Bloom Retreat is profitable and its founder is drawing a much-deserved salary.
“We are counter culture to what’s happening in other gyms and yoga studios,” says Michelle. “We talk to our clients during class and build community.”
Michelle continues to listen to her clients with the goal of refining operations and offering additional services like the Ultimate Retreat. Bloom, like it’s those it proudly serves is healthy and thriving because of the lessons learned and applied by its founder with guidance and support along the way from the SBDC.