When Bruce Schoenberg opened the Oasis Day Spa 19 years ago, his company operated without a facility to call home; Oasis only made house calls and appeared at events. Since those humble beginnings, Oasis has become a well-known spa throughout New York State. Some of the most important lessons Schoenberg has learned, he said, are to never act too quickly and to always do your homework. That's what has made Oasis Day Spa a success, he said. Schoenberg went behind the business plan with Business News Daily to discuss starting out with an idea and growing it into a thriving business.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Bruce Schoenberg: Oasis Day Spa is a beauty, relaxation and wellness business providing personal services to our valued customers, including skin care, massage therapy and wellness services.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Schoenberg: Oasis has been in business for 19 years. In 1997, we did not have our own facility, but [instead] provided outcall services and worked events for the company's first year. It didn't take long thereafter for the first Oasis Day Spa to open, in 1998.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Schoenberg: I would say that I had a more informal and unique approach when starting Oasis. I began with spending 40 to 60 hours in the New York Public Library reading everything I could not only on the spa industry, but [on] financials and business structures as well. I also made sure to research with accountants and lawyers what the legalities were to own a spa, license therapists, etc., in the state of New York. I then "did my homework" by bringing together potential customers in a focus group. I advertised and worked with friends to find people who were spa-goers, and found more than 35 potential spa-goers to get their feedback on what they liked and didn't like about the industry. I also ran focus groups for people that worked in the industry to find out what it was that made them want to work at a spa. We talked to the focus groups about everything from the colors in the spa to the size of the rooms. Then I determined that the market to go after was the working professional.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Schoenberg: Initially, I financed 60 percent of the business myself, and was able to borrow the remaining amount from my family. I had a track record of being an extremely hard and focused worker in my previous professions, so it wasn't an issue but [instead] more of an excitement for my family to get involved with the opening of Oasis. As the business grew, we were able to start taking out loans when needed. For example, during the opening of our Westchester location, we were able to apply for a very substantial loan based on our revenue and reputation.
BND: How much did you invest personally?
Schoenberg: Personally, I invested all of my time and energy into building the Oasis brand and reputation. I also paid out of pocket to get professional consulting when needed in order to make more informed and logical decisions.
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset, or has it changed significantly over time?
Schoenberg: Oasis has exceeded the vision we had when first starting out. Never did I expect to acquire such strong brand recognition throughout the greater New York area. Now, instead of working for months on end to close a deal, the deals come to me.
BND: What are some lessons you've learned? Is there anything you would've done differently?
Schoenberg: I've learned never to act too quickly, and to be cautious and ethical when making business decisions. As one of my biggest mentors, I've always turned to my dad for advice and consolation. One of the best lessons he's taught me during this entire process was, "There's really no big secret here — you're going to have to work hard to get to where you want to go." If I could do anything differently it would be to make more time for myself and my family. There are highs and lows that come with launching a business, and it's important to find and maintain a healthy balance.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Schoenberg: The most important factors that contributed to my success were doing all of the research and homework, worrying as much as I did, and picking the right locations and the right people to work for you. You have to surround yourself with good people and realize that you can't do it all alone. Having the right lawyer, accountants [and public relations people] can make all the difference in your success.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Schoenberg: I am looking to do more product-based work, and also plan to re-brand Oasis a bit in the future. We're still going to define ourselves as "affordable luxury," but I would like to add more of a luxury feel in certain aspects of the spa. I have also considered pursuing a more high-end boutique location. I don't see myself ever retiring, so it is just a matter of time.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Schoenberg: My best advice to someone with a great business idea is to make sure they find experts within the industry that will guide them. It takes a long time to make money, and you can lose it really fast, which is a horrible feeling. You need to have the ability to look at the potential downside and not let your emotions get in the way of making business decisions. It is going to be worth the amount of time it takes to become successful.