Snake massages – a ‘cool’ option

Therapist Chaune Ruddy focuses on holistic healing, with her slithery helpers for braver clients needing to de-stress

Offering a massage with a rather unusual difference, Chaune Ruddy’s pet snakes have become popular with “some” adventurous clients. She believes this sets her business – Balance Holistic Massage – apart in an already competitive industry in Port Elizabeth.

Ruddy, 23, has been growing her business for the past five years and hopes to expand into a fully-fledged day spa.

How was the business started?

With my mom being a nurse, I have always liked to help people but to become a chiropractor like I initially wanted to was out of my means at the time.

I then opted for muscles instead of bones and started with my studies in 2013. After six months, I was qualified and I started my mobile massage services.

I focus on holistic therapy and alternative healing, natural remedies and allowing the body to heal itself.

What is your core service?

My focus is on the natural approach so I do aromatherapy. I do have diplomas in nutrition but we focus on the holistic element most.

How was your idea born?

I have always wanted to help people and this was perfect. It helps people de-stress and relax.

Nine out of 10 times ailments are caused because of stress, so if we eliminate the stress you have a healthier immune system and a more productive work ethic.

Everyone wants a quick-fix, something done overnight. If you have a headache you take a pill and while it might numb the pain, it is not fixing the problem.

What makes your business unique?

I wanted to do something unique and different, something that would bring people specifically to my business. So I did a bit of research on the different massages available and I stumbled upon this woman in Israel who offers snake and rodent massages.

So I tried both of them out. The snakes are very relaxing with cool scales, so it’s perfect for summer.

Rodents, however, are very ticklish due to their tiny claws so that didn’t work out very well, but the snakes definitely stuck.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

If you are looking to start any business, you need to find out if what you want to offer is actually what people around you are willing to pay for.

Be like any entrepreneur. Find out what service you are wanting to provide and if it is going to be needed. Research is key.

What were some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced initially?

Capital was my biggest inhibitor, as well as getting people to use my service. Another big one is to get your name out there – the more exposure the better, which I’ve learnt is not always easy.

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?

Clients not pitching is a huge setback because I could have filled that timeslot with another client. As a business owner, you rely on that income and we can’t bill people like the doctors do.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about success?

Patience is key. Never give up and keep the faith. Every challenge is a lesson learnt. Learn from your mistakes.

How do you measure or define success in your business?

I measure my success on how busy I am as well as my regular clients and the feedback they give me.

What kind of advertising do you do?

Facebook played a very important role. I had Groupon and that got me through the first year. Word of mouth is also important.

What is your company’s vision?

I want to ensure my clients are healthier because people live and work under stressful conditions and I’d like to see my business become a part of people’s lives.

I also want to see people take care of themselves and contribute to society by just being relaxed.

What is your target market?

Everyone who leads stressful lives. We cater for sports people, people who need to relax and take time out, pregnant women, as well as couple massages.

Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?

A day spa we want to open in Theescombe by the end of the year. It will have hairdressers, yoga and pilates studios, a nanny to look after the kids, as well as all the beauty treatments and a coffee shop.

A lot of people think Theescombe is far out but the reason we want to open the business a bit away from the city is so that our clients can be in a relaxing environment away from their busy lives.

How did you acquire funding for the business?

I started my business with capital I acquired from tutoring and slowly as the money grew, I could pump that into my business. Piece by piece it grew.

Once you had funding, what was the first step in actually launching the business?

Finding the right location, a place where the business could thrive and bring a lot of foot traffic through the door.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey so far?

Do not judge and remain neutral. The loveliest people who enter in a foul mood could surprise you when they leave feeling relaxed and that hardcore personality has dropped.

What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Port Elizabeth?

PE people do not want to spend a lot of money, but on the plus side we are a very homely city.

How important has mentorship been to you in your journey as entrepreneur?

My lecturer Bernadette Botha helped me get my business to where it is today. Mentorship is absolutely important.

She is always quick to give advice and tips on how to go about things in the business and what’s great is her motto is about paying it forward.