Business with very healthy prospects
April 29, 2005
The business: The Alison Smethurst Health and Wellbeing Centre, 15 Friar Street, above Harris Arcade.
The boss: owner Alison Smethurst, 35.
What's your business about? "We are an alternative therapy centre. It's about creating an environment that people can relax in and have an alternative treatment to help them cope with the stresses and diseases of everyday life, and to help them with particular health issues such as migraines, aching and stiff bodies, digestion problems and poor circulation to name a few.
"I really feel that life has become so fast, not only for the people who have really demanding targets and deadlines, but for the entire human race.
"Having the body in this constant state of ‘go' really does lay it open to many forms of
"If I can impart even a little bit of tranquillity and peace into people's lives, along with all the known benefits of reflexology, massage and aromatherapy, then I hope they can travel along life's path with a little bit more ease and grace, allowing their journeys to be easier."
How many employees do you have? "Jessica Lucas, who is an experienced herbalist, Sarah Coleman, who is a trained reflexologist, and Elissa Ernst, a health and beauty therapist, and there will also be a visiting therapist, Mark Deppe, who is an interfaith minister and has been a qualified masseur and reflexologist for many years."
How did you start? "I set up in 1998 after years of globe-trotting, going to some really out of the way places, experiencing and seeing some amazing natural healing techniques.
"Then I started to train in massage and anatomy and physiology, and moved on to reflexology and aromatherapy.
"I started with a mobile practice and then one day as I was walking through Reading, I noticed the empty windows, enquired and got the ball rolling to rent one room. At the time I was not working and received help from the Back to Work scheme and was put in touch with the Berks and Bucks Enterprise Agency. They were absolutely fundamental to my success."
Was it easy or difficult to get started? "Without the support of my family, friends and various agencies it would have been a
What do you like about being your own boss? "I really enjoy what I do and get a lot of personal satisfaction from it. I love treating people and making a difference in their lives, however small.
"I have enjoyed seeing the business grow, enabling more people to get a taste of how alternative therapies can work alongside conventional medicine"
How is the future looking for your business? "I think it's looking very good.
"We are having an open day at the clinic on Friday, May 6, from 1pm to 6pm and on Saturday, May 7, from 10am to 4pm, to let more people know that we are there and what we actually do.
"We will be offering free taster sessions in massage, Indian head massage, hot stone therapy, reflexology and detoxifying and rejuvenating beauty treatments."
What would be the biggest threat to your business? "The large corporations who are the landlords - over the last two years a number of small businesses have gone bust because of the hike in services charge. The rents are high in the town centre."
Do you think that the council or the Government do enough to help businesses? "Reading Borough Council has very recently introduced a rent relief for small businesses as from the start of this tax year, which has obviously been very helpful to me.
"I think they could offer more grants to set up new businesses."
What do you think of the economy at the moment? "It has been sad to see people struggling in Harris Arcade below me.
"I know the internet has affected the small retail businesses as more people are buying on-line."
What is the key to your success? "The location. People can pop in during their lunch hour or at the end of their day.
"My experience, I can pull from many different disciplines and experiences.
"The clients have come to know that the time they do spend with me is their time, I am very focused on what I do and how I treat my clients. They know they will get 100 per cent."