What started as a massage therapy business has become a full-fledged wellness clinic with a growing set of capabilities. Meet the owner behind this blossoming business and find out how it continues to grow with its team.
Leila MacQueen opened Circle of Wellness in 2008, but many years of hard work preceded that milestone.
“I probably put in 70 to 100 hours a week for eight years, if not longer,” she says. “I worked my butt off. And then, when we opened, I think it was four years before I actually received a salary. I would say the key to success is to keep your overhead down and be willing to put in the work.”
Born and raised in Rockford, MacQueen graduated from massage therapy school in 2001, working toward her larger goal of opening her own wellness clinic. For seven years, she filled her schedule by working with various doctors, from chiropractors to orthopedists, providing massage therapy to patients.
When she opened her own business, originally established as My Massage Sanctuary, it was just her and one employee.
“We started off really slow,” she recalls. “For the first two years it was only massage therapy – we were kind of like a muscle pain clinic. ”
But after expanding and hiring Dr. James Morgano, a certified chiropractic sports physician and certified acupuncturist, in 2010, MacQueen rebranded her business to Circle of Wellness.
Looking back, it was the right decision.
“We were doing more than massage, so we needed to change the name,” she says.
As the years have progressed, MacQueen has learned the importance of being patient with herself and her staff. She believes that growth comes from making mistakes and learning from them.
“You don’t know how to handle situations until you’ve gone through them,” she says. “But I’ve always prided myself on the fact that if I’m not happy with the way I handled something, I always back up and redo. So you own it, just as you should always own everything you’ve done. Everybody’s human. If you weren’t correct in your words or behavior, then make it right.”
Today, Macqueen’s team consists of more than 15 massage therapists, two chiropractors, a rehab technician, acupuncturist, esthetician, reflexologist and nutritionist. Later this year, a nurse practitioner will join the team. In addition to massage therapy, Circle of Wellness offers acupuncture, chiropractic services, reflexology, in-house X-rays, and lab testing for food allergies, vitamin/mineral levels and more. New services become available as the staff acquire new skills and certifications. For example, Dr. Colleen Noe, a licensed chiropractor with a focus on geriatric care, recently became certified in hypnotherapy for hypnobirthing, which utilizes hypnosis techniques to encourage a less stressful labor during birth.
Next up, Circle of Wellness is opening a medical spa this September to offer skin care services to patients.
It’s a long way from the days of just offering massage therapy.
“We’re still growing and expanding, which is exciting,” MacQueen says. “We focus on all kinds of natural wellness care. Nothing hoaxy-poaksy – we’re very straightforward. And it’s individualized care, so you won’t be cattled along like how it’s done at a lot of places where you go through the system, sit down and get adjusted, and then leave. Here, we could have five patients with the same problem, but they’re all treated differently. We’re not cookie cutter.”
The economic collapse of 2008 came mere months after Circle of Wellness opened, but MacQueen persevered by keeping overhead costs low. Even though she would have loved to locate Circle of Wellness farther up East State Street or on East Riverside Boulevard, she purposefully picked 3626 E. State St., Rockford, for its low rent. The storefront may look small on the outside, but the buildout is deceivingly large inside.
She also meticulously recorded incoming and outgoing payments. Microsoft Excel was like her second Bible.
“I have a spreadsheet for everything,” MacQueen emphasizes. “People make fun of me, but it pays off. I know how many new clients have been here this past week. I know how many regulars re-booked and how many new insurance patients we have. You need to have protocols in place to track everything, because if you’re not keeping track of your volume versus your payout, you’re not going to know when you’re drowning and closing down. It’s just good business management to know.”
MacQueen also credits her business’s longevity to her employees. It’s always been important to her that they’re paid higher than others in the area. Starting pay for massage therapists is $22 an hour, not including tips. There’s also a signing bonus for new hires.
“It’s a very competitive market and there aren’t many massage therapists out there – they’re highly sought out – but honestly, I just believe everything is fate,” MacQueen says. “I believe God brings them to me. There’s no other explanation.”
Though she doesn’t work 100-hour weeks anymore, MacQueen still puts in more than 50 hours since it’s important to her to be supportive of her staff and their needs.
“Always remember that your team’s success is your success,” MacQueen says. “We’ve always provided a good income, 401(k), dental, health care, vision – all of that stuff so they can invest in their future. I’m really lucky to have some of the very, very best people in the area. That’s made us successful, because if they weren’t good, then we wouldn’t be busy. And of course, our prices are low because our volume of patients is high, so that’s how we’re able to do it.”
Being a self-proclaimed “workaholic” is second nature to MacQueen. When she’s not at work, her “free time” is spent being a mom to her 7-year-old daughter and mentor to her 23-year-old son.
“I’m really proud of building this business from the ground up,” MacQueen says. “I’m the only owner, so everything that is developed here comes from me. It’s who I am.”