What started as a student project to make Still Waters Day Spa more energy efficient in 2011, turned into something that helped the business through a change in ownership.
The Texas Woman’s University Enactus team, a group of students who help local businesses, secured the $1,500 Sam’s Club Step Up for Small Business Project Partnership in November 2011 and began working with the owners to replace the toilet, light bulbs and improve the building’s exterior.
At the time, the spa was owned by Clara Goss and her daughter, Deleena Black, who both felt the then-10-year-old business needed an update.
However, a week before one of the final components, a new sign, was delivered in April 2012, Goss died unexpectedly.
“My mom and I started this together — we were both partners and both equally invested in this,” Black said.
“It was just out of the blue; it came as a huge shock.”
The team and adviser Sandra Gonzales continued to work with Black to begin the transition of being the sole owner.
“Everyone was professional and compassionate, and we did the best we could [after Goss died], but I just didn’t think we were quite finished,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales went back to the national Enactus representatives and asked if they could apply for the grant a second time to help Black transform the business into her vision — a more modern spa focused on overall wellness. The team was awarded the grant for the second time in 2012 to help Still Waters.
“I was shocked when Sandra said we could apply again,” Black said. “Any time you’re in business — and we’ve been here 11 years — you always have little improvements to make along the way.”
Almost immediately, the team used the grant to purchase management software, as Goss had previously managed all of the books, including inventory and appointments, by hand.
The new system allows all employees to have access to the schedule from any computer, clients can make appointments online and most business functions like accounting are handled through the system.
While the internal functions of the spa began to change, the students began to work on marketing plans, a new brochure and a new website design.
“We asked if we could get a group of marketing students to come up with a great plan on a new brochure and we worked with them to design it, and we’re really happy with the brochure we have now,” Black said.
Some of the students even added hardwood floors, updated the decorations and paint and allowed some of the employees to design their own rooms.
“I think it was really exciting for them and increased their morale because they got to make the rooms their own,” said Chanise Small, the student project leader. “Just bringing a new interior to the spa kind of brought a new light to the entire project.”
Additionally, Black hired a chiropractor and esthetician to focus the spa more on wellness, though she stressed the goal of the business has not changed — providing quality services. Black has now been a massage therapist for 18 years.
“She basically has a brand new staff, and she just started new and tried to make this her own,” Gonzales said. “It’s different than how her mother had done things, but it’s the right thing to do. She’s embracing her business.”
In late June, Still Waters held an open house for clients and the community to see the outcomes of the project, something they weren’t able to do last year.
For students like Small who helped on the project, working with a business was a real-world application of skills learned in the classroom and taught them how to use their strengths to help the community. Small, a senior business major who wants to own a spa, said the project confirmed her future career path.
“It was just a very empowering project,” she said. “We all felt like we had something to offer, and felt more empowered by helping Deleena and the spa in general. ... I learned so much from Deleena. I loved it.”
Even though the grant has been implemented, Gonzales says the team will continue to work with Still Waters to monitor data and see the outcomes of the project.
“You don’t just start to help a business and then leave them hanging — so now it will be more of consulting and keeping in touch,” Gonzales said. “We want her to be successful.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.