Brian Lam believes in vision. In 2011 he visualized a business he wanted to create. Five years later, Skin+Touch Therapy, is a thriving part of historic downtown Fredericksburg. “I wanted to work for myself, but I also wanted to create something that wasn’t existing in the marketplace,” Lam says. “I saw an opportunity here in Fredericksburg.”
Lam’s boutique spa offers excellent customer service and collaborations with other businesses. Lam’s idea was to combine small service businesses with the convenience of a larger chain business. “In my industry, there were either individual practitioners or chain massage spas,” he says. “I wanted something independently owned with a group of practitioners.” For example, he partners with a local yoga studio to provide prenatal yoga and massage packages.
Lam decided to seek professional advice. “Since I was a recent transplant from New York, I needed to find out if there were specific Virginia laws I needed to know,” he says. He googled “business advice” and found the University of Mary Washington SBDC. “In starting my business, I found the SBDC really great and customer friendly. They gave me a lot of information,” he says.
Initially, the SBDC assisted Lam in developing marketing and financial systems. When Lam decided to buy his building, he worked with the SBDC to update a business plan, forecast cash flows, and complete required documentation to qualify for a 504 loan. He recently renovated the second floor of the building and added five more massage rooms.
“We offer small-business customer service along with the convenience of what bigger spas offer,” Lam says. “With help from the SBDC we’ve created a niche in the middle—a good place to be.”
Lam is also active in the community, volunteering on the board of Fredericksburg’s Main Street Program. “There used to be a lot of vacant store fronts on Main Street,” he says. “Now downtown is picking up its pace.” He believes all small business owners should take advantage of the services the SBDC offers. “The business world is always evolving,” he says. “The SBDC services are invaluable.”