When Shanthy Jayakumar opened her award-winning Harisa Ayurvedic Wellness Center in Amherst, NY, in 2011, she was well-versed in both business management and the ancient art and science of Ayurveda, a holistic health practice that has been used for centuries. Even with extensive business management experience, though, Shanthy ran into some financial challenges that many entrepreneurs face.
Here, she explains how Pursuit helped her overcome them and move her business forward.
Education, hands-on training and years of experience in the field
When introducing a wellness practice to a region that’s largely unfamiliar with it, it helps to have the right credentials, training and experience. Shanthy’s education included a diploma in Ayurvedic Medicine, as well as professional certifications as a licensed massage therapist and a nationally certified therapeutic massage and bodywork practitioner. In addition, she ran an Ayurvedic wellness center in Sri Lanka for nine years.
Still, while practices such as yoga were known and growing in the U.S. by then, Ayurveda’s principles and practices were still fairly new to the Buffalo suburb where she opened her business.
“Most people didn’t know about Ayurveda’s long history and the ways it could help them,” Shanthy explains. “We arranged a lot of retreats and classes to educate people in the community who were interested in learning more. Many of them are long-term clients now.”
Shanthy is the sole owner of the operating business, Harisa Ayurvedic Wellness Center. In addition to her previous experience, several years ago Shanthy took a “financial bootcamp” program offered at the Women’s Business Center at Canisius College to learn more about running a business in Western New York.
Personalized care and complementary practices
Shanthy uses a combination of disciplines to determine a holistic treatment for each of her clients. They include massage therapy, Ayurvedic therapy, Ayurvedic consultation, muscular and skeletal disorders consultation, panchakarma and more. She also subleases space to complementary wellness-based service providers, including other massage therapists.
Shanthy’s tried various marketing and outreach strategies to reach new clients, but she finds that word-of-mouth referrals are the best source.
“We tried a lot of different ways to advertise,” she explains, “but there’s really no better way to gain new customers than by having happy clients tell their friends and family about us.”
In addition, Shanthy developed massage-therapy programs that are now included in several local health-benefit plans.
A SmartLoan to overcome high-interest debt and financial challenges
Like many entrepreneurs, Shanthy did what she had needed to do to get her business up and running. In her case, that meant using high-interest credit cards to renovate and equip Harisa’s location. The payments, though, meant that she had less funding available to reinvest in the business and for marketing, staffing and other day-to-day needs.
She learned about Pursuit through a letter she received in the mail and, weighed down by the financial challenges of high-interest credit card debt, she decided to explore business loan options for the first time in her company’s history.
Soon, she found herself applying online for a SmartLoan and was quickly approved.
Shanthy says, “The process was quick and easy and the Pursuit team was very helpful. We got the loan in early 2019 and paid off the credit cards right away, which immediately eased our financial situation.”
She also took advantage of the financial-management mentoring and educational services that Pursuit provides to borrowers.
“We got our QuickBooks program straightened out and learned how to leverage funding to help with overall financial management. Our team at Pursuit was very helpful and I learned so much.”
Looking to the future, Shanthy wants to further expand the services Harisa offers. In addition, she and her husband established a non-profit foundation, the Veda WNY Foundation, that, she says, “we hope will enable us to educate and serve even more people through classes, events and retreats to share the ancient healing wisdom of Ayurveda.”