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May 16, 2011 | last updated December 1, 2011 1:11 pm
Newsworthy

Working out the kinks | An attorney-turned-entrepreneur wins $100K to start a massage business

Photo/Chelsea Fournier won the Launch LA entrepren
Photo/Chelsea Fournier won the Launch LA entrepren
An attorney-turned-entrepreneur wins $100K to start a massage business

Why did the lawyer get into the massage therapy business?

If you're waiting for the punch line, you can stop because there isn't one. Attorney Chelsea Fournier is dead serious about this endeavor.

And so is the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, which recognized Fournier and her planned business with its Launch LA Award, created to attract young entrepreneurs to the area.

As the contest winner, Fournier receives close to $100,000 in business startup aid, including rent money, advertising services, accounting and business coaching services — all of which will help get Lifestyles Massage up and running in just a few months.

"We've been able to go from zero to 50 through the contest and because of the exposure we've received on the news," Fournier says. "It really plugs us in to be ready much sooner than we would have been otherwise."

Lifestyles Massage will be "less of a spa experience and more of a professional service to help increase people's overall wellness," the Lewiston native says. In addition to massage therapy, the business will provide education about the overall health benefits of massage.

"We want to break down the hurdle of thinking of massage only as a treat or as acute care and increase awareness of the health and wellness benefits of massage therapy," she says.

That's where Fournier's business partner, Kim Jacques, comes in. She brings a wealth of experience to Lifestyles Massage, where she'll provide massage therapy and education while overseeing day-to-day operations (Fournier will continue to practice law and focus on the company's "high-level management"). She's been a massage therapist for more than a decade and is the director of education at the Spa Tech Institute. She also happens to be Fournier's sister.

The two hatched the idea for Lifestyles Massage long before the contest as a way to get Jacques out on her own as a therapist. They almost didn't enter the contest because Jacques didn't meet the basic criteria (under 30 years old and not living in Lewiston-Auburn).

"I was going through my list of startup clients trying to figure out who could enter," says Fournier, who works with small businesses at Furman Gregory Deptula in Biddeford. "Then my fiancÚ pointed out that we could submit an entry because I qualified."

Following a three-week, online voting period, the official announcement came on March 25.

Fournier and Jacques signed a letter of intent to lease space in Auburn, where they plan to have nine or 10 therapy rooms. They plan to start small this fall by hiring five therapists with the goal of offering benefits and profit sharing, then grow organically. Eventually, they hope to open up to five other locations in areas with similar demographics to Lewiston-Auburn.

So why Lewiston? Aside from being her hometown, Fournier says the LAEGC, together with the Chamber of Commerce, did a great job promoting the area as a place where businesses thrive. She points to the success of Baxter Brewing Co., founded by Luke Livingston, another Lewiston native.

"There's a great business energy in Lewiston," she says. "Overhead is a lot less than in Portland and there's a significant professional network in the area."

Family will play a major role in Lifestyles Massage. Fournier says her nephew plans to work with them over the summer preparing the business for launch, and clients who call to book appointments will most likely have to do so through her mother. "This is more than just a family-owned business; it's really a family project," she says. "It's great to be creating something that will serve as a legacy to future generations."

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