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Alternative healing spa models business after Costco

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Jing Sun was born in Shenyang, China and received her degree in accounting in Dalian, China. After moving to the states in 2001, she immersed herself in American culture and received her Bachelor of Science in business administration -- finance. She soon traded her career in accounting for entrepreneurship and opened her first spa in 2009.

Q: You graduated with a degree in finance, worked in accounting and then turned to entrepreneurship, opening your first spa in Sacramento just two months after quitting your job. How difficult a transition was that?

A: The funny thing is it was not difficult; it came to me naturally. It was hard work, as opening this spa has been. I work 12-hour days seven days per week, but I enjoy it. I'm happy. Do something you love or otherwise it's not worth it. A lot of people feel empty. There's no substance in their lives. People are busy, but they don't know what they're busy for. They don't know what they're doing every day, but they feel bombarded.

The good thing about working for someone else is you don't carry the stress home. You don't think about it 24/7.

Q: You have an interesting business model, based on volume -- in other words, more work for less pay. Why did you select this model? And has it proven, thus far, to be successful?

A: It's like Costco: Value is the intersection of great prices and great quality. We make money by volume. My perspective is massage benefits everyone, from those with diabetes, like my mother, whose health has increased tremendously since receiving bodywork -- to the average, overworked individual. We need maintenance work. You need to have your own time. We endure the stresses of daily life and we rarely think about ourselves, especially women. I want everybody to experience the benefits of bodywork.

Yes, the model has been successful because we provide a courtesy service. I'm sure you can find a slightly lower price elsewhere, but not a lower price with this level of quality. That's how we differentiate ourselves from other businesses. It's like I may find someone prettier or funnier or smarter than you or more good-hearted than you, but one person encompassing all those traits is hard to find.

Q: How important is community? In other words, your spa is a part of the San Diego community, but more specifically, the Hillcrest community. Aside from running a business, how important is your role in the Hillcrest community?

A: It's very important. First of all, I love this area. I think it's the liveliest area of San Diego. Individuals here are creative and caring. All my neighbors are nice and people really care -- and they're fun. They tend to work out, eat well and enjoy this walkable community. They take advantage of the big farmers market. But people here are busy. The businesses are open late, so we stay open late because people come here after work to relax. If you feel better and rest better, you'll think better and do your daily work better.

Q: You own the spa with your brother William, a massage therapist and bodyworker. What are the merits and difficulties of working with family?

A: On the positive side, we know each other well. We grew up together and, thus, know how to communicate. Because we are family, I don't resent working harder than him and, likewise, if he has a heavy day of bodywork, he doesn't vent his frustration. In the end, you do what's best for your family. We do, however, have our moments.

Q: In terms of services, what sets your spa apart from other beauty clinics and salons?

A: Our practitioners are dually certified in both China and the U.S., so treatments incorporate Chinese medicine, using the body's meridians to diagnose and heal, and Western relaxation massage techniques. We offer reflexology, which incorporates full body healing, and infrared sauna and body detoxification -- both of which help clear the body of toxins. Every technique is done with both healing and relaxation in mind, not just relaxation. Outside of therapeutic treatments, we focus on beauty from the inside out, rather than focusing strictly on aesthetics, as many medical spas do. We make our clients feel great and when people feel great, their mood elevates; when they are in a good mood, they look great. That is true beauty!

Q: You've lived in San Diego for nine years. Is the county fertile ground for alternative healing? How has it changed since you arrived?

A: I arrived as a student and was unaware of the zeitgeist of that time. A friend of mine is a doctor, who practices locally, and he's used to Western doctors not accepting Eastern treatments. Many Western doctors dismiss Eastern holistic treatment because they think there's no proof that they work. More and more, however doctors are taking an integrative approach to medicine. With globalization, the whole world is beginning to accept this philosophy. Think about it this way: Your car parts are made in China, assembled in Mexico and shipped to Canada for the rest. People take the best part of every culture. You can eat Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, French. That's the beautiful thing about America and one of the things I most appreciate. It's an amalgam of cultures -- all valued.


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