Many of the challenges that we face as a nation can be solved with a strong economy and a thriving job market. When local businesses and entrepreneurs succeed, it positively impacts our entire community.
As a new tax reform plan was unveiled last month, I will be continuing a new feature called “Local Business Spotlight.” Every business has a story to tell and I think they deserve to be heard.
I’d like you to meet Lee Salas (second from the right in the picture above), owner and operator of Massage Envy in Diamond Bar.
Before opening her own business, Lee Salas cut her teeth in the corporate world for over thirty years, rising to the position of senior vice president at a national bank. Like many other hardworking Americans, Lee’s career path was thrown off track during the 2008 recession. She was forced to make the gut-wrenching decision to let go of 210 employees…including herself.
A consequence of three decades in the corporate world, Ms. Salas was looking for a fresh start. After trying her hand in the real estate business, she quickly decided that it was not for her. Still seeking an alternative to another corporate job, Lee’s husband opened her eyes to an intriguing proposition. Mr. Salas was an employee of Massage Envy and showed his wife some of the numbers behind the business. This catalyzed the entrepreneurial spark that propelled Lee out of the corporate world and into the realm of being her own boss.
In 2011 Lee became a Massage Envy franchisee. Since then, she has grown her franchise to employ almost 70 employees over two locations. When asked about what contributed to the success of her small business, Lee emphasized the importance of community relationships. “Getting to know the community makes you part of the community, as opposed to a big business which is just a box name. We’re not that.” Lee emphasizes the importance of forging strong community relationships by including her business in activities like the Diamond Bar Birthday Party, the Diamond Bar Gala, and the Walnut Family Festival.
Although her Massage Envy franchise has been successful since it’s opening, Lee admits that there are challenges involved with owning a business in California. “I talk to business owners in other states and sometimes I think if I didn’t live here, I’d open a business somewhere else.” Everything from worker’s compensation insurance to federal taxes on tip money weighs heavy on Lee’s ability to hire new employees. “When I hire them, I see more state taxes, more federal taxes…you have to work to a certain point just to pay for that.” She believes a tax credit for hiring employees might help alleviate some of the growing pains of owning a business in California.
Despite this, Lee understands that the most important step towards a successful small business is to make employees want to stay working with you. She offers medical, dental, and vision insurance and hopes to expand her employees’ benefits package to included 401k and paid time off. Much to her employee’s delight, one of many things Lee took from her experience in the corporate world is the value of time off from work. “We’re definitely going to do time off next year, my employees deserve a vacation and they deserve for us to pay for it.”
Encapsulating the spirit of small business--which is so important to our economy--Lee Salas’ success story is one to celebrate.
If you know a local business who you’d like to see featured in my Local Business Spotlight, click on the CONTACT ED tab on my website and email me with the name of a local business that has a great story to tell.
To read more about the tax reform plan released last month, click HERE.