Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dr. Gretchen Rivas D.Ac., C.SMA., LMBT, Owner of Infinity Acupuncture, located in Wilmington, NC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I own two businesses. Relax! Massage Therapy and Skin Care and also Infinity Acupuncture. Our clients and patients are people who understand there is a better way to live and solve health challenges than the Western model of pills and surgery.
Tell us about yourself
I began my healing career as a massage therapist after receiving a really bad massage on a cruise. Realizing I could do better and get paid for it, I enrolled in massage therapy school and became a licensed MT in 2002. I first received acupuncture around 2003 for front hip pain that wouldn’t go away and seemed to have no source. That healed and I went on living my life as a massage therapist and business owner of Relax! Massage Therapy and a part-time instructor at Miller-Motte College. One of the classes I was asked to teach was Energetics. This included the basics of Chinese Medicine and other energy-based modalities. Of course, I had to learn the basics of Chinese Medicine in order to teach it, and that was what really tweaked my interest in becoming an acupuncturist!
The more massages I did, the more I realized, “If I knew how to do acupuncture, I could help people heal at an even deeper level.” With over six years as a massage therapist and a BS in Business from the University of South Carolina, I enrolled in the Masters of Acupuncture Program at Jung Tao School of Classical Chinese Medicine in Sugar Grove, NC. The program at Jung Tao is different from traditional acupuncture schools in that we learn the concepts of Chinese Medicine on a deeper level. After three years of intensive study, we spent a year in the clinic, practicing on patients that drove in for help from miles around. I graduated and opened my acupuncture practice, Infinity Acupuncture, in 2011. I went back to the Pacific College of Health and Science and got my doctorate in 2019. in 2021 I began to study under Matt Callison, and in April 2023, I became a Certified Sports Medicine Acupuncturist.
The beauty of it all is people get well! They come in as trainwrecks physically, mentally, and emotionally at the end of their ropes, and they return to health! People in pain walk again, move again, and have a life again! People that are depressed and anxious walk out feeling better and happier. Over and over, I treat people who thought there was no hope for their situation, and they leave with hope in their souls and more spring in their step. I practice acupuncture because I love seeing people get well and return to the health that has eluded them for years. It is one of the safest ways to heal, with no drugs, no surgery, just a few needles, some moxa or cupping, and amazing things begin to happen!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My first big accomplishment was expanding my massage business, hiring other massage therapists, and having my first employee. (That seems so long ago!) Now, between the two companies, we do over $1 million in gross revenue per year, employ over 20 women (and a couple of men), and help people from all walks of life get well again. I'd say the biggest thrill was when we hit our first million in revenue, it was so exciting! Now, it is standard, but I still remember that year when we made it for the first time!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
For me, the biggest challenge is being a good leader. When you have a team of people who depend on you to grow the company so they have a career that sustains them, there is a lot of pressure to get things right. I have made many mistakes over the years when it comes to leading my team, but I've continued to grow and get better, not only for them but for my family and me. When I am a better leader, I am a better wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and healer.
Another challenge is staying focused on priorities. Giving time to the Big Rocks and not frittering valuable time away on the smaller things. It's easy to get pulled into many different directions. I have to stop and ask myself, is this the most important thing I should be working on right now?
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Make sure your team complements you. (Not flattery, but supportively) You can't do it all, so hire people to do the things you're not great at doing. I despise spreadsheets and numbers, and my OM, Jennifer, loves them! We are opposite in many ways but complement each other tremendously because of it.
- Have a group of peers to run ideas by and through. A Mastermind Group. You need people who will see things you can't see, call you out on things your team won't, and help you strategize as only fellow business owners can.
- Devise and LIVE by your core values. A valuable lesson I learned several years ago was if I'm not willing to lose money over my core values, they're not really my values. I've had to live by that and make tough decisions because of it. For example, one of our core values is integrity. We had a massage therapist whom we found out was lying about things. He was one of our hardest workers and brought a lot of money into the company. Letting him go would cost us a lot of revenue until we found a replacement. But, as hard as it was, he was in direct violation of one of our core values, so we had to cut him loose. It can't be all about the money...your team is watching you and will judge you by the way you live up to the standards you set.
Where can people find you and your business?
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