The last 18 months have been pretty intense for the Coldham family. Those months started with us making an offer on a commercial letting in High Wycombe to start the ball rolling on opening our new business, in the same month our youngest son was born, and ended with us finding out that we’ve been nominated for not one but two SME Business Awards for Buckinghamshire! We decided to start our business – as only the second franchisees of a brand new business idea – in an effort to get a better work-life balance. We wanted to build a business that would bring something new to the high street, meet a demand, help support the momentum for improving High Wycombe, and enable us to see more of our two boys.
Our story is a slightly crazy one. Mark and I met when we were at Sandhurst, training to be army officers, in 2005. After both joining the Royal Artillery, we ended up going separate ways, and only met back up nearly a decade later when we were both starting new careers in London. We joined forces – professionally and domestically – and ran a small management consultancy business together until last year when we decided to tackle this new project: The Massage Company.
We started the challenge of turning a derelict, asbestos-filled former Halfords, just off the main shopping precinct in High Wycombe, into what would be a 13-room massage centre just a few months into my maternity leave. I spent those early months juggling a baby in one arm whilst managing site visits, calls to our conveyancers, and working with the signage company. Six months in, I went back to work (our consultancy business is keeping a roof over our heads whilst we get the new business off the ground) and Mark took over the final stages of the build, recruitment, marketing and training – in readiness for opening on 4 April 2019.
The Massage Company concept is a simple one – we deliver high quality massage, consistently, on a membership basis, with the idea being that it makes great massage accessible as a routine part of self-care. Mark and I are pretty passionate about the value of investing in looking after our own physical and mental wellbeing, having both sustained serious injuries during our respective military careers, and both managing fairly stressful careers whilst trying to keep our family afloat, so we have been excited about bringing this concept to our local community.
Our centre has now been open for eight months and we’ve given nearly 4000 massages to nearly 3000 people in that time. We have a team of 12 (ten therapists and two front-desk staff) and work closely with the Sports Therapy course at Bucks New Uni in a way that means we attract brilliant newly trained therapists and keep them in the community. Mark runs The Massage Company High Wycombe operationally on a daily basis, whilst I manage our other business, and support this business in the background – many an evening is spent over business plans and spreadsheets at the dining table after our boys have gone to bed (not infrequently with a glass of wine).
Our aspiration is to eventually open another centre, but for now we are focusing on getting The Massage Company High Wycombe through its first few years. We’re excited to see how well the centre has been received and we’re chuffed to bits at having been shortlisted for these two amazing awards – for Best New Business and Business Person(s) of the Year (a joint entry!). It has been such hard work, and feels like it has eaten up every resource we have at times, so it means a tremendous amount to have been recognised in this way.
Can’t wait for the Awards themselves in February… not least because it offers a long over-due date night for Mark and me: we don’t get out much at the moment!