When she’s not handling business operations, marketing, and accounting at Athens’ Massage Envy, Danielle is taking care of people.

She considers her employees an extension of her family, and her infant daughter has enabled her to transcend an academic knowledge of touch therapy.

Seeking the Next Step

Danielle Barron BensonDanielle grew up in Fayetteville, south of Atlanta, and earned a Business Administration Degree at UGA. After school, she lived the “Buckhead lifestyle” for fourteen years. She worked in Telecom and IT, first for Bellsouth and later for ClickFox, where she identified business inefficiencies by analyzing customer relationship management (CRM), point of sale (POS), and data mining.

Danielle found her job in Atlanta fascinating — she had great clients and had learned a great deal — but she wasn’t passionate about what she was doing. She took a vacation in Sedona, AZ, where she prayed, meditated, hiked, and asked herself, “Where do I go next?”

She began to entertain the idea of starting a business, and searched brokerage websites with the intention of finding an existing business to fix. During her research, Massage Envy kept popping up. She wasn’t interested in franchises, but by a chance encounter at the airport, she was invited into conversation with a Massage Envy franchise owner. After learning firsthand about owning a Massage Envy, Danielle took the encounter as a sign, and did her due diligence.  Massage Envy had 28 locations in Atlanta but none in Athens, so she decided to quit her job and find a tenant for her house. When she announced that she was moving back to her college town to start a massage business, her parents were quick to tell her that she was crazy.

From Technology to Therapy

In launching Massage Envy, Danielle had to learn a whole new industry. She’d spent her professional life working in tech, which is not exactly known for its therapeutic touch. Beyond that, Danielle was fundamentally trained in sales, an entirely different skillset than that necessary to manage employees. She quickly understood that pushing therapists to make sales equated to driving them to quit, so she immediately adjusted her approach. Community management is essentially her greatest role. “All my massage therapists have to do is perform therapeutic body work and I handle everything else like scheduling, laundry, supplies, cleaning, etc.”

In the therapy business, it’s customary to have close relationships between team members and leadership, and Danielle considers it essential that her caregivers feel that she manages them as people first, not employees. A lot of that comes down to creating and nurturing a support network within the business, so single parents, the sick, or those dealing with issues outside of work can rely on Danielle and Massage Envy to support them.

“I think our group appreciates that kind of support, but it’s also who I am. I’m a caregiver, and think of Massage Envy as a way to take care of Athens. It’s tough to balance being the boss and caring deeply. Tough love is a big part, but it’s a last resort.”

A Lover and a Fighter

Danielle considers herself highly industrious: she can find a solution and make it work. “No” is not an answer that fazes her. When seeking the franchise, she was refused three times because the sellers didn’t think she was serious. She changed their minds. She also negotiated a deal on her lease in the popular Epps Bridge area that made opening the doors possible.

Danielle is a tough fighter when it comes to overcoming challenges, but underneath her success is her natural love of caregiving, which extends to her associates as well as her own family at home. Danielle and her husband, Reese Benson of Candid Construction, recently welcomed their first child, Hadley, into their family. Danielle relishes her new role as a mom, and emphasized that it’s brought her appreciation of therapeutic touch to a whole new level.

Danielle also loves nurturing support networks, and knows the significance of opening up and telling her story. When she meets someone she connects with, her first question, and general approach to networking, is “how can I help?” Her goal is to leave a person in a better place than he or she had been when they first met. Danielle knows how challenging it is to start a business with no local contacts, so she facilitate connections in Athens in all the ways she can think of.