Megan Richardson-Tiernan and Gretchen Tiernan are both former college basketball players who came to the love the health benefits of regular massages. As their time as athletes came to an end, the couple decided to go into business together to create an affordable one-stop spa. Today Megan and Gretchen run Sand Spa, which offers facials, massages, skin care, waxing and nail care at a whopping twelve locations in Southern California with another two on the way. The partners in life and business are proud of the diverse and welcoming spaces they have created, while keeping ever focused on expansion and continued company growth.
The Tiernans’ story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
The inspiration behind Sand Spa came from our background as college athletes. We both played basketball at universities in Southern California and became accustomed to the benefits – and enjoyments – of weekly massage treatments for sore muscles, aches and overall relaxation. Athletics in college are incredibly demanding, and we really just enjoyed those moments of rest and relaxation built into our schedules. Once we wrapped up our careers, we realized that although we loved the benefits of massages, we simply could not afford to keep this habit up on our own. So we decided to create Sand Spa: a one-stop, affordable spa – because we believe that spa days shouldn’t only be saved for special occasions.
How do you define success?
Building something from the ground up and holding a space for other people to come and enjoy a place we have created. It is rewarding for us to be able to bring an idea to life, the processes of dreaming, planning and executing is the ultimate reward.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
Continuing to build organically and staying true to who we are. We are able to remain malleable while building. Whether it be mandated closures from the pandemic or other problems that arise, we are able to evolve and seize different opportunities. Being open to those opportunities has helped our businesses grow tremendously over the years.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
The evolving repercussions of the pandemic have been the most problematic. We are lucky to have had such an amazing core group of employees that respect their work and their work ethic, with them we have been able to stay safe and overcome a lot of what we see plaguing the workforce. However, we could definitely use more employees and service providers across the board.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
In our businesses, we have always wanted to create a culture that is welcoming and accepting of all walks of life. We love having racial diversity in our locations and we take everyone for who they are as people and how they do their job. As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, it has always been important for us to embrace who we are as individuals and to show up as our authentic self in every situation. We do this because we want others to show up and feel comfortable enough to show up as their authentic self. We want our staff, and our clients, to feel at home when they come through our doors. We may not be for everyone, but we are for anyone.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Nothing is ever going to go as planned – there is no perfect time for anything so just go out and go for it. Your dream will work if you do. There is also a fine line between being inspired by someone else’s story and trying to apply that story to your own life. You have to write your own book. You really have to hustle to make your idols your rivals.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
We often change up our routine – inspiration can be found in places you don’t always look first. It could be finding someone’s Instagram that brings out something different in you, or listening to a podcast that sparks a new idea. We believe diversifying the people, and things, you absorb is the key to constantly growing.
Who is your most important role model?
We have had quite a few role models through our 20’s and now early 30’s. The people who continue to inspire us, and who we see ourselves in, are the ones that are ever evolving. Our parents have been major in shaping who we are individually and giving us a solid foundation of resilience because of who they are innately – to some degree the intangible that they embody are naturally downloaded into our DNA. Megan and I both have also always looked up to Kobe Bryant, and carry the mamba mentality everywhere we go. ◼
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