I received complimentary spa services from Sway Spa to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
I started working when I was in seventh grade. I did some administrative work at my family’s synagogue, and though I was still young, I had a huge sense of pride being able to work and make my own money. However, just as soon as I started that job it was taken away from me. (It turns out that according to the fine state of New Jersey, at 13 I was too young to legally work.)
Besides that little bump on my road to joining the workforce, I’ve had it pretty easy. Sure, I have applied to more jobs than I can possibly remember and my fair share of interviews I thought I aced only to find out the job was offered to somebody else. Otherwise I have taken it for granted how easy it has been to work here in the United States, let alone starting my own business.
For many that is not the case, especially if you were not born here. At my previous job I supervised a team of part-time staff members, many of whom had emigrated here from other countries. I can’t tell you how many of them had high-level positions in their home countries only to have to start their careers all over again on top of having families to support. I can tell you, though, that not a single one of these people takes for granted the ability to work here.
Today I want to share with you the story of fellow female entrepreneur and mom named Sweta. Like many of the women I supervised, she has had to restart her career here in the United States and with many hurdles along the way. She shares, “Having born in a country that was already independent at the time of my birth, I never really understood the meaning of freedom. But recently I just felt what it is like to be ‘free’ and independent.” Despite the long road ahead of her, she never let her dream of starting her own business falter, and her story is really quite inspiring.
Making a dream a reality
Nestled between Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street in Boston, just a few blocks away from Fenway Park and with the famous Citgo sign in clear view, is a gorgeous and inviting spa called Sway Spa. Getting a facial there from Sweta was like being in an oasis in what can be an extraordinarily busy part of the city (especially during a home Red Sox game!). The first time I was there I was welcomed in the sun-filled reception area with lime water. As someone who tends to be on the more tense than relaxed side, I immediately felt a sense of calm as soon as I stepped into the spa and I received the most relaxing massage I have had since before Eve was born.
The thoughtfully decorated walls of Sway Spa hold more than just cozy pedicure chairs and Aveda products, though; they hold the story of perseverance and a dream fulfilled.
Originally from India, Sweta decided to pursue her passion in skin care. She worked in the field for three years before her husband relocated here and had to put her dream on hold as she was not allowed to legally work. Finally after waiting nearly nine years, Sweta received her Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows someone who is not a U.S. citizen to legally work here. The same day she received the EAD, she went to the Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics so that she could go on her way to becoming a certified esthetician here in the U.S.
Sweta was determined to pursue her dream of starting her own spa. However, with no business experience and little money in the bank to start her business, she was met with rejection as potential landlords refused to rent out their space so that she could open her spa. Finally, thanks to Alumni of the MIT fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa, “who were impressed by her dedication, business plan and vision,” Sweta was able to make her dream a reality and opened Sway Spa.
Against all odds
Of course, Sweta continued to face even more obstacles on her path to pursuing her dream. First, she found out the location was not properly zoned and had to to appeal with the City of Boston, only to find out it would take 8-10 months to just get a permit to do necessary construction to zone the space. Sweta knew she could not afford to pay rent for up to 10 months without running a business. Thankfully, Phi Sigma Kappa agreed to defer the rent.
Ten months later she received approval from Boston to start construction. Thinking they would only need to do some minor work, the plan was to launch the business six weeks later. This is when Sweta came across yet another hurdle. As she explains, “From electricity, plumbing, flooring, walls, ceiling, fire alarms to sprinkler, EVERYTHING had to be replaced.”
Then, just days before Sway Spa was due to open, Sweta broke her arm. Her doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to use it for work for at least three months, and she finally broke down and cried. Despite this setback, with a newly casted arm and a some pain medications, she returned to the spa so she could finalize decorating the spa.
Finally they were able to open, but then Sweta met with the next challenge: getting customers in the door. Although Sway Spa is located in downtown Boston, just a few blocks away from Fenway Park, being in a mostly residential zone meant that they were just a little bit out of reach from the bustle of the city. There were days Sweta would commute 90 minutes to and from the spa, only to sit there the entire day without a single client.
She continued to go in, and with time clients started to arrive. She recalls, how she and her husband, Ajay, hugged each other for a long time when they received their first 5-star review on Yelp. After that, the positive reviews starting pouring in.
Using her business as a tool for giving
If the story ended there that would have been sufficiently inspiring. However, just opening her spa and making her dream a reality was not enough — she also wanted to use this opportunity as a way to give back to the community. As she shares, “Being able to do something for community is such an amazing feeling. God has given us so much more than many people in this world who could use our help that we feel fortunate enough to be in that position where we can give back.”
As a mom of two girls herself, Sweta has been involved with Boston chapter of Nanhi Kali to sponsor the education of a few girls back in India. She has donated countless gift certificates to local fundraisers. Last year she gave complementary mani-pedi and facial services to homeless women through Rosie’s Place and has provided discounted services to medical professionals here in Boston as a thank you for all of their hard work. This year Sway Spa is sponsoring Wine Women and Shoes fundraising event for United Health Care Children’s.
If you are in the Boston area, I highly encourage you check out Sway Spa. Being there is truly a relaxing experience, and you are in good hands with Sweta. Seriously, I am very picky about who I allow to fix my unruly brows and she did an incredible job with them, and my face was glowing after my facial with her. Not only will you be treating yourself, but you will be helping to grow one woman’s dreams. Plus, they are giving Linkouture readers 30% off an hour-long facial or massage with this coupon code through October 30th. You can also follow Sway Spa on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and watch a video of the journey.