“Ever thought about owning your own business?”

Mark Preetorius spotted this question on a marketing brochure in the lobby of a Massage Envy clinic while waiting for physical therapy after a knee replacement. As it happened, he’d been toying with the idea after working for 30 years as a corporate executive.

The question spurred him to begin researching the business of franchising, franchise models and the types of franchises to own. A family friend suggested he contact the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC).

There he connected with Antonio Barrios, a senior business consultant at the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University who was experienced in the franchising industry.

“I was not going to start anything until I contacted the UGA SBDC,” Preetorius said. “Antonio helped me plan for everything I could possibly imagine. He gave me a masters crash course on what to expect in franchising ownership and how it works, holding my hand and making sure I stayed on the right track.”

Mark Preetorius, Massage Envy franchisee, worked with the UGA SBDC to ensure each of his franchise locations would be a success.

Preetorius began working with Barrios in 2012. They developed a business plan and began pulling together projections for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan.

The work paid off when Preetorius was awarded a loan. The financing allowed him to build his first Massage Envy clinic in Canton, near a site planned for a new hospital. He put in 80 percent of the construction financing and borrowed 20 percent from the SBA.

“I worked with the UGA SBDC all along,” Preetorius said. “The SBA loan came in after I’d started construction. Everything stayed on track exactly as it was planned out.”

Preetorius opened his Massage Envy clinic on Feb. 24, 2015, with three therapists, an assistant manager and front desk employee. That day, a rare winter ice storm dumped more than a foot of snow on metro Atlanta. Despite the storm’s chill on his grand opening plans, the business quickly recovered.

“After we opened, Antonio checked in periodically,” Preetorius said. “First, he’d check my sales figures, making sure I stayed with the pro forma. And when I needed help with some digital marketing, he introduced me to Drew Tonsmeire, area director at the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University, who is an expert in strategic and digital marketing.”

Preetorius’s rapid success with his first clinic led other franchisees and potential franchisees to call him for advice, and the opportunities kept coming. An investment group called and asked him to join them as an investor/manager. An Athens clinic owner who wanted to sell her clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic offered to sell it to him at value, preferring to go to an individual rather than an investment group.

By the end of 2022, Preetorius owned four Massage Envy clinics, debt-free, in Canton, Atlanta and Athens. He employees over 120 people and his annual sales reach seven figures.

In March of 2022, Massage Envy named Preetorius its National Franchisee of the Year at its annual meeting. One of 1,127 Massage Envy franchise owners in the country, he was recognized not only for the special attention he gives his employees and operations, but for how quickly his management improved his clinics’ profitability.  

“You can run a small business on your own and be marginally successful. However, if you’re smart, you’ll go to the UGA SBDC. There you will learn from people willing to give you the resources and knowledge that will help you become phenomenally successful.”

Mark Preetorius, Massage Envy

For More Information: University of Georgia SBDC | (706) 542-2762