Award Winner: Taina Burgos, Avivage Massage

2017 WomenVenture Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Expanding Business Award

Grand Avenue in Saint Paul is a mecca for small businesses housed in quaint buildings. Nestled among the many shops you’ll find the home of Avivage Massage. Owned by Taina Burgos, Avivage is a safe and harmonious space that offers an array of therapeutic massage services for both individuals and couples.

Taina’s path to small business ownership has not been an easy one. As a young Latina girl growing up in Miami, teachers would yell at her for not knowing her numbers and tell her she wasn’t good enough to attend college. She dropped out of school in her junior year and ultimately found work as a travel agent. At 21, she found herself a single mom to a beautiful baby girl. Wanting more opportunities for herself and her daughter, she attended massage school and found work as a massage therapist. In 2008, she made the move to Minnesota, working three jobs while caring for her daughter.

In 2010, the original owner of Avivage Massage offered to sell her the business. It was both an exciting and scary offer.  “I knew nothing about business,” says Taina. “It was completely foreign. I made so many mistakes.” But she knew she had to take the risk. Buying the business enabled her to quit her other jobs and, over time, expand from one massage suite to three.

Taina’s business grew steadily until 2015 when she was faced with a new challenge – breast cancer. A successful mastectomy was followed by weeks of recovery, during which time she was unable to work and the business suffered. Then in 2016, as business was once again growing, her landlord informed her that he would be doubling her rent. Knowing that she needed help, she approached WomenVenture for a loan.

In late 2016, as the loan was being finalized, Taina decided to take one last look at available rental properties. She was able to find a bigger and better space just down the street from her old location with more affordable rent. The loan from WomenVenture enabled her to make the move to the new space in a smooth way. Notes Taina, “It gave me the ability to make this place what I wanted—the aesthetics, the paint, the drapes, the rug—everything. The loan gave me a cushion to not have stress with this whole transition.”

In addition to the loan, Taina also received technical assistance with marketing and bookkeeping. Of working with WomenVenture’s staff business consultant, Taina states, “Kathy is the only person I’ve ever worked with who made me not feel like an idiot. She empowered me to do my numbers and get ahold of a very important part of my business. Now I have the leeway to elevate my business in a healthy way and a more rapid manner. That’s been huge!”

Avivage Massage currently employs a team of 12 who support one another like family and the business continues to grow and thrive. Of her success, Taina says, “With me not finishing school, not having my family, being a single mom, and being a Latina – this is not a normal success. I fought pretty hard. Having someone like WomenVenture believe in me means everything. It’s the difference between success and failure.”

Taina’s perseverance in the face of adversity and her dedication to growing her business are just two of the many reasons why she is this year’s Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained Expanding Business award winner.