Many women dream of starting their own business. A smattering actually attempt it. Fewer still do it successfully.
Katie Smith is the owner of The Apothecary at Easton.
For her, the keys to success thus far have been knowledge, determination and a good crockpot.
“Don’t even think about going into business for yourself without taking some business and marketing classes. ... Write a detailed business plan and then write it again. Be realistic with your budget. Have a good support system for when you think you can’t keep going. Never give up on your dreams or let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Buy a good crockpot — it will save you many nights when you are too tired to even think about dinner,” Katie writes via email.
Katie graduated from North Caroline High School in Ridgely and earned her first degree at Towson University, majoring in theatre arts — a program which helped her learn to be relatable to all people, she says, a skill critical to her future success.
Katie then went on to study massage therapy. That is when she stumbled across the profession she now loves — acupuncture.
“We had to give a presentation on alternative therapies in massage school and I was encouraged by a classmate to attend an acupuncture open house at Tai Sophia (now the Maryland University of Integrative Health). It just seemed to click and I had signed on to attend the Master of Acupuncture program before I had even finished my massage program.”
While completing that degree, she also studied Chinese herbalism.
“It was grueling but I completed both studies simultaneously. So when I graduated from The Academy for Five Element Acupuncture, I had earned a second bachelor’s degree in health science, a Master of Acupuncture degree and a certification in Chinese Herbal Studies.”
After earning her degree and completing a yearlong residency, plus the nine years she had worked in a spa setting for the Hyatt Corporation, it was time to put her experience to work. But she wanted to do it on her own terms — and also to fill a void on the Eastern Shore — which meant going into business for herself.
“I knew that ‘spa’ was changing because client demands were changing. If you look at top-of-the-line spas on the East Coast, these places have holistic centers. … They are progressive and fluid in their spa concept. … People want a plethora of healthcare modalities to choose from in one place. They want a sense of community. And above all, they want an experience.”
The first iteration of The Apothecary was a tiny, one-room location big enough for only Katie's massage table. The business concept that customers see now first opened on Hanson Street in January 2016.
After about a year at that location, Katie moved her business to the second floor at 12 N. Washington St. While still undergoing renovations, the main reception space and first two treatment rooms are large and inviting.
As one might imagine, the process has not been a cake walk.
“I learned very quickly that running a start-up business is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of 14-hour days and sleepless nights. It’s an unbelievable amount of behind-the-scenes work. It’s also incredibly gratifying to see your hard work and commitment come to fruition.”
Her two teenaged sons have served as motivation throughout the process, though she has had to ask a lot of them and has not always been able to maintain the ideal work/life balance.
“Spending more time with my boys was one of the driving forces to branch out on my own,” Katie writes, but admits she has come home late many nights — thus the ever-useful crockpot — and has even put her sons to work as painters.
"They've had to do a lot of grunt work, but they've also been witness to what perseverance and hard work can accomplish. As a single parent, there is no greater accomplishment than to be that type of role model for your children."
Clearly, the positives have far outweighed the struggles.
Katie and the handful of specialists that work with her are thrilled to be able to continue to offer new and progressive options to customers with needs both medical and cosmetic.
“We offer full spa services, including massage, esthetics, infrared sauna therapy, body treatments, sound and light therapy, acupuncture and herbal medicine, cupping and more. We also provide yoga and fitness classes, gong baths and meditation, workshops and classes.”
A couple times each week, Katie also holds a pay-what-you-can clinic. This option can be perfect for customers who are curious to try acupuncture but may not want to commit to an intensive treatment, or those dedicated to alternative therapies who find themselves short on funds.
“This was important to me because I know what it’s like to struggle and I want to make wellness and self-care available to a wide audience on many different income levels.”
To make acupuncture accessible to even more folks, Katie continues to work diligently to ensure her work is covered by a number of insurance companies. The list of accepted insurances can be found on The Apothecary website.
Katie and her crew also offer a fun and casual introduction to what can be accomplished within The Apothecary walls: “We hold a candlelight meditation gong bath and auricular acupuncture event once a month as part of our Easton First Friday series that has become incredibly popular.”
Katie will provide a free, 15-minute consult to anyone interested in learning more about the multiple purposes of acupuncture. Call 443-362-9355 to set up an appointment.
Also look for a grand re-opening after the renovations to the Washington Street location are complete. Find The Apothecary at Easton on Facebook for updates or visit www.theapothecaryateaston.com.