Kneading capital: How this spa entrepreneur is harnessing the power of her own data to grow

October 17, 2023 | By Paul Massignani Jr.

Nothing was going to slow Shondra Bailey down. In 2018, she grabbed the reins of her financial future, quitting her job as a massage therapist to found Natural Bliss Body Studio in a quiet suburb outside Charlotte, North Carolina, offering everything from hot stone massage treatments to body contouring. She started with four employees and an eye toward growth.

“A lot of people try to start their own spa and they start with just one room. I didn’t do that; I started with five,” she says. “It was very hard the first year to realize my vision of creating an environment where therapists and service providers could hone their craft.”

Just as the business was really taking off, the pandemic hit, shutting her down. But that didn’t stop Bailey for long. As soon as the governor lifted COVID-19 restrictions, she got right to work rebuilding and even expanding her business. She scouted out a newer, bigger space and hoped to hire more staff, but to do that, she needed an infusion of capital.

For entrepreneurs, accessing capital can be a confusing and daunting task, and it can be tough to understand why loans do or don’t get approved.

Bailey, like so many entrepreneurs, felt adrift as she waded through the application process — manually uploading stacks of documents, waiting weeks and then eventually receiving loan offers that were less than what she needed.

Then she discovered Nav, an innovative small business financial health platform that allows business owners to share their financial data digitally through open banking, making it easier and faster for Nav’s network of 70-plus lenders to determine creditworthiness. Nav integrates Mastercard open banking data provided by Finicity, a Mastercard company, to power its lending solutions, giving lenders a clearer picture of the financial health of a business.

“We align the loan qualifications for both the business owners and the lenders to help streamline small businesses' access to capital,” says Nick Guerrieri, vice president of marketing at Nav.

Bailey filled out a quick application through Nav and linked her bank accounts using Mastercard open banking. No document uploads were required. She was astonished when she quickly received a loan offer that was almost double the amount offered by traditional lenders.

Since its founding in 2012, Nav has helped more than 2 million small businesses access capital by creating more transparency and certainty in their available financing options. Data from open banking helps Nav build a picture of a business to provide owners with clear insights and guidance based on their business’s cash-flow trends. This means Nav can help businesses find the right financing options for their needs and even make the application process less painful.

“Think of the investment business owners make, applying for financing or some other financial product, only to be declined,” says Gian Perrone, vice president of engineering at Nav. “We’re here to help them understand what they are qualified for before they apply. Ultimately, the impact to them is more time to go run their business and less time filling out forms on a website.”

The new offer made it possible for Natural Bliss Body Studio to relocate and to take on new employees, with increased workplace benefits for employees. With the larger staff and more space, the spa is doing so well that Bailey has her sights set on expansion.

“I'm originally from Georgia and so I have my eyes on a spa business down there,” she says. “I didn’t plan on starting a franchise, but I’m ready for it.”

Paul Massignani Jr., contributor