2016 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest Winners

Last Friday, Anahi Hollis and Jenaveve Biernat, owners, Meta Physica Massage & Sauna, won the 2016 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest. Meta Physica Massage & Sauna rose to the top of the more than 150 entrepreneurs who entered the 2016 contest and were selected as one of the contests’ 10 semi-finalists. After 21,000 public votes were cast during the primary voting period, they advanced as one of the four finalists.

Ultimately, they presented their concept to a panel of judges and were selected as the sixth winner since the contest started in 2011. As a result, Hollis and Biernat won $50,000 and over $200,000 in pro bono services, ranging from legal to marketing support services from Detroit-area businesses.

Hollis, 39, is an interior designer with a lifelong passion for health and wellness and has studied nutrition and raw food and has been a vegetarian for over 20 years. Biernat, 38, is a licensed massage therapist with over 13 years experience including opening a massage studio in Midtown in 2013. The two of them formed a partnership and became business associates in March 2015 with the objective of expanding the massage experience, with massages and raw juices mixes, as part of a larger health and wellness concept.

I was fortunate to MC this event and afterwards had the opportunity to catch up with them to discuss their feelings after winning and their hopes for launching a new location in Detroit.

Lee: You recently won this year’s 2016 Comerica Hatch Detroit contest. Please describe the feeling when it was announced you were the winner?

Biernat:  I was completely shocked and elated.

Hollis:  I agree. It took a minute for it to sink in. It is so exciting.

Lee:  As part of winning, you will receive $50,000 from Comerica Bank and $200,000 in pro-bono services from Hatch Detroit and its partners.  How will the $50k help your business?

Hollis:  The $50k will help us move the opening date closer. We will use the money to purchase the saunas, kitchen equipment and finish our build out. The additional branding, advertising, legal, architectural and other probono services from Hatch and its partners will also be extremely helpful as we move forward.

Lee:  What exactly is Meta Physica Massage & Sauna and how did you come up with the idea?

Hollis:  Meta Physica is a wellness center that will be accessible to all. We will have affordable therapeutic massage, infrared saunas, a raw juice bar, an herbal apothecary, health inspired retail and donation based community workshops.

Biernat:  We actually both have wanted to do something like this long before we ever met each other. I needed to expand my small business and having a partner with the same goal, same idea and same passion just really pushed the whole thing forward.

Lee:  Meta Physica Massage & Sauna is unique.  How did you come up with it and what does it represent? 

Hollis:  We both really love massage, saunas, raw juice and herbs. We believe that massage, saunas and raw juice play integral part in preventative care. We realized Detroit was lacking affordable self care options and wanted to make a place that was accessible to everyone

Biernat:  Meta Physica is here to dispel the notion that self care is a luxury. We want to make massages, saunas and healthy living a day to day reality for everyone, not just a once per year treat, In thinking of a way to describe what I (and now we) do as more than just relating to the body I came up with Meta Physica when I first opened the massage studio.

“Meta” means to go beyond and “Physica” comes from the Latin for Physics (the science that deals with energy, motion, energy and force). Those are all terms I associate with the human body. But massage and therapeutic body work goes so much deeper than that. The effects are not just on the physical plane, they are felt emotionally and at times spiritually as well.

Lee:  To date, what business challenges have you had to overcome?

Hollis:  Finding the right space was our first challenge. Once we secured our location in Corktown, we realized the actual scope of the project and our budget restrictions. Figuring out how we were going to come up with the money to pay for everything was the next challenge.

Biernat:  I think the financial aspect has always been the biggest challenge. We want to provide affordable services so keeping our costs and overhead down is key.

Lee:  And what advice would you give to those starting a business? 

Hollis:  You must be dedicated, tap into whatever is your passion and follow that dream.

Biernat:  Be prepared to work hard and then work even harder. That’s where the passion comes in. You have to enjoy what you are doing because you live it day in and day out. I really do believe that all the hard work will eventually pay off in one way or another.

Lee:  From a consumer experience perspective, what makes it unique and what can customers expect?   

Hollis:  We want to provide a space where people can relax and also feel support from their community.  Meta Physica provides an escape from the daily grind of our rapidly transitioning city. We also offer a respite for those experiencing an illness or someone who is taking care of a loved one who is ill.

Biernat:  Our space is going to be both beautiful and accessible. Our main goal is to make people feel comfortable and welcome while providing top notch services and customer care.

Lee:  As part of the contest, there was public voting across the city. How did you generate public support?  What was your marketing strategy to get people to vote for you?

Hollis:  I reached out to everyone I know, personally, to garnerr community support. We knew from talking to people that this place was something that was needed.

Biernat:  We really went out to the polls and talked to everyone we could. We offered free mini chair massages at the polls and did two raffles to get people excited and voting.

Lee:  When will Meta Physica Massage & Sauna open and where will it be located?

Biernat:  We will be located at the corner of Bagley and Trumbull in Corktown. If all goes well we’re hopeful to be open within 6-8 months.

Lee:  Other thoughts?  Website?

Hollis:  We are so grateful to all our friends and family for believing in us, to the community for supporting us and to Hatch Detroit, Comerica Bank, Opportunity Detroit and all of the probono sponsors. They are helping us make our dream a reality and it has really hit home. Everyone we have talked to is excited and looking forward to what is coming next to Corktown  We are so grateful to all our friends and family for believing in us, supporting us, voting and building a general excitement around the project.  We could not have done it without the community support. And of course, none of this would be possible without the support of Hatch Detroit and sponsors like Comerica Bank and Opportunity Detroit, so a big thank you to them as well.

Biernat:  Participating in the Comerica Hatch Detroit contest has been great in so many ways. We really got to know each other’s strengths as business partners during this process and workedtogether to promote the vision of Meta Physica. Also, meeting the other contestants and getting to know them and their businesses was really great. We were all supportive of one another because we knew how much hard work went into this process.

Please visit metaphysicamassage.com