When faced with a decision that is likely to change the course of your life, do you do what you love or what you’re good at? The choice is tough and truthfully, not many young entrepreneurs are able to get it right the first time around.
Even then, it’s difficult to be patient when making strides along an unclear path that could potentially lead to you achieving your dreams. For Maria Leo, overcoming hurdles and making the right choices were just the beginning of her journey to realising her true passion, something she continues to do daily.
Dazzle feels privileged to have sat with the young entrepreneur who runs Leo’s Holistic Body Therapy Day Spa, and whose achievements are living proof of the power of perseverance and determination, even under the toughest circumstances.
Originally from Bocage, back in the days when she was attending the Leon Hess Comprehensive Secondary Maria had already realised that she was gifted in drawing and had a natural flair for art. However, it was her friends who noticed that she had another untapped talent that she herself had not realised. Actually here’s how she describes her journey of awakening.
Maria: It all began when I played football with two of my friends during my time at Leon Hess Comprehensive. They would always ask me to rub their sore muscles. They told me that I was really good at it and that I should practice, but that was not in my plan at the time.
You see, sometimes the further you stray from your dreams, the more likely you are to be propelled back onto the path that you are destined for, often when you least expect it.That’s exactly how it happened with Maria. She went on to pursue her artistic inclinations throughout her tenure at the Division of Technical Education and Management Studies (DTEMS) at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) where she studied architecture. She was captivated by the mechanics of construction and hands-on work.
However, it wasn’t long before Maria realised that following this path would not create the life she desired for herself. Was being an entrepreneur always her aspiration?
Maria: Yes, I’ve always wanted to own my very own business.
Entrepreneurship seems to be a family trait. Alexandra Leo, her mom, owns Rainbow Gardens Learning Centre in Bocage. As for her dad, John Leo? He’s responsible for the relentless spirit that has become an integral part of Maria’s personality.
Maria: My dad always pushed me to do my best and get a good education so that I don’t have anyone doing things for me that I can do for myself. (Good advice, Dad!)
After leaving SALCC, Maria flew to London where she studied massage therapy for three and a half years, after which she was awarded a diploma. Don’t think it was all books though, Maria was keen on gaining work experience while she attended Good Health Massage and Wellness Centre in Covent Garden, London.
This experience-boost landed her a job at The Oasis at Le Sport in 2007 where she hit the ground running and gained more years of work experience. Following a two-year stint, she decided it was time to take the dive and try and achieve everything she had set out to accomplish, and not settle for anything less. Maria herself admits that the journey from working for an established business to working for herself was not an easy one but, according to her, frustration drives you! That’s where her patience came into play.
Dazzle: Describe your journey leading up to the establishment of Leo’s Holistic Body Therapy Day Spa.
Maria: It was a very difficult transition from Le Sport into creating my own business. Specifically, gaining clientele and the necessary funding were my biggest challenges. But after that rolled over, my energy and my treatments spoke for themselves, so clients began returning and recommending me to others. I worked from the same apartment building that I lived in … in a very, very tiny room. I also did a free demo in the parking lot of the JQ Mall for passers-by. It was there that I gave out my information so people would return for more treatments.
It was by no means a straightforward route to success. Maria candidly admits that she had other challenges to surmount.
Dazzle: What challenges do you face as a young entrepreneur and how do you overcome them?
Maria: (Laughs) Being young is the difficult thing. You aren’t taken seriously by others because most would assume a lack of experience and knowledge on your part.
Sounds like a lot to handle! But Maria is soaring above her trials.
Maria: I like challenges and criticism – from my clients especially. It does not deter me. As a young professional it actually makes me want to improve on my flaws. From my treatments, to the room ambience and everything in between, I adjust to what the clients’ need.
These same challenges are what drives Maria to do what she loves day-in and day-out. Moreover, it is because of criticisms from some of her clients that Leo’s Holistic Body Therapy has become such a unique and fascinating experience.
Dazzle: What makes Leo’s Holistic Body Therapy special?
Maria: A number of key things. Professionalism, consistency and quality are the mottos that I orchestrate my business by.
Maria’s aim is to create an all-round mood and ambience that heals and relaxes each and every client. Both mental and physical healing are important elements of Leo’s Holistic Body Therapy experience. She makes expert use of sound therapy, pleasing aesthetics, soothing touches and delightful scents to make your heart melt. For Maria this is all just part of a long-term plan.
Maria: I plan on building my knowledge on holistic medicine to expand the overall spa experience for each client.
Dazzle: What advice would you offer to young entrepreneurs?
Maria: Don’t give up! Despite whatever hurdles come your way. Especially when trying to make a difference with the little that you have. You just gotta keep focussed and stick to your dream … and always do what you’re passionate about, not just what you’re good at. If you’re not successful then you’re not passionate!
Wise words from a young career professional who has walked the walk. We’d like to thank Maria for sharing her inspiring story and wish her all the best in her entrepreneurial pursuits!