Monk brings Yazoo City old world businesses in new world packages
When I met Michele Monk, owner of Health Integration in Yazoo City, one of my first questions was: “just how the heck did you wind up as a business owner in Yazoo City, Miss.?”
The question was a natural response on my part. Michele started her professional life as a registered nurse in England. Having grown up north of London and taken her training at St. George’s Hospital in London, her journey to Yazoo City was clearly a long one.
“I had an aunt who lived in Macon, Ga.,” Michele explained. “I came to visit, and you might say I fell in love with the South. And with my first husband,” she added.
She learned that her British nursing credentials didn’t qualify her to work in nursing in America, so she soon turned her attention to other areas, and she wound up taking training in Atlanta in massage therapy and going into successful private practice in Macon for several years.
“I primarily do medical massage,” she said. “I work with clients who have had injuries, automobile accidents, or other physical conditions.”
That still didn’t explain how she came to open a business in Yazoo City, however.
“Well, I wound up coming here with my second husband,” she said. “He was a physician and bought a practice in Yazoo City. That allowed me to get to know the medical community and to work with referrals from physicians in the area.”
That’s not the end of the story. In addition to massage, Michele added other services and products to her business. She became a teacher of yoga in 2004. She introduced health foods and other products to her store in Yazoo City. She partnered with Mississippi potter and artist Robert Holleman, and displays his work in her store. She offers vegan cooking classes. Her store manager, Amanda Margolis, is a belly dancing teacher and performer.
Just how does Yazoo City take to Michele and some of the New Age orientation associated with her business?
“Well,” she said with a smile, “I’ve made many friends and worked with over 700 clients. But, I’ve heard that some have suggested I might be a witch. But I’m not troubled, because I absolutely know that I’ve helped many, many people in need in this area, and that’s very important to me.”
She considers service to the community to be among the most important aspects of running her business.
“I really am committed to helping people live healthier and more enjoyable lives,” she said. “I’m always so delighted when I’ve been able to make a difference. I really do love this community and my goal is to have a positive influence in the lives of the people I meet.”
What other elements does she consider important in starting and running a successful business?
“Oh, I think it is terribly important not to go too far into debt when you start a business,” she said. “If you expect to be successful, you really have to network effectively and get to know the people who can help you.”
While the core of her business is medical massage, she also thinks it is vital to constantly reinvent the business model, adding products and services that are compatible with the foundation of the business.
“For instance,” she said, “I’m looking down the road at possibly starting a vegetarian café, and perhaps a retreat center that would offer classes and seminars on healthy living. But I wouldn’t do anything unless I do my networking. People are great sounding boards.”
Above all, Michele thinks it’s important that no one should ever start a business unless “you truly love and believe in what you do. You must understand your purpose and have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish with your life.”
It’s very clear that Michele Monk, RN, an entrepreneur from London, England, brought that kind of vision and the determination to make it a reality in Yazoo City, Miss.