The popularity of holistic treatments as an alternative to traditional medical and health treatments has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, and as a result businesses are springing up throughout the area to meet the need. Practitioners take a “holistic” view of health, including physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of life.
As the interest in these types of services grows, not only in central New Jersey but throughout the country, the number of businesses catering to the need also grows. “We are a growing segment of the business community,” says Michele Engoran of the Center for Relaxation and Healing in Plainsboro.
She has organized a “Natural Living Expo: Mind, Body and Spirit” to showcase these businesses on Saturday, September 30, at 10 a.m. at the Premiere Hotel, 4355 Route 1, Princeton. Cost: $10.
The expo is sponsored by the Engoran’s center as well as the Center for Holistic Awareness and Integration (CHAI Center) in East Brunswick. Engoran and Marcus Padulchick are co-founders and partners at the Plainsboro center, which opened in 2000. The expo is a natural outgrowth from the center, which houses a variety of businesses with services ranging from counseling to massage therapy, to acupuncture, meditation, and yoga, says Engoran.
“We want to help the public learn about what’s out there and available as a complement to traditional health care, but it was also a strategic business decision. We want to build our name in the community.”
The expo features 45 vendors with products and services including feng shui, Chinese herbal medicine, and nutrition and wellness products. A separate room will be set up for massage and body work therapists, who will charge $1 per minute for their services.
This is the second expo that Engoran and Padulchak have run. The first was held in Bridgewater in March. The second time around things have gone easier, she says. Still, planning, organizing, and running an expo takes time, money, and a network of people. “I wouldn’t encourage anyone to try it if they are coming into an area with a blank slate and no contacts,” she says.
Targeting Vendors. One of the first issues when planning an expo is to ensure that you have enough vendors interested in setting up a booth. Engoran has used direct mail, advertising, and word of mouth to locate vendors. “We did a widespread marketing campaign, including advertising in some alternative health magazines. We really tried to tap into our community. One of the things we do at the center is run a support group for holistic business owners.” This group was a great referral source for the expo, she says. “Word of mouth is great. It’s free.”
Most of the vendors who will attend are from the central New Jersey area, with a few from Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, and New York, she says. Their vendor campaign showed there was “tremendous interest” in the event and, she says, and as vendors sent in booth fees, Engoran pulled in working capital to cover overhead.
“We’ve had more vendors show interest than we had room for,” says Engoran. “We are still getting phone calls. It makes me feel very positive about how we can grow next year.”
Targeting the public. The second wave of the advertising targets customers — the people who will attend the event and purchase products and services from the vendors. Again, Engoran and her partner advertised the event in local newspapers as well as in publications targeted to their audience. They’ve hung flyers announcing the show in area businesses as well.
Other expenses. Advertising is the largest expense in setting up a show like this, says Engoran. Then comes renting a hall, then the incidentals, such as signage, and “a lot of other small items.” The show will cost several thousand dollars to produce. Meyra Findel, owner of the CHAI Center and a co-sponsor of the event, has an accounting background, says Engoran. “She keeps track of everything, and when it’s all over she’ll sift it all out.”
Engoran is confident that the show will turn a profit, “if you don’t count the hours we’ve worked.” She estimates that she and her partner have each worked on the expo for about 10 hours a week for the last six months.
There are several income producing elements to an expo like this one, she says. First are the vendor fees. She is charging $150 for a six-foot table, and because of space limitations, has restricted vendors to one table so that she could ensure a larger variety of products and services. The massage and body work vendors will pay $75, and must bring their own equipment. Another income producer is the expo program. Finally, of course, is the entrance fee of $10.
Engoran and her partner opened the center, she says, because they saw a growing need for small “holistic” businesses to have a space to offer their services to the public. Engoran herself is a therapist who “combines therapy and spirituality” in her practice. She also teaches and runs small groups at the center.
She has been interested in psychology and in helping people all of her life, she says, and her interest in opening a center was sparked by her mother, “who ran women’s groups,” when she was growing up. “I can’t imagine myself crunching numbers or not doing something where I’m working with people. I’m a good listener.” She received her master’s degree in counseling from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, in 2000. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of New Jersey.
As people’s lives become more hurried and stressed, Engoran believes that more and more people will turn to holistic to “re-energize.” While for many who attend the event, the expo will come under the heading of “preaching to the choir,” she hopes that it will help to bring holistic businesses to the attention of people who are not familiar with them.