Small Business Week

Entrepreneur finds home in Sheet Harbour

By Janice Christie

SHEET HARBOUR – In 2008 Catherine MacNeil wanted to act on the desire to re-invent herself. She had attended university at Dalhousie and Western, finishing her degree, Bachelor of Administration in Health, in Athabasca, Alberta. She had worked in one of the largest orthodontic practices in North America and managed a large dental clinic in Lethbridge. But in 2008 she was ready to return home to Nova Scotia where she was born and raised.


MacNeil began teaching Dental Administration at Compucollege in Halifax. In her heart, though, she wanted to run her own business. She returned to school, attending ICT Northumberland College in Halifax, with the intention of becoming a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT). Her business 'Earthtones' was created soon after and she operated a small, part-time practice on Brunswick Street while continuing to work full-time at a chiropractor clinic.


"In October 2011 ... fate brought us to Sheet Harbour," says MacNeil. "Several acquaintances had mentioned Sheet Harbour on three separate occasions." Laughing, she says, "We had to look on a map to find it!"


A friend who knew Myrene Keating-Owen, Executive Director of LeaPlace Women's Centre in Sheet Harbour, referred her to MacNeil. "I had never met Myrene but we spoke on the phone. I told her I was looking for a place to work and she invited me to Sheet Harbour to meet with her."


Keating-Owen invited MacNeil to set up Earthtones at the LeaPlace Centre on a short term basis to get a feel for the response from the community. MacNeil recalls, "The first month we went down every second week, the second month it was every weekend and by January we were in the community four days a week. In February we were looking for a place."


MacNeil continued with her full-time work until her commitment was complete. Then she made Sheet Harbour home. "We felt such a sense of community right off the bat. This is an amazing place. We have worked hard...it has been give and take ... we enjoy being involved in this community." Nathalie Ladouceur, a singer songwriter, is the administrator at Earthtones. "I sing ... I don't treat!" she says as she smiles.


Since their arrival in 2011, MacNeil and Ladouceur have built the business in the community ... beginning with LeaPlace; moving to a small office in Schooner Place Mall and recently transitioning to a beautiful, modern clinic next to their previous location. The new space is warm, welcoming and gorgeous in design. The women designed it and decorated it themselves. "I feel it is nice that the community has a beautiful place to come to," says MacNeil.


The clinic, built by local contractors, is cozy and inviting ... with panels that are imaginative and peaceful with soothing colours that create an inviting atmosphere. "We are a health care facility," explains MacNeil, "and we wanted a professional environment because we offer a health care service."


Earthtones's clients range in age from a nine-year-old to a senior who is 93. Clients are treated equally...male and female. They have an ailment or an issue that needs to be resolved. "The local doctors are on-board with referrals as they see the results we can obtain with most conditions through relaxation and stress reduction." MacNeil continues, "We have clients who have suffered with injuries from motor vehicle accidents and those who have long term aches and pains."


Seven months ago it became necessary for Earthtones to expand. Sean Moore, RMT, of Halifax, is an instructor at ICT College who specializes in sports injuries. Moore has had wonderful success with his clients' neck treatments. Also, at that time, Hannah Baker, RMT, who grew up in Middle Musquodoboit, and who trained in Reiki, started to work at the clinic on Wednesdays. She began to draw a special clientele and has incorporated energy work into her client's treatments. Two months ago Catherine Richard, RMT, also an instructor from the college, who is highly trained in myofascial treatments (a different way of releasing muscle tissue tightness) joined the staff.


"To clarify ... we are not a Spa! We are a clinic. We perform a specialized form of muscle therapy. We are a therapeutic massage clinic." Clients have said that MacNeil possesses 'magic hands'. "I feel as though I am a natural healer," she says, "and I treat very intuitively ... I work with my client."


MacNeil's business philosophy is the desire to be successful in order to be generous. “Our success is others' success. We believe that the community supports our business ... and in return we support the community. We spend our income here and we volunteer here." Earthtones sponsors sports teams, the local school students projects and MacNeil and Ladouceur volunteer at Harbourview Lodge, the local Nursing Home. Nathalie sings and entertains and Catherine provides free treatments to the seniors.


Earthtones services are cost less than city pricing. "We believe in the service being as assessable as possible to the community." There is a child discount for children who have been injured in an accident or during an activity. There is a 'Come as Necessary' treatment plan as well as a 'Maintenance Program' for treatments to manage long-term issues.


MacNeil concludes, "We love that Sheet Harbour allows us to carry out our business philosophy and that permits us to be 'The Little Business That Could'! We love this area, the community and the people. It is amazing here. We are very proud of what we have accomplished and the services that we offer. The bottom line is ... people need help here too! We are most proud that we are not a one person success story ... but are one of this small community. "


For more information go to earthtonestheraputics.com.


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