Michigan spa’s ‘ancient self-care’ methods highlighted during National Black Business Month

KENT COUNTY, MI – Michigan Women Forward is highlighting a Grand Rapids area spa as an exemplary business this August for National Black Business Month.

Body Sculpt Better Body Bar, a female Black-owned wellness spa, offers “ancient self-care techniques with modern science and technology,” according to Michigan Women Forward, a community development financial institution that expands economic opportunity for women and entrepreneurs of color.

The nonprofit helped owner Monica Sparks, who opened the business in 2021 at 3099 Broadmoor Ave. SE in Kentwood, with microloans and technical assistance programs.

“She’s a dynamic woman that is doing some great things in the community,” said Natalie Hall, chief development and program officer for Michigan Women Forward, which has offices in Grand Rapids and Detroit.

Since 2004, August has been the month to highlight and appreciate the contributions of Black-owned businesses to the U.S. economy and promote equity and diversity.

Related: Celebrating the past decade of Black businesses in Grand Rapids with a pop-up shop

Hall said spotlighting businesses is important to the organization’s mission because they want business owners to have their story told, especially when it comes to promoting Black businesses when being celebrated during National Black Business Month.

She said the Michigan Women Forward wanted to spotlight Sparks because she had recent experiences in learning the ropes as well as being an elected official in her community. Sparks has represented District 12 on the Kent County Board of Commissioners since 2018, which includes portions of Kentwood and Wyoming.

Sparks said the spa was shaped around the idea that she needed wellness and relaxation in her own life.

In 2019, Sparks said she battled colon cancer, using reflexology, which applies pressure to specific points of feet, as a method of healing. Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led her to realize everyone needed a place where they could relax, wellness being a focus across the world, she said.

“People could not get wellness services,” Sparks said. “They couldn’t get massages and facials and things like that weren’t priced appropriately, especially for people of color. Historically, we don’t do spa stuff, so I wanted to be able to offer that so that any woman, the average, ordinary everyday woman like myself, could afford to have self-care.”

Body Sculpt Better Body Bar

Monica Sparks, owner of Body Sculpt Better Body Bar, poses for a portrait at the business located at 3099 Broadmoor Ave. SE in Kentwood, a suburb of Grand Rapids, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. Sparks wellness spa is being highlighted in August for National Black Business Month by Michigan Women Forward. (Ridley Hudson | MLive.com)Ridley Hudson | MLive.com

Sparks said the ancient self-care practices are a mix with modern science, which include Reiki, which directs body energies, and Chinese cupping, alternative medicine which treats the skin by suctioning local spots with a cup across the body.

She also offers to-go treatments with her Wellness Wednesdays, driving to different locations on her wellness bus across the Grand Rapids area to offer massages and other relaxation services.

Sparks said that starting her business during the pandemic was hard, but it seemed necessary to her. She said the most useful part of the support from Michigan Women Forward came from classes on how to budget and manage capital on a micro-level, rather than as a county commissioner working with multimillion dollar budgets.

“I love being a county commissioner because I feel like it gives me more insight to the struggles that small business owners do have,” Sparks said.

“I am a certified business mentoring counselor, so I’ve helped lots of small businesses myself, but it’s different when it’s you. It’s different when you’re the one that has to turn on those lights every day and be the janitor and be the receptionist and be the accountant for your business.”

Hall said Michigan Women Forward is purposefully trying to expand economic opportunity, wanting to grow what small businesses, especially minority-owned small businesses, can do with their capital.

She said spotlighting a business includes pushing the name, face of the owner and story out on social media and trying to get media coverage among other efforts to promote businesses that need exposure to the community.

Sparks said this spotlight on her business and National Black Business Month means more ability to support the community members she sees daily. What it means, she said, is that “it is the time to say we are here.”

“All too often as a business for people of color, we get overlooked for the big organizations or the long-standing organizations,” Sparks said. “But I actually have people that come in here of all different colors that say ‘I saw you were Black-owned and I wanted to give you support’ or ‘I saw you’re Black-owned and I wanted to try it’ or I saw you were Black-owned and because I’m Latino or African, I felt comfortable knowing that I can go somewhere with someone who looks like me.’”

For more information about Body Sculpt Better Body Bar, visit the website here or call 616-591-6636.

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