Take ‘No’s and Make Them ‘Yes’s: A Small Business Masterclass in Perseverance and Community

Thirteenth time's the charm? Here's one SBA applicant's story of going from repeated rejection to float spa heaven.
It takes perseverance to start a small business.

Love at first sight is the subject of skepticism… but what about love at first float? Dawn Morrisson is a believer.

After Dawn’s daughters lost everything in the Paradise California fires, the Morrisson family was grappling with a considerable amount of trauma. A friend of Dawn who owned a float spa reached out. “And she’s the one that said, ‘Come float — You need to come float.’”

Dawn visited the spa and got the full experience of floating in a private sensory deprivation float pod. The first time she felt the warm water saturated with Epsom salts, she knew instantly it was something special.

Dawn became determined to start her own float spa business.

Hitting the Wall

After working for a hospital in California for more than 20 years, Morrisson took early retirement. Her work in the finance department just wasn’t fulfilling anymore—though she had learned a lot about business, finance, and taking care of people, she felt it was time to figure out what she actually wanted to do with her life.

She knew she only wanted to go back to work when she could find a job where she could be in charge and love what she was doing every day. The memory of hustling as a beautician and having to pay rent to the salon owner still ground on her nerves. The salon owner dictated her destiny to some extent, and she never wanted to experience that again.

At the same time, Morrisson had no degree and little small business experience. “I really I didn’t think I had anything to offer,” said Morrisson when interviewed. “I didn’t think I could do it. But floating turned into something became madly in love with, so I just thought, well, I’m going to ride this out until I hit a wall.”

She made a phone call to the TrueRest franchise coordinator, which got the ball rolling. She began educating herself on the requirements for an SBA loan.

Around her, the pandemic was shutting businesses down left and right. The Small Business Administration was beside itself with PPP applications and a congested loan application process. Dawn’s loan application was rejected.

“Actually, I was probably rejected for my SBA loan about twelve times. But I didn’t take that as a complete rejection, right? I made them tell me why. Tell me why, and I’ll fix it.”

During this time, she relied on the steady support of her husband, her friends, and her franchise, TrueRest. “My franchise was sure I had something to offer. They told me I just needed help getting my application where it needed to be. So they put me in touch with Michael Stein at Guidant, and he changed my life.”

Mastering Small Business Financing

At TrueRest’s recommendation, Dawn got in touch with Consultant Michael Stein at Guidant. They began exploring the 401(k) business financing as a way of financing Dawn’s SBA 30% down payment, which had proved an obstacle in previous applications.

“He is my hero. I can’t say enough great things about Michael Stein and Guidant. They helped me realize that, wait a minute, I do have worth, and not only that, it’s tappable.”

It was important to Dawn to access her 401(k) funds without penalties. Her experience in finance also made it important that she understand the 401(k) business financing process fully.

“They were really patient with me while teaching me. I wouldn’t commit until I understood it. Once Michael and his team walked me through everything I needed to learn, it all made sense. I got really excited because that was my goal! I wanted to be able to invest in myself and get a business up and running. This was the first step, and it was absolutely doable.”

Once Dawn had rolled her 401(k) funds into a corporate checking account, she was able to show SBA lenders she had enough cash on hand for a downpayment. She tried for an SBA loan again—and got it.

Putting Feet to the Pavement

Once Dawn was able to finance her small business, the rest of the process followed fairly quickly. She was well supported. “TrueRest literally holds your hand through the entire process. They’ve got their processes figured out and they’re proud of them. It’s a very successful business model. With their help, I realized, okay, I can actually do this.”

Dawn is now the proud owner of a TrueRest float spa in Roseville, California, and is looking to open one more in Vacaville, California. While there are challenging days where she has to pay bills and, in her words, “get a reality check,” for the most part it doesn’t feel like work. “I feel like I get to play at a spa, and fix things,” she says with a laugh.

Like many business owners in America these days, her biggest challenge is hiring. She’s currently exploring options to attract more applicants. Other than that, she says, “there’s just not enough time in the day.”

Fulfillment Beyond Business Ownership

For Dawn, success is measured by more than just ownership. After all, what made her fall in love with floating is the way it helped heal her anxiety and depression. In a way, she says, floating put her best possible headspace to own a business.

Her mission now?

“Yeah, my mission is to help as many people in the rest of my life as I can.”

Research on the type of floatation therapy TrueRest offers, called restricted environmental stimulation technique (REST) therapy, is preliminary but promising. There have been measurable benefits for people with anxiety, anorexia, chronic pain, and more. Dawn is optimistic.

“We really believe float therapy will be a covered medical service at some point. I just I want to help people, to be able to say, ‘Are you suffering from depression? Do you have long-term chronic pain? Come see me, let me help you.’”

But Dawn isn’t waiting to spread the benefits of float therapy. As a special for veteran’s day, she closed her spa to the public and invited veterans to float for free. She was booked within two hours.

“It went viral. I thought, ‘Oh no, what have I done to myself? This is going to be so stressful.’ And I don’t want to get emotional, but I sat there and talked to those veterans all day on Veterans Day. It was the proudest moment of my career.”

She was even featured on the local news and has committed to floating veterans for free on the eleventh of every month. She’s currently booked through February.

Dawn doesn’t plan to stop at just helping veterans, either—she’s currently exploring other underserved groups that could benefit from REST therapy. “I want to help as many people as I can in this life that I have left.”

“Take those ‘no’s and make them ‘yes’s”

When asked what advice she’d like to give to a younger self, she responded with certainty:

“Don’t give up. That’s the advice I would stick with, and I would tell everyone. Don’t take rejections as rejection. Don’t give up. Those are learning moments. If you give up on your first rejection, you’ll never make it, so you take those no’s and you make them yeses. If you really want it bad enough, you find a way. You find guidance — or Guidant!”

She encourages anyone interested in partnering 401(k) financing and SBA loans to get a good support team. “I’ll say it a million times: I wouldn’t be doing this without the encouragement and patience of Guidant and TrueRest.”

Having fulfilled her dream, Dawn has raised the bar for herself. She’s currently exploring opening more TrueRest locations. “I’m not wasting money or time—I’m investing in myself. If this falls apart, well, you know, it’s over when it’s over.”

Until then, Dawn plans to keep on floatin’.

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