Returning to Canada and starting Big Feet
In Canada, Shirley faced numerous challenges when attempting to establish her reflexology practice. Shirley encountered obstacles when trying to obtain the necessary business license due to the absence of a regulatory department for reflexology in Vancouver. After a year and a half of perseverance, Shirley finally obtained the appropriate license and became the first of her kind in the area. Unfortunately, the outbreak of SARS in 2003 had a significant negative impact on her business, causing her clientele to vanish almost overnight. Shirley struggled to pay rent during this period, but was fortunate that the outbreak did not last long.
After the SARS outbreak, Shirley gradually built her business back up, only to face another setback when her landlord sold the property to someone who intended to open a hair salon in her rented space. Shirley was unsure how to handle this situation, but ultimately decided to continue her business by opening a new location nearby. However, she faced yet another hurdle when residents in the area opposed having a massage shop in their neighborhood, leading to difficulty in obtaining a new business license. Fortunately, with the help of an architect named Mr. Yip, Shirley was able to successfully apply for a court hearing, where she was able to explain her situation as a single mother and business owner. Six of the seven jurors supported Shirley, and she felt a sense of pride in Canada’s democratic process. Despite the numerous challenges she faced, Shirley persevered and was able to achieve success in her business.
Shirley’s excellent customer service and skilled reflexology expertise led to an increase in loyal clients. She continued to run her business in this manner for five years until the popularity of Big Feet grew, and clients of all ages began to frequent her shop. At its peak, clients had to wait for three months to secure an appointment.
During this period, Shirley and her two children lived in a rented basement suite. She vividly remembers her 24/7/365 daily schedule, which included getting up at 7:00 am, taking the children to school, sending towels to the Laundromat, and opening the shop by 10:00 am. At 3:00 pm, she would leave the shop to pick up her children from school and take them to their extracurricular activities. As she did not have time to cook dinner at home, she would buy food for her children to eat inside the car. At 7:00 pm, she returned to the shop to work until 11:00 pm. Now, her older son has already graduated from university with a major in arts and started his career, while the younger son graduated from UBC with a major in engineering physics and continued his graduate-level studies in mathematics, following in his mother’s footsteps. Shirley will always be grateful for the support of her university classmate who helped take care of her children at night.
With the success of Big Feet, Shirley’s vision for the future continued to grow. She saw potential in expanding the business to new locations, and began to open more branches throughout the Greater Vancouver Area. She also focused on improving the quality of service provided by Big Feet, and invested in more training for her employees.
Shirley recognized that the massage therapy market had different demographics, and she made a conscious decision to position Big Feet as a provider of low-cost massage services that delivered the same health benefits as licensed traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. This approach proved successful, and Big Feet became known as a place where clients could receive quality massage therapy without breaking the bank.
Over the years, Shirley has remained committed to providing her clients with the best possible service, and never forgot the importance of giving back to the community.