10/03/2014 11:08 am ET Updated Dec 03, 2014

Women in Business: Eugenia Tzoannopoulos, Regional Developer for Massage Envy Spa

Eugenia Tzoannopoulos has been a regional developer for Massage Envy Spa since September of 2006 overseeing the Connecticut Region, which includes Connecticut, Rhode Island, Westchester County New York and Bristol County Massachusetts. With her support, she provides best practices, coaching and training oversight to franchisees and their staff ensuring that goals are met and or exceeded as well as promotes clinic level profitability for 21 locations in operation with 5 additional locations currently under development. In addition to training, coaching and operational reviews, her responsibilities also include identifying and selecting qualified candidates to become franchisees in her region.

Eugenia has also co-owned and operated the Massage Envy Spa in Fairfield, Connecticut, since May 2007 and the Massage Envy Spa of North Stamford Connecticut since December of 2011.

Eugenia Tzoannopoulos and her business partner Dina Begetis were honored at this year's Massage Envy Spa Annual Franchise Conference in Pheonix, Ariz. as Regional Developers of the Year; a prestigious and honorable award recognizing top ranking regions across the network.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I would absolutely have to say that it began from a young age; I can remember my challenges and struggles being raised by Greek immigrants who had broken English. Naturally, English was a second language to me, and I can remember being so confused in elementary school flip-flopping Greek and English and that was tough when you were trying to "fit-in." While most of my schoolmates had help with homework and a very different home life, I had to figure it out on my own and became very independent at a young age. Additionally, I owe a lot to my parents. To this day, they still amaze me. They came to this country with very little in terms of money and education. They taught me that with hard work, persistence and focus you can overcome just about anything. They are a testament of hard work and dedication, as I watched them work tirelessly day and night to save enough money to purchase their own business. Today, they still own their own business and work in it every day. My dad is almost 80 and he does it with a smile on his face. Their story itself fueled me; after all, I had every opportunity to be successful, and if they made it with their circumstances I certainly could as well.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position with Massage Envy Spa?
With Massage Envy Spa being a franchise, it minimizes risk, as the system is proven and successful. Having signed on as a Regional Developer in 2006, my business partner and I have contributed to the development of several new franchise locations. Regardless of being a franchisee or not, business experience is crucial for success. My previous positions were all business focused and touched on marketing, sales, business development, account management and membership. I managed large teams and managed several units. Just about every element of my previous employment experience is being utilized in some capacity. At the core, Massage Envy Spa is successful because of the tremendous internal culture of employees.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure with Massage Envy Spa?
I can't believe it has been almost 8 years since I became a Regional Developer for Massage Envy Spa! It truly has been a tremendous journey with so many highlights and challenges that we have overcome.

Some challenges:
1. Going into business for yourself is a 24/7, 365 day a year job. Luckily, I do get to receive massages frequently which is such a tremendous help with stress and relieving pain from being on a computer 12 hours a day or on the road.

2. Business partnership is also not an easy dynamic, however, once you can understand each other's strengths and opportunities and can be open and honest in communicating, then a successful and effective partnership is born and it truly helps in sharing the risk and reward!

Some of the top highlights:

1. Being a part of a hyper growth organization, getting started in its infancy and seeing it flourish to almost 1,000 open locations.

2. The people I've met along the way and continue to have relationships with - including customers and employees. We still have so many of our original team at our Fairfield location, which just celebrated seven years!!

3. Helping change so many people's lives with massage and skin care

4. Mentoring and coaching employees and watching them grow into larger roles in the organisation

5. Begin recognized as Regional Developers of the year for 2013

6. Receiving a Street Fighter Award for 2012

7. Continuing to achieve results in the top 5 and 10% of the organization both at the clinic level and with the region.

8. Serving as a board member on the National Franchise Advisory Board and co-chairing the National Marketing Advisory Board - having a voice as a franchisee to ensure our support center minimizes challenges and provides support to achieve growth and success.

What attracted you to work in the health/wellness sector?
Since I receive massages often, I knew first hand the wellness benefits. I love to help people and have always been that way, although I don't directly get to use magic hands like some of our massage therapists do to provide relief, I am still in some way contributing to the overall well-being of the community.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
I so love to see women empowered to get out and start their own business or get involved in a franchise. Just be sure to love what you do and it never feels like work. When you are passionate and tenacious about your career, there is no way you won't make it a success. Today, there are so many opportunities to obtain funding, especially for women; the process can be arduous but so worth it in the end!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is a tough one, especially since we have so much going on with development of new locations in our region and the oversight of 21 locations. I have been focused on my business over the last 8 years, and so I am sure it has been a bit easier for me compared to women who have families and children to care for. I admire how some of them juggle it all. I do my best to receive massages weekly or bi-weekly which has been such a tremendous help. I also block time off in my outlook calendar just as if it were a work meeting to ensure that I carve out the time I need to spend with family, friends, pup, and of course, my boxing and yoga.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Even with such a tremendous evolution over the years with women in the workplace continuing to grow and hold high-level executive positions, I still feel a gender inequality stigma still exists in terms of compensation and benefits. They still earn below their male counterparts and they are just as qualified if not more qualified in some instances and also their need to also have to balance career and home-life, which may appear as if they are not as committed to their career.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship is so rewarding to me. We love to promote positions from within so it is so great to carve a career path with one of your employees and watch them thrive and grow into management positions. Nothing is more exciting than seeing them use the tools you taught them to succeed!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Gabrielle Giffords is someone who comes to mind. I had the honor of hearing her husband Mark E. Kelly speak at a conference recently, and I was just blown away at the strength and tenacity to recover from such a tragic situation all while keeping her spirit, love and passion for her nation.

What do you want Massage Envy Spa to accomplish in the next year?
To continue with our growth and success story across the nation as we near 1,000 open units. In the Connecticut region, our goal is to be at 25+ clinics in operation, which means the creation of hundreds of job openings to support this growth. Although we are a national brand and in 49 states, I feel we could do a better job creating a better awareness of our brand and it's mission. We aren't just massage and spa services - we are a commitment to health and wellness and our goal is to continue to change lives through our hands.