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Therapy by the Book

An avid scrapbooker enhances the relaxing effects of her hobby by combining it with spa amenities.

What: A weekend spa retreat for scrapbookers
Who: Marguerite Violassi-Ochoa of Garden Spa Scrapping
Where: Arroyo Grande, California
When: Started in 2005

While visiting a spa getaway in 2004, Marguerite Violassi-Ochoa, 46, was inspired to create a similar place, but with a twist. Her resort would be for avid scrapbookers like herself. A year later, she opened Garden Spa Scrapping, a retreat with all the amenities of a hotel, the coziness of a bed and breakfast, and the tranquility of a spa.

"My husband and I spent many hours brainstorming and developing financial models to address every aspect of the business," says Violassi-Ochoa, a former finance manager and a CPA by trade. "I believe this planning phase made [Garden Spa Scrapping's] transition from idea to reality seamless."

Through a 1031 exchange with previous rental property, they invested in an $820,000 home on Cali-fornia's central coast. Large enough to accommodate 10 guests and in a rural, rustic setting surrounded by eucalyptus trees, it was the perfect place to carry out Violassi-Ochoa's vision. "Once we found the property, I decorated the entire place in my mind," she says. "That was the fun part for me."

To advertise, Violassi-Ochoa created a website and placed brochures in scrapbooking stores. After six months of planning and marketing and $50,000 worth of interior decorating, the retreat opened in December 2005 to a full house. Today, guests are booking three to four months in advance.

Garden Spa Scrapping's visitors, women in their 20s to 60s, enjoy a weekend complete with home-cooked meals, a welcome gift and personally designed card, an on-site supply store and, of course, lots of scrapbooking work space. Spa services are available for an additional fee, and a technique instructor teaches scrapbooking classes throughout the weekend.

Violassi-Ochoa, who expects $150,000 in 2006 sales, says, "One of the things I enjoy most is seeing the transformation that occurs in the women who spend their weekend here. I watch the stress melt away from their faces."

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This article was originally published in the October 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Therapy by the Book.

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