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February 18, 2009 > Relax the Back

Relax the Back

"Oh my aching back" is a common complaint and often left untreated as a natural condition of everyday life. A wide variety of daily pressures including stress, school or vocational duties and recreation can be the origin of aches throughout the body that can be painful yet transitory or evolve into chronic and debilitating injury. Due to the ubiquitous nature of this facet of human existence, medical and fitness professionals have responded with a plethora of therapies. Products have been designed to prevent or relieve pain and associated limitations but are often underutilized or unknown to the general public. Since every facet of a daily routine can be critical to a healthy lifestyle, Relax the Back has concentrated its efforts on providing effective products that can be easily integrated into even the busiest schedule.

The Fremont location of Relax the Back began years ago in high school. "Three of us were in the same class and one was an older brother, a couple of classes ahead. We hadn't done much together in high school except play basketball and things like that," says Chun-I Yin. All graduated and entered top-rated universities to begin advanced studies for careers in "acceptable" high tech vocations. Tunlin and Tunhow Ou studied at Stanford and John Tsai and Chun-I entered U.C. Berkeley.

Nearing the end of their college years, this unlikely group of entrepreneurs decided to investigate vocations, "other than what our parents had told us to do." Drawing inspiration from books such as Rich Dad, Poor Dad the concept of self-employment appealed to the group although for the next two years they "stepped into day jobs."

Starting out as an investment club with eight members in 2001, Chun-I says, "We had the same goals." The weak economy brought an acid test of fiscal challenges and five of the eight members dropped out. Those who remained with the group - Chun-I, Tunlin and John - proved their loyalty and determination to succeed no matter what obstacles lay in their path. At this point, Tunlin recruited his brother Tunhow who shared the same values and beliefs. Chun-I says the group was built around a sense of "When things get bad who is going to be around?"

In 2003, they made their first foray into the business world - an attempt to open a restaurant oriented toward the college crowd in Davis. With no prior experience in the hospitality business, they nonetheless forged ahead. Plans were readied and a site was found but unexpected environmental issues doomed the effort. The result was a return to "regular jobs" in Asia to gather capital for another venture.

Two years later, in 2005, the time was right to make another effort at entrepreneurial independence. They began their own start-up company - internet adverting. The group's subsequent success resulted in the sale of the business and an examination of other business opportunities.

As they looked for other business ventures, Chun-I remembers their mindset as, "Technology is what we know, but it really doesn't excite us as much as it should." The group decided to try something completely new. Another foray into the world of restaurants was discarded when considering their lack of knowledge. With the realization that their enthusiasm was high and, outside technology, business knowledge low, a franchise operation seemed ideal. The right opportunity would supply necessary product and marketing support.

After examining a list of top franchise possibilities and excluding those that involved food and perishables, just a few remained. Their top choices included tax services, fitness facilities and Relax the Back. "These choices looked interesting, fun and provided solid business models." Chun-I notes that from previous experience sitting for long hours at a desk, "We could relate to people with back and neck pain." The group spent time investigating the products and services of Relax the Back and was impressed by the professionalism and comprehensive support services. The products were excellent and the group could relate to the concept of helping people lead healthy lives coupled with a reasonable financial return of their investment. Chun-I says, "With all of these factors in place, the decision was made to go ahead and do this."

Chun-I notes, "Saying and doing it are a whole different story." The paperwork was signed at the end of 2006 with the expectation of opening a store by July 2007. Focusing on a Fremont location, extended negotiations continued to modify the schedule and 2008 arrived without a final resolution of a location. At this time, the group had an opportunity to purchase an existing Relax the Back location in Pleasanton. The deal was struck and, as this contract was finalized, their lease offer to locate in Fremont was accepted. This presented a dilemma. Now, instead of one store, the group was faced with the prospect of operating two Relax the Back locations.

True to their entrepreneurial spirit, the decision was made to move forward and in August 2008, the Fremont store opened. "Things happen for a reason," says Chun-I. "We had the first six months of experience with the Pleasanton store to work out our operational kinks and learn a lot of lessons before opening this [Fremont] store." There was time to update the look and incorporate ideas from management of an older, established location. Initially everyone in the group worked on the new enterprise; Chun-I has taken lead management responsibility of the Relax the Back franchises as Tunhow and John concentrate on other business opportunities.

Committed to their concept of having fun and helping others, this group avoids concentrating on external factors such as the economic downturn that are beyond their control. Instead, they have worked to make the best use of what they can influence such as staff training and product placement. "We were surprised with the amount of work necessary to make this business operate. Our anticipation was that there would be down time between customers, but we quickly found that there are a lot of moving parts to this operation. We were definitely humbled by the amount of work but adapted well and were able to streamline some of the processes using our high tech background." The most challenging aspect of operating the business is dealing with multiple vendors, says Chun-I. "When you are talking with 70-100 vendors, it can be very confusing."

Staff training is an important part of the operation and is taken seriously. "It takes months to become familiar with the effective use of the products. When someone walks into our store, we want to make sure that our sales associates or anyone working here knows what they are talking about including medical terms and conditions. Each product has its own features and benefits which tie into their effective use to alleviate medical problems." The Fremont and Pleasanton stores use a pre-approved list of products supplemented by some additional items more oriented to the local population.

"We are here to support the medical community, not replace it." For instance, a massage chair doesn't replace physical therapy, chiropractic care or professional massage, but it can be a welcome relief for those coming home from a hard day of work. A "Medical Partnership Program" assists the medical community by providing tools that are complimentary to their services. For instance, if a patient needs a foam roll, back support or other items that will enhance treatment, Relax a Back can provide the product and understanding of the problem.

In many cases, people working in professions or everyday life with the potential for back, shoulder, neck or spinal problems can avoid exacerbating or alleviate the condition. "We can fit individuals for the right pillow, the right bed, chair or whatever will help them." Ergonomic solutions for businesses are also a specialty of Relax the Back. Especially in these trying economic times, Relax the Back products help assure high productivity even when employees face difficult hours that can promote fatigue and stress.

Whether facing a small need that can be handled with a simple device or the requirements for relief are more extensive, Relax the Back can handle it - zero gravity recliners, chairs for office or home, massage chairs, adjustable beds and pillow or fitness and therapy equipment. A visit to either location will open a world of healthy, supportive products for anyone to help avoid uttering those infamous words, "Oh, my aching back!"

Relax the Back

2690 Mowry Ave., Fremont
(510) 818-1381

6070 Johnson Dr., Ste. C, Pleasanton
(925) 463-2225

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