Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone.
My columns this month feature four minority-owned STEM businesses in the Kansas City metro. The cool thing about each of these businesses? They include at least one (if not more) aspect of the STEM concept — science, technology, engineering, and math.
For the third piece of this the four-part series, I conducted a Q&A-style interview with Kia McClain, director of growth marketing at The Laya Center to discuss the business’s STEM components — math (growth hacking/marketing), science (cryo body sculpting), and technology (cryotherapy).
Company: The Laya Center
Specialty: We are the only coworking spa in the country and we have the only natural cryotherapy chamber in the Midwest. We promote overall, natural wellness that lends to the well-being of KC entrepreneurs along their journey. By providing wellness services within a coworking community, we are building relationships while helping to expand creativity through clearing certain blockages.
Year founded: 2016
Founders: Joe and Toyia Mays
Cool fact: In addition to our natural cryotherapy chamber, we offer chromotherapy. For those wondering, if you have ever seen a newborn with jaundice being treated, you will notice they are being treated with what appears to be a purple/bluish light. This is a form of chromotherapy. When you include all of the chakra crystals (crystal therapy) you can essentially treat the body from head to toe. The chakras align with each region of the body and each crystal plays an important role in keeping the body healthy and balanced.
Bonus cool fact: While searching for a business name, we wanted to come up with something that describes the journey we were on. “Laya” means freedom. It also has a Sanskrit meaning to dissolve, dissolution. We express this feeling through the services that we offer — pain inhibitions, self-consciousness, dis-ease, dissolved.
When did you fall in love with STEM? STEM has been a nearly lifelong passion for me. I still remember being in kindergarten and the first thing that caught my attention was the computers in the room. I was instantly fascinated and my introduction to the computer was the Oregon Trail video game. I have been hooked ever since.
Any advice for budding STEM enthusiasts/technologists? Try everything. There are so many different areas of STEM. I initially started out on a programmer/IT path, but surprisingly ended up on a growth hacking*/marketing path instead after exploring what else was out there.
(Growth hacking is a math-intensive principle, used to rapidly market products and services through product development and identification to efficiently grow a business.)
Why is pursuing a STEM career or launching a STEM-centric business important for NextGen innovators? Currently, many careers and even industries created in the 19th and 20th centuries are antiquated and failing. Most people born in the late 1970s through today are self-sufficient and are used to a DIY approach to the things they want to do in life. We are shifting from a “take what you are given without complaint” to a “have it exactly the way you envisioned” generation. People value experiences and convenience more than low price points and will gladly pay more to get exactly what they want. STEM-focused businesses are able to thrive in this environment because they can change on the flip of a dime. They are fluid and ever-changing. The days of business plans and brick-and-mortar structures are over. Companies that can adjust to and with the consumer the fastest are the ultimate winners in today’s climate.
How has diversity and inclusion played a role in the success of the company? Diversity and inclusion plays a huge role in our company, especially being located in the “Bible belt” of the country. A lot of what we bring to the table could be considered “new age,” but we have an inclusive approach with our business that embraces everyone — regardless of race, religion, or beliefs. We help every client achieve success based on their own terms and we take the time to educate everyone on the science behind the mind and body connection, crystal therapy, and more. We also have a diverse staff and customer base.
If you could do it all again, what would you change? Focus on a membership-driven model. We hemmed and hawwed and wondered how this model would impact the business. It actually has turned out to be quite awesome. With a membership model, people have the freedom to choose from a buffet of services and use the center in the way that suits their lifestyle and needs the best. Allowing this type of flexibility has been a huge win for The Laya Center. The only thing we would change is doing it sooner.
2018 Goals: Our 2018 goals include laying the groundwork to open our first coliving spa space. The property has already been purchased and we look forward to catering to the remote workforce that loves to travel and have unique coworking/coliving experiences.
Next week, the fourth part of my four-part series will feature Quest Moffat, founder of Project United Knowledge (PUK).
April Boyd-Noronha is the STEM parent advocate, diversity thought lecturer and author behind Lee’s Summit-based The STEM Broker, a boutique training and consulting firm focused on empowering girls, women, and minorities to succeed and advance in STEM careers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on twitter at @thestembroker