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Fall 2005 Good Heavens!

If you could bottle entrepreneurial spirit, the label would read “Frank Friedland.” Listen to the owner of Heavens Therapy list the companies he’s started and managed, and you almost can’t imagine someone accomplishing all of that in one lifetime. But Friedland has. And he’s only 49.

Where did this incredible drive and creativity come from? Maybe it’s in the genes: his three siblings are entrepreneurs, too. Maybe it’s tied to his love of karate: he started lessons at age 8, and later taught it for 15 years. “They really used to beat me up. Every time you go down, you have to get up,” he says. And he applies this principle to his business. “You have to expect tremendous bumps, [and] you have to overcome them. How many times can you fall and then get up?” He leaves the question unanswered, but one imagines that, for Friedland, it would be as many as it takes.

Young upstart

Friedland’s entrepreneurial roots are in South Africa where, at 16, he sold radio-controlled toys at state fairs and home shows. And then he turned to real cars: “I developed the largest body shop in the world,” he says. Then came health studios—he owned five of them. Next, Longhorn Steakhouse restaurants—he started this chain. And then, at the ripe old age of 30, he started Table Charm, a line of break-resistant dishware.
How does he do it? (“I think of things in my sleep,” he says.) How can he create and run so many successful businesses, and at such a young age? “By instinct,” he says. “I can recognize something quickly if it will make money.”

Table Charm came into his life in Ontario, Canada, soon after he left South Africa, and it became a chapter in mall history. His idea was to retail in the common area, a standard practice today but not in 1985. When he approached mall management at Square One, their thinking was, in effect, “Retail in the common area? With a product Sears carries? Not gonna happen.” But Friedland made it happen, making Table Charm “the first company in the world to do a display [in the common area] in the mall,” he says. The product went on to become a phenomenal success—a $40 million a year business—through malls, trade shows, state fairs and home parties. After running the business for eight years, he sold it to his brother-in-law. Friedland wanted to move on and retire in Florida. He chuckles at the word “retire.” But he did go to Florida.

At that point he’s 36, living in Boca Raton with his wife and two kids, and decides to study law—not to become a lawyer but to further educate himself about the business world. “You have to have a law background to survive in America,” he says. “You have to learn about the law to do contracts.” So now he does all of his own contracts.

After law school, two more entrepreneurial endeavors: He developed the first popcorn-vending machine with fiber-optic lighting. And he created Planet Good Stuff, a program for resorts selling frozen drinks (it still runs today under different ownership). And then he arrives at heaven’s door. Well, almost.

Knock knock knockin’

The story goes like this: Friedland’s son, Dean, was working at a cart at the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton selling herbal rice packs. But “the product was terrible,” Friedland says. “I had it checked at Alchemist Pharmaceuticals to see if it worked. They said the fillers, the rice, would stop the absorption of herbs.” So—ever the entrepreneur—”we created our own version and used flax seed [instead]. It cost me $30,000 to get a formula to make it work,” he says.

The year is 1998. With perfected product in hand, he hits the street—or rather, the common area. He opens his first herbal-pack cart in the Town Center Mall (his earlier competition, the rice-pack people, were gone), and quickly opens ten more, all in Florida, for a 120-day pilot program. The carts are a success, so he branches out to Georgia, Texas and California. Eventually, with 40 carts in operation, he bows out of the retail side of the business to focus on importing and manufacturing, putting Heavens Therapy on a path to growth and tremendous success.

Heavens Therapy herbal packs, the heart of the current product line, now feature ten combinations of herbs for both hot and cold uses—relief from headache, muscle pain, toothache or colic, to name a few. There are shoulder packs, eye packs, foot and hand packs, lumbar packs and more. If customers don’t see results after two uses, they can return the product for a full refund.

The product line is sold in eight countries as well as 700 US malls. This year, Heavens Therapy is projecting annual gross sales of $13 million—which is minuscule compared to the $60 million forecast for 2007.

imageAll of the products in their broader line—a 20-page catalog with 40-50 items—relate back to their herbal roots: 90 percent are demonstration products, and all of them are “linked to health in one way or another,” says Tony Levy, sales director. “Pain is an all-year problem,” he notes. And when customers feel their pain melt away almost instantly, they’re convinced—and they buy.

That’s why it’s critical to have staffers who demonstrate well, and why Friedland invites all of his operators to attend Heavens Therapy University. There they learn the ropes of demonstrating the products, and then pass that training on to their own employees. The herb packs don’t just sit on the shelves. Staffers take them, now warm and cozy, from their microwave cocoons and place them on willing shoppers. (Instant relaxation!) Or staffers apply the head massager or hand massager to relax tight muscles.

Massagers are among the top sellers. “Everybody likes to get a massage. The question is, do they like to give them? [Massage products] make it much easier to get and give a massage,” says Jimmy Amar, Heavens Therapy retailer in the King of Prussia (PA) Plaza. And compared to a massage therapist, “it’s affordable massage therapy,” he adds.

Heavens Therapy’s products can also improve the appearance and elasticity of the skin, with their newly introduced line of Dead Sea products. “The water from the Dead Sea is effective in healing allergies, psoriasis and purulent rash. [It] can also help in blood circulation and improving metabolism,” according to the product catalog. The line includes bath salts, body scrubs, creams and soaps, all chock full of the Dead Sea’s 21 minerals.

Health on the inside is also on the Heavens Therapy agenda. Health Plus is their vitamin and mineral supplement containing 127 nutrients, including 75 plant-derived colloidal minerals, 13 vitamins, 14 herbs and 18 amino acids. For skin care, Double Action Serum promises Botox-type effects without injections. And to add a delicious note of fragrance as well as enhanced well-being, their aromatherapy candles come in “flavors” like lemon pound cake and cocoa mango.

Both Friedland and Levy greatly value the six patents the company holds, two each for the head massager, hand massager, and the herbal shoulder pack. In addition to protecting the company’s rights, “the patent protects our customers,” says Levy. “They know they’re getting a quality product,” not a cheaper version from somewhere else.

Success also comes from consulting experts and insiders who know best. In the past, when Friedland wanted help for his tableware line, he recruited the president of Tupperware. When he wanted to improve Heavens Therapy’s skin care line, he consulted Dr. Hilton Beeker, a plastic surgeon, who is credited with adding squalene (a biodegradable polymer oil) to help regenerate skin cells. And when he needed a designer for his new spa concept (more on that in a minute), he hired the same company that designed The Disney Stores.

Product quality is another driving force. Friedland uses Society General Surveillance, an independent company, to ensure the quality of everything made overseas for Heavens Therapy. They go into the factories to check all of his products, “to make sure the head massager doesn’t break, the screws are on tight, etc.,” he says. “We give them a list of what to check, to ensure that what [the manufacturers] are promising us is what they’re sending us.”

Products are currently warehoused in California and Florida, and shipped from there to retailers, with a 24-hour shipping guarantee. Two more warehouses are in progress in Texas and New Jersey; when they’re up and running, the company’s total warehouse space will be 800,000 s/f.

And not to be overlooked: the mark-up. The average retail price for a Heavens Therapy product is $25; the average wholesale cost is $3. An attractive price point for customers, and an almost irresistible profit for retailers.

Second story

Heavens Therapy’s products are only one part of the story. The other is Friedland’s new concept, The Mall Spa, rolled out this past August. By linking with Spa Capsule, whose water-massage beds have been in malls for four years, and designing a state-of-the-art kiosk for Heavens Therapy products, the company has an appealing one-stop service for customers—and a unique franchise opportunity.

Customers come in for one of six types of water massage (they stay fully dressed and totally dry). And when the massage is over, Heavens Therapy’s feel-good products are right there to buy and take home. Diana Elmufdi, owner of The Mall Spa (Hallandale, CA), has eight locations that combine Heavens Therapy products with Spa Capsule. “[The Spa Capsule] attracts people,” she says. “While they wait, we put [an herbal pack] on their shoulders. It’s a nice combination.”

The Mall Spa is state-of-the-art technology, as well. “In the kiosk, we have cameras to monitor what the people are saying, for training purposes; the cash register is linked to our system for reorders; and there are 42″ plasma TVs all around,” says Friedland. The TV screens show the products in action, beckoning shoppers to step forward and see the results for themselves.

Heavens Therapy cart operators are welcome to change over to the franchising concept if they wish. Those who stay as they are can jump on board another sales tool that was recently introduced: home-party planning, a multi-level marketing program (think Pampered Chef or Amway). “Party planning is a big part of the success,” says Friedland. “Home parties can be booked from the cart.” Party hosts get benefits like free products and can earn a two-night/three-day vacation. Cart operators receive a commission on the party’s sales and become eligible for other benefits. “We hope the cart owner will get additional income by joining the home-party program,” says Levy.

It’s all good

Whether established or just getting started, retailers have several options with Heavens Therapy: retail products on a cart, the home-party MLM program, and The Mall Spa franchise. True to his own words, Friedland recognized winning concepts, capitalized on those opportunities, and made them work—for himself, the company, the operators, and the customers. For Frank Friedland, entrepreneur through and through, this must be heaven.


Emily Lambert

Lambert, a senior writer for SRR, resides in Philadelphia. She can be reached at .

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