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For some, just the mention of Europe conjures images of glamour and relaxation—a time to get away from the stresses of everyday life. After spending two years in Waterloo, Belgium, Michael Carter decided that the residents of Brentwood, Tennessee, needed just that kind of escape, without having to go all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. He started Athena Health Club & Day Spa in May 2004 as a European-style facility that offers advanced European spa services, including Dead Sea mud and salt treatments, as well as a relaxation room and a private changing area.
The purpose of going to a spa is not just about the menu items offered, according to Carter. “Here, the issue is the experience. We want people to come and have an experience,” he explains.
With a background in business, he was the director of marketing and government affairs for Anthem Alliance, an Indianapolis-based United States Department of Defense health care contractor. Carter retired and, with his wife, relocated to Belgium for two years in 2000. He wanted to start a business, but wasn’t sure what type.
The Carters moved into a beautiful home there, complete with an indoor pool and a basement fitness area. Because he always has been an avid athlete, swimming competitively and participating in triathlons and marathons, Carter began teaching swimming and athletics in his home. The idea of starting his own spa began to take root, so he decided to research the spa industry in order to determine if it was a viable project.
“I viewed it as a business opportunity,” Carter says. “I didn’t have a prior background in the spa industry, but I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. I looked into it and observed double-digit growth throughout the past 10 years in the spa and health industries. As a businessperson, I saw the opportunity to start a company and surround myself with bright people.”