Giving Wellness a Fighting Chance
By Meredith Simmons
It takes courage to run a business—and to keep going when things get rough. Few know this courage more than Patti Stark, the owner of Serenity on the Square, a yoga and wellness center, in Liberty, Missouri. When Patti opened Serenity in 2008, she designed it to share the treatments and practices that had helped improve her life with others—but instead, she's become a trailblazer for the wellness industry in her state.
In 2015, the State of Missouri audited Serenity on the Square, believing that Patti had misclassified her staff as independent contractors when they should have been employees—and assessing her a fine of $10,000. Patti strongly believed that this was wrong, and when an accountant told her not to fight it and take out a loan, Patti fired her. In the end, Patti found another accountant who told her to take advantage of one last opportunity the state offered her to appeal the fine. After five hours of questioning in January 2016, Patti and Serenity on the Square won—setting a precedent for other wellness businesses in Missouri.
While the importance of the win isn't lost on Patti, she's most proud of sticking to her beliefs. "At the end of the day, win or not, I stood up for what and how I created a business which lifts, heals and brings peace to hundreds of lives in our community every month. Most will never know what happened, but I don't need them to know," Patti said.
But Patti wasn’t done impacting her local community after her court case—after attending the 2016 MINDBODY BOLD conference, Patti realized that Serenity could do more. "Seeing and hearing what these other businesses were doing at BOLD was an inspiration," Patti said. "I came back and asked everyone we give to, and we work with if we could form a partnership, and then I had more opportunities to give."
One of the most notable of these opportunities was a master class cart for an elementary school in Liberty’s school district. The cart—loaded with meditation and yoga tools—can be deployed in stressful situations in less than ten minutes. Patti fundraised to purchase the carts, recorded visualization exercises for the children, and volunteered to train the school’s staff and parent volunteers on how to use the cart, making it accessible at any time.
Despite the impact she's made, Patti still wonders how others view her business and programs. "It's a little different from the mainstream, and that can hold me back in how I market the business and how I utilize tools that can help Serenity grow," Patti said. "Through these challenges, though, I have found self-trust and have really awakened within myself what my power and gift is. I've used that in the challenges that come up in everyday business: with dealing with state audits, with dealing effectively running a business and with being in a community and serving people."
Patti’s come a long way from when she first worried if Liberty would welcome a business like Serenity, but her journey isn’t close to done—and if she keeps the courage to follow her passion and dream, there’s no telling how far she’ll go.