By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – Jacquie Rager started OZssage Therapeutic Spa in 2001 with two rooms in the Skywood building, the current location of 3 Rivers Communications. Two years later OZssage relocated to the Golden Eagle Lodge and partnered in starting the gym. In the years that followed, Rager started massage programs at the Lodge of Big Sky (2005-2009) and at Spanish Peaks Mountain Club (2007-2014).

In 2008, Rager expanded OZssage services to include acupuncture and chinese medicine, which Rager said had a large influence on her development of a blend of Eastern and Western, or “ortho-Asian” techniques.

In 2009, OZssage moved into its present space in the Meadow Village Center, which now includes five treatment rooms, a couples suite, a tranquility room, a private rain shower and steam room and the Madison Suite for hosting private spa groups.

That same year, OZssage also started offering esthetics services with skin care as the primary focus. Now they provide oxygen infusion facials, LED therapy and Qi Gold magnet facials. In 2015 Rager launched the skincare line OZ Therapeutics, which she has found to be a success in the Big Sky market.

As part of this ongoing series, Rager shared her thoughts with EBS on the reasoning behind her success and longevity operating a Big Sky small business.

Explore Big Sky: What has been the key to your success?

Jacquie Rager: When I started OZssage, I wanted to create an environment that expanded on the spa world with more focus on treatment while retaining a spa ambiance. I wanted to keep the therapists engaged in the learning process and the challenges clients presented to them so that it would be a win-win for both the therapists and the clients. I have never been scared to keep changing and moving OZssage forward—learning and researching has been key, and remaining passionate about developing our menu and bringing in skin care technologies and new products as well as refining massage techniques.

EBS: What are the biggest obstacles to operating a small business in Big Sky?

J.R.: Definitely the seasonality, increasing operating costs and the challenge of hiring good employees.

EBS: How has the business landscape changed since you started out?

J.R.: I have seen an increase in tourists at OZssage, but I am happy to say a good percentage of our clientele is return clients, with strong support from part-timers and locals.

EBS: What is it about Big Sky that compels you to stick it out through the hard times?

J.R.: I still love what I do—learning and improving our therapists’ skills and the business. It’s rewarding and inspiring to hear my clients who travel all over the world say that now they won’t get massages or facials anywhere else. OZssage has become a part of their Big Sky experience.

EBS: What is one of the most memorable moments you have had as a resident/business owner in Big Sky?

J.R.: I’ve had many, many memorable moments with clients and therapists along the way. A recent memorable moment was during the beginning of winter and stopping to take a look around the spa, knowing that after many renovations and expansions that OZssage is now complete.

EBS: Why do you think so many new businesses fold relatively quickly?

J.R.: I am sure every business has different reasons, but the seasonality has an impact. We still have off seasons and you need to plan for that.

EBS: What advice would you give to small business owners just starting out in Big Sky?

J.R.: Expect long days. Save and plan for the off seasons. Hiring management staff and retiring will be a long way down the track.

EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

J.R.: Always remember to look big picture

EBS: Where do you see your business in 10 years?

J.R.: Handing over my business to someone that will keep the spirit of OZssage alive. I will still probably be around and working but at 60 I’m not so sure I will be putting in as many hours as I do now, but you never know.

OZssage Therapeutic Spa – by the numbers

            Staff: 4-5 year-round; 8-9 summer; 10-12 winter

            Years in business: 17  

            Longest serving employee: Leah Robinson, 9 years; former employee Sarah Rainwater, 10 years