Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Working Out the Kinks

Working Out the Kinks

By Elisha Greeley Smith,, Center for Rural Affairs

Jan McNichols from O’Neill, Nebraska was honored this year at the Center for Rural Affairs annual gathering. Jan took home the Rural Enterprise Assistance Program (REAP) Small Business of the Year Award.

Her road to success was not always a smooth one.

In 2001, after working on a cattle ranch for over 20 years as a veterinary assistant, she had to make a career change and decided to go to massage therapy school.

She graduated from massage therapy school and in the fall of 2002 and thereafter her business, “The Emerald Spa”, was opened. REAP assisted with a business plan and micro-loan to get the spa started.

In 2003 Jan was diagnosed with leukemia forcing the closure of her business while she underwent treatments. In 2005 she decided to reopen the business. Securing a new business location was assisted by REAP through the Women and Company Microenterprise Boost Program. To improve her newly opened business, Jan added a wet room for hydrotherapy body work, body polishes, and herbal wraps.

Jan noted that the greatest challenge in this business is educating clients on the health benefits and what massage therapy can do for them. The greatest reward is being able to help clients with chronic problems. It’s great to have them realize results!

Jan feels there was a correlation in her career change between her interest in using non-invasive ultra sound techniques in the livestock industry and learning massage therapy for humans as an alternative medical treatment.

Jan is a dedicated and courageous entrepreneur who provides big city luxuries, but in small town America. She epitomizes the persistence, work ethic, imagination and entrepreneurial spirit of so many rural entrepreneurs.


  • At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for presenting Jan's story, it is truly uplifting. Thank you, and many thanks to Jan for her courage and for being who she is.

  • At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    can you provide contact information for Jan's Emerald Spa?

  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger Center for Rural Affairs said…

    Massage and body work
    The Emerald Spa
    118 South 4th St
    O'Neill, NE 68763
    Jan McNichols
    Fax: 402-336-4824


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