Local business redefining weight loss
Theresa Sapienza-Cote wants to whip the beauty and weight-loss industries into shape.
“I thought, ‘There has to be another way,’” says Sapienza-Cote, reflecting on the severe surgical slicing (and serious health risks) that often accompanies cosmetic treatments. It’s an issue she knows all too well. Six years ago Sapienza-Cote received dental implants, a relatively simple procedure, from a practitioner billed as topnotch. But she wound up receiving something unexpected, too: a perforated sinus cavity, a painful condition that has required about 20 surgeries to correct. She has even had a piece of her own shinbone transplanted to her mouth. “I said to myself, ‘never again would I let anyone take a knife to me, just to look 21.’”
The experience motivated her to make a change in the industry, and introduce noninvasive alternatives to traditional treatments. “Over the course of my career, I saw surgeries change: from people being cut wide open, to everything being done robotically,” says Sapienza-Cote, a former nurse of 30 years. “I wondered, ‘why can’t we do the same thing with facelifts or liposuction? Why does everything have to be so mean and invasive, with cutting and bruising?’”
Enter: Sound Shapes, the North End business she founded less than three years ago, dedicated to noninvasive body treatments. Its primary service is VASER Shape, an FDA-approved weight loss treatment that uses a combination of ultrasound and massage therapy. Sound waves emitted by the gentle stroking of a handheld device targets the extra cushion at “problem areas” between the skin and muscle; the heat-generating effect promotes metabolism, drains away excess toxins and fats, and allows for re-contouring and cellulite elimination. It’s safe and noninvasive, requires no “recovery” time (a single treatment can fit in a lunch break), and is a relaxing experience more akin to a spa appointment than a weight-loss procedure. Yet the effect is a gently reshaped body area: think tightened skin and lost inches.
In fact, the only thing growing is Sound Shapes’ business. “Inch by inch we’ve built and developed this company based only on noninvasive treatments,” says Sapienza-Cote, whose business has especial appeal to upscale clients: VASER is a favorite treatment among red carpet-ready celebrities, and Sound Shapes attracts many international visitors to its North End location, the only Boston-area spot offering the service. They appreciate the treatment’s effectiveness (it was recently profiled on Dr. Oz) and Sound Shapes’ discreetness. The business is a cozy hideaway, with its waiting area and treatment rooms tucked in the rear of a first floor office. That affords guests privacy and, promises the Sound Shapes team, a sense of warmth and familiarity.
“We’re very family oriented,” says Sapienza-Cote, who launched the business with help from her son Paul Sapienza, a mortgage broker who keeps his office in the same space as Sound Shapes. (Convenient excuse if any nosy neighbors see you leaving a treatment: you were just talking finance!) The former nurse says that family-centric style of business is why she offers free initial consultations. The idea is to ensure the treatments are appropriate for each guest, and meet his or her individual expectations. “Even with someone who is a great candidate, I’ll often say, ‘go home and think about it,’” says Sapienza-Cote, who wants to make sure her clients are realistic and satisfied with their experience. “We only have happy clients here.”
“We want this to feel like home, a place where you’re comfortable and on a first name basis,” says Paul Sapienza. He seconds his mother’s assertion that Sound Shapes provides real results; it’s not intended to rake naïve clients over the coals with promises of miracles. VASER Shape treatment isn’t intended for the seriously overweight, but for those who need a little help targeting specific areas. “Many people have certain parts of the body where nothing can get the inches down, and they don’t want to go under the knife.” Sound Shapes’ men clients most often seek help for the abdominal and flank (aka “love handle”) areas, while women look to minimize extra padding on the abs, outer thigh, and “bra roll.”
But now there’s a new reason to pay a visit. Sound Shapes just became the only business in the Boston area to have the Alma laser system, which resurfaces skin for any number of objectives: from removal of tattoos, hair and age spots, to minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. It is all part of Sound Shapes plan to continue bringing guests the latest in safe and effective treatments. “Pending FDA approval, we may have something for hair replacement coming down the line, something unlike anything people have seen,” says Sapienza-Cote. “We’re always looking for that cutting edge technology to introduce.”
But when it comes to building its business, Sound Shapes relies on pretty tried and true methods: treat people well, let word of mouth spread, and allow good work to be its own reward. (Of course, building a sense of community through quarterly soirees and a VIP email list, offering a guide to other nearby North End businesses, doesn’t hurt.)
It’s not always easy to be a family-owned business competing against the industrial complex of plastic surgery. “When you’re in the business of cutting people open, and there are people who can do the very same thing without cutting people open, the industry fights within itself,” says Paul Sapienza.
But his mother’s commitment won’t be compromised. As a nurse, a mom, a business owner, and someone who has endured serious complications from her surgery, she’s determined to bring noninvasive treatments to more and more guests who want to be part of the Sound Shapes family.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about people,” says Sapienza-Cote. “We want everyone here to feel embraced.”
For more info on Sound Shapes, VASER Shape, and pricing information, visit sound-shapes.com.