Alumna Finds Success in Franchise Formula

Karla (Murray) Mazza ’07, ’08 M.B.A.

Karla (Murray) Mazza ’07, ’08 M.B.A.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Former student-athlete is co-owner of four physical therapy centers

When she started at Penn State Behrend, Karla (Murray) Mazza, planned to major in kinesiology, offered at University Park. An avid volleyball player, she joined the varsity team at Behrend and after a year, she knew she wanted to find a major she could complete at the college.

“I just loved the team and Behrend, so I had to think about my skillset and where I could apply it. My mom suggested marketing,” said Mazza, who graduated with a Marketing degree in 2007 and an MBA in 2008. “It aligned with what I wanted, which was to have a lot of options in the business world and to, one day, be my own boss.”

That day came sooner than she imagined when she and her husband, Dave, ran into a college friend, Christopher Bailey, a physical therapist, who was considering buying a physical therapy franchise, Fyzical, in Corry in 2017.

At the time, Mazza was working for Patterson-Erie Corporation, which owns and operates the Burger King franchise in the Erie region, so she had some experience with the franchise model and told Bailey she would look at it and give him her thoughts.

After doing the research, Mazza was impressed. “I liked the business opportunity that Fyzical offered to someone without a medical degree and their approach to providing more holistic health care,” she said.

Bailey suggested they join forces. He would handle the clinical side of things and Mazza would manage the business side.

“Dave and I believed in Chris’ vision and Fyzical and bought into the business,” Mazza said.

It turned out to be a great partnership. In 2021, Bailey and Mazza were named the Fyzical Franchisees of the Year, and the two recently opened their fourth location.

Growing Fyzical

After taking ownership of the Corry facility, Bailey and Mazza noticed they had a lot of patients who were driving from Erie

for treatment of vertigo and balance issues, a specialty of the Fyzical franchises.

Knowing they had existing clients in Erie made expansion an obvious next step. They opened their second location in west Erie in 2019.

“That was eye-opening,” Mazza said. “Splitting our time between multiple clinics highlighted the need to have consisten­cy, or it would’ve been overwhelming, operationally.”

The solution, Mazza said, was to build a solid team. “Having the right staff is huge,” she said. “Mood matters. We want a positive workplace with employees who share in our vision and enjoy their jobs. If we take care of them, they will take care of our patients.”

Each facility, including the two that Mazza and Bailey added in 2022 in Erie’s Harborcreek and Summit townships – has a clinical director, but Mazza is a frequent presence.

“Face time is vital,” she said. “I need to be accessible to our employees, and the more time I spend in the centers, the better I understand our needs and challenges.”

From Player To “Coach”

Recalling her experience playing volleyball at Behrend, Mazza likens herself to a coach rather than a player now. “The coach is the one doing the advance work, strategy, research, and measuring results. It’s my job to make sure we’re going in the right direction.”

She has help, not only from her business partner and employ­ees, but from being part of the Fyzical franchise. Among the benefits, Mazza lists the ability for rapid growth, turnkey prod­ucts, strong business support, and excellent training programs.

“That said, we are still a mom-and-pop operation,” she said. “We’re still locally owned and operated. I go to the same grocery stores and restaurants as our patients, and we live in this community. It’s the best of both worlds.”