The only thing I have ever known has been self-employment. I grew up in a household where both of my parents were busy running a family business. I lived those struggles and joys every day. Ten years ago I returned to Maine after college and graduate school and went back to school to become a massage therapist. I received my license on a cold December day in 2004 and realized the circle was complete. It seemed like second nature to me, running a business. But I, like many of the entrepreneurs that I counsel every day, didn’t know what I didn’t know.
As a small business, a bodywork practice is unique. The business can range from a one-person studio to several therapists sharing space to a large practice with multiple therapists. However, the recipe for success for a bodywork business is really the same as any other type of business: Have a vision, have passion, have a niche, create a plan, dedicate yourself to marketing, keep in contact with your customers, continue to grow and learn.
In this regard, several things are clear: Consumers are driving demand for therapeutic services; bodywork has an increasing role in our health care; and these factors have created an environment for this type of business to thrive.
According to a survey conducted by the American Massage Therapy Association, more and more people are incorporating massage therapy into their regular health routines. Wendy Decker, sole proprietor of Reflexology and Massage in Bath, states, “When I started doing reflexology 21 years ago, hardly anyone knew about it. That has changed. Many people now call up and specifically ask for reflexology.”
Over the years, the industry has transformed. Kim Jacques, co-owner of Revelation Massage in Auburn, explained, “In addition to all the research validating the benefits of massage, the general public has become very educated about the value of massage therapy for their health. Massage therapists work alongside physical therapists, chiropractors and doctors with a focus on wellness care. And in fact many health insurance policies across the country are acknowledging massage therapy’s role in health care by reimbursing their services.”
Jacques continues, “As our stress levels have increased, consumers and the medical field alike have begun to realize that relaxation is medicine. Massage therapy is now part of a new paradigm of health care.”
So how does one build a successful practice? One thing for sure: Be committed to the development of the education and skills you need in order to be successful. As Jacques asserts, “The management of time, resources and people are all essential to the success of my business and I can honestly say that I did not naturally come by those skills. I needed to develop them.”
And so she did. Since 1998, Jacques developed her business as a solo bodyworker; she worked as an educator and subsequently as the director of education at SpaTech Institute in Westbrook.
“The necessary skills I developed over the last 14 years prepared me to open the business of my dreams,” Jacques said.
As with other small businesses, it is important to market oneself and keep in regular contact with clients in order to ensure success. Having an active website, blog, newsletter and Facebook page are all important factors in developing your marketing strategy and communicating effectively with your clients.
Jacques cautions, “Never underestimate the need to dedicate serious time to a diversified marketing campaign. Embrace marketing as a fun opportunity to meet great people. Marketing is more than just advertising, it is relationship development.”
Undoubtedly, it is important to have passion in the owning and operating of a small business. Having joy in your work could arguably be the single most important factor in operating a successful practice.
As Decker offers, “My greatest joy is in helping people, making a difference in their lives. I love my work in so many ways it is difficult to pinpoint one thing.”
“Working long hours from a place of joy is so much better than working a 40-hour-a-week job that you are not passionate about … My greatest joy occurs on a daily basis. We are able to have a positive effect upon people’s lives on a daily basis. Life does not get any better than that,” Jacques said.
In addition to operating a successful part- time therapeutic massage practice, Jenn Dobransky is microenterprise coordinator for the midcoast for the Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.