Five years ago today, I walked up the stairs of Suite 201 in Building D at 500 Pleasant Valley Drive in Little Rock, Arkansas to begin my first day as owner and sole massage therapist at Nature’s Elements Massage Studio. I was filled with excitement, with a dash of nervous energy. This was a long time coming. I had been a massage therapist since 2000—13 years of working under someone else’s roof and rules. But as of June 1, 2013, I was finally stepping out on my own! I had spent the last 13 years working hard, learning and perfecting my skills, observing how others ran their businesses, and building good, solid client relationships. Now, it was my hope and expectation that all of this work and patience would pay off. I have never looked back.
When I started in massage, I had a lofty idea that I could be some kind of free-spirited world traveler, spending time working in any place I wanted to experience and taking classes in exotic locales. Or maybe I could move back to my home in Fairfield Bay and start a business there catering to the local retirees and the tourists during the season. The possibilities were endless! I had spent 4 years of my life in college earning a degree in math education that would not pan out for me in the long term, and would leave me feeling very much a failure. After that, I spent several years working in various bank jobs and other customer service jobs—just enough to make the ends meet for my bills. I even spent a year traveling on a youth ministry team and praying for God to show me my path, only to end up right back in a bank teller job—not that there is anything bad about that, I just felt I was missing a step somewhere. But the day I started massage school, I knew I had found it—my path. Thank God! And so it began to unfold…
I never wanted to “own a business”. My parents had owned a jewelry and custom frame shop for years in Fairfield Bay. I grew up watching them work 6 (sometimes 7) days a week. They never let us kids see it, but I know they struggled financially at times over the years. My mom worked all day, went to the grocery store, came home, cooked dinner. Then she would spend the evening folding clothes or something. Kathy and I would offer to help, but she would never let us, at least not much. So I knew that owning a business came at a price. It took sacrifice and dedication and work. I am a basically lazy person, and I am a good follower. I was a good student because I could follow direction. I am not a good “decider”. I can barely choose a meal or what I want to wear on a given day. So, owning a business just did not seem like something I ever wanted.
But at the time I graduated from massage school and began to work, there were no places a therapist could work as an employee. Everyone either worked as an independent contractor or rented a space and scratched out a living. Part time was the way to go, while you held down a full time job to pay your bills. And so I started my massage journey working weekends and evenings as a contractor while I worked full time at a bank. At least my bills were paid, and if I made a little extra at massage, great. Well, things took off for me. Because I am a good and willing worker I began to receive requests for massage. Then, I was offered a small teaching position in the massage school connected to the clinic I worked at (so I guess the college degree did pay off!) This gave me the opportunity to quit the bank and take the full-time plunge into the world of massage therapy. It has been the most fulfilling career I could have ever imagined or asked for.
I spent the next decade observing the owners I worked for. I learned so much from them—things I wanted to emulate, things I would never want to do or be. I built a strong client base and finally got to a point where I thought “I can do this. I can do it better. I need to be on my own.” The doors immediate and easily began to open. I found the perfect space, created a name and envisioned an atmosphere that I then saw begin to manifest. Over the next few months, three awesome therapists joined me. Since then, two have moved on, but Margaret remains and has been instrumental in creating our space. It would not be Nature’s Elements Massage without her!
It was kind of like “Field of Dreams”—“If you build it, they will come.” And they did. YOU did. All of you. And you keep coming back, and I am so very thankful. Thank you for continuing to give me the opportunity to serve you and care for you through massage. I have loved every single day of my career, but especially the last 5 years. I have learned so much about me, about life, about massage and about healing. Here is to many more years!
Happy Birthday to Nature’s Elements Massage!!