Business, Goals & Growth, Yoga & Massage

How I started my Massage Practice

I graduated from massage school in late March of 1999.  I was 5 months pregnant with our daughter, Taylor, and after paying for school, working very part time and trying to prepare for her arrival – was flat broke.  I couldn’t even afford the entrance fee to sit for my State Massage Therapy Exam.  It took me a few months to save up, and in the meantime, Taylor arrived in late June.  When a newborn shows up in your life there is a lot of downtime, which was perfect for healing and studying.  I was finally ready to take my exam in August, and I was ready to go.

I never had any real intention to work for anyone, so I was scouting for opportunities to get started on my own.  One day while scanning the classifieds, I found an ad for a space to rent for massage, in a barber shop, for $150 a month.

Barber shop, huh?  What the hell.  Why not.

The barber shop was a stand alone house on a busy highway, less than 10 minutes from my home.  It was on the same property as another house that had been converted into a hair salon whose target clientele was retired ladies getting perms and style and sets.  The barber shop was in the back of the house and had an old time feel to it.  The front of the house had been turned into a nail salon with a little closet type room off to the side that they decided could fit a massage table in.  The floor was sloping, the walls were wavy, it had a pocket door that you could neither open nor close without two people helping you, and the building shook when a semi drove by.  It wasn’t perfect by any means, but sometimes you do the best you can with what you have to work with.

When it came time to negotiate with the owner, I had an idea.  I said “I don’t have any clients, and I can not afford to pay you $150 in rent.  But I noticed you do not have any one answering phones for the nails or barber shop.  If you don’t mind me bringing my daughter in with me, I will sit and answer phones for you in exchange for rent.  In the mean time I will fix up the room, and get to meet new people and hopefully get them on my table.  As I start making money I can pay you rent.  Would that work?”

He thought about it and eventually said yes.  I replaced the pocket door with a swing door, covered the walls with discounted fabric I found on sale at the fabric store, and furnished my room with things I found at yard sales, Thrift Stores and even on the side of the road.  As I made a little money, I reinvested it into building my practice.

The nail tech, Becky, had a little boy just a few months older than my girl, and on occasion she would have to bring him to work as well.  When she had clients I would watch him, and when I did she would return the favor.  There was even a day a woman in her 90’s walked in for a massage.  I tried to book her for a later time when I could have someone watch Taylor,  but she laughed and said “You bring that baby in the room!  She’ll sleep the whole time I bet.  Plus crying babies don’t bother me, I’ve raised enough of them!”  And so I did a massage with my infant sleeping in a  baby carrier in the corner.  I showed up every day, whether I had appointments or not.  I used the time to learn about marketing and creating systems to run my little business.  I thought if I consistently show up, clients will too.


how I started my massage practice(1)


When Becky and I had down time we would dream about going out into the world and what having our own perfect business would be like.  At this time there was a large building for sale across the road that I though would be perfect for a Day Spa/Wellness Center.  I called the realtor and remember the number being in the $300,000 range and in my mind that may as well have been $3 million dollars.  There was no way I would ever be able to buy it.  So instead I got out a .75 cent spiral notebook and made lists of what my perfect practice would offer.  I wanted multiple Massage Therapists, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Skin Care, Yoga, Wellness Classes, and more.  I wanted a pond and a place for people to go outside and rest. I wanted an outdoor treatment space.  Lots of parking and roadside visibility.  It felt like I was basically wanting for the impossible, but it was a fun way to pass the time.

It took me less than a year at the barber shop to realize I really did want more.  My practice was growing, and in order to keep that momentum going, I would need more space.  I kept scouting around the area for where I was going to move.  Again, I had a list. It needed to be less than 2 miles from where I was now.  Space to grow, decent parking, and affordable.  It took me almost a year, but I was patient.  I found an office complex less than a mile up the road and it had a space open.  The space was for 1500 sq ft and I knew I couldn’t carry that over head.  But I would still think about it every day I drove past it.  Sometimes I would stop in and peek in the windows and visualize what I could do with the space.  I also kept track that it stayed unrented for a long time.  I reached out to the landlord several times with ideas, until one day I suggested he split the space up and by closing up one door I could rent 450 sq ft making the remaining 1000 sq ft easier for him to rent.  Reluctantly he gave in, and shortly thereafter he rented out the other side.

I was in business alone, but again knew I wanted more.  So I dropped my name and created North River Body Therapies.  I decided against North River Massage because I didn’t want to limit my future options.  A few months later I hired my first Independent Contracted Massage Therapist, Jennifer Hargis, to work with me.  She stayed with me for almost 8 years, and was incredibly important to the growth of my practice.

And so began my realization that first you decide what you want to do, then you find a way to do it.

While this isn’t the end of my journey, this is the end of this post about my time at the barber shop.  Stay tuned for more…

PS – Becky also moved on to open and run her own business. 🙂


Goals & Growth

The voices in my head are running.

“If you see me running, you had better start running too!”

As a Massage Therapist, I have had many clients that were runners and joggers and they would tell me about their experiences and races they signed up for and gear they had bought.  And while I was interested in what they were saying, the thought would cross my mind “Why are they doing this to themselves?  Don’t they like themselves?  This seems like torture!”  Even though I have always been active, I have never really considered myself a sporty or athletic type.  I did not play for any real sports in school (except that one time I played T-Ball).  And I could not possibly wrap my head around why ANYONE would consider running if there wasn’t anything chasing them.

Around late 2010, early 2011, I was having lunch with my favorite goal setting partner, Jen, and we were making lists and discussing the goals we wanted to set for ourselves that year.  I believe very strongly in having accountability partners when it comes to goals.

As we were setting our goals, I asked her if she had ever run a 5K.  When she said no and asked me why, I stated “I have told myself my whole life that I could never be a runner.  I have said – out loud – that I could not even run to the mailbox if I wanted to.  If I could train for and complete a 5K, that would prove that little voice in my head wrong.  And if it could be wrong about that, what other things could that little voice be wrong about?”

Right away we decided that we should find a fun place to run our first 5K.  And we should schedule spa services to reward ourselves afterwards too!  We had been to an amazing spa at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida for a FSMTA Convention a few years prior, and thought that it would be the perfect place to start looking for our first race.  (For perspective, Boca is about 4 hours away from where we live.)  We searched online, found a race called the Rock and Roll 5K and signed up, giving us 3 months to go from non-runners to runners.

Once we committed to the race we started looking in to scheduling our spa services (3 months ahead, yes I know.) This is a pretty expensive resort, especially coming from a massage therapists pocketbook, so our intention was to get a hotel close by, and go there for spa treatments.  There was a glitch in my plan, however.  It turned out you could only book spa services if you were staying at the resort.  So now our whole reason for going to Boca to run this 5K was going to cost us a lot more money.

When I broke the news to Jen she laughed and said “That seems like an excessive reward for just a 5K.”

I replied “It’s not the 5K we are rewarding.  It’s the re-wiring of a belief.  It’s challenging the voice that holds me back.  It’s a substantial shift that deserves a substantial reward.”

First 5K
Up early at the start line for our very first 5K in Boca’s Rock the Run race!

We ran, we spa day-ed, we conquered.  It was a fantastic experience that fueled several more races, and even bumped me up into half marathons.  I can honestly say that was a game changer for me.  The moment I realized that I did not have to believe what that little voice was telling me, was so significant to other ways I had been holding myself back in business.  I started making better decisions with more confidence.  I started getting into the habit of challenging that voice every time it told me I could not do something.


It was running for me, but it could be painting or singing for you. That voice spends the same amount of energy discouraging small goals as it does to big ones. It’s our perspective that makes them bigger.  It’s the same voice that says “I could never leave my hometown.  I could never start my own business.  I could never go back to school.”  Yes you can.

What ever it is, it is possible.

What has the little voice in your head been saying that holds you back?  What are some beliefs you have that feel real, but maybe with a little effort and vulnerability, they are not?  Pick one, right it down.  That voice in your head that tells you all the reasons you can not do something … is a liar.  Find out the truth for yourself and see what happens next.

Chase your dreams and send that voice running!


Business, Goals & Growth

How to Make a Vision Board

What you will need:

1 board – it can be a firm foam board or poster board.  I have even used a side of a card board box!

1 pair of scissors or exacto knife

Adhesive of your choice – double sided tape is my favorite, but you can use any kind of tape, push pins (on foam boards) or even glue! (be careful with using glue as it can warp your cut outs if you use too much)

Magazines, newspapers, post cards, etc.

“How to make a vision board”

What are Vision boards anyway?

A vision board is part Arts and Crafts, part Subconscious Goal Planning, and part  Conscious Wishful Thinking.  Put it all together and you get a very powerful tool to help you reach your goals.


How are they helpful?

A vision board is a fantastic way to get creative with getting your goals out of your head, and in to real life.  If you are a visual person like me, seeing something over and over again can be a very helpful reminder of what you are wanting to bring in to your experience.

If your dreams are just floating around in your head like butterflies such as “Someday I would like to swim with dolphins” chances are kind of slim that dream will come to fruition.  But if you cut out a picture of a person wearing a life vest and a huge smile while holding onto a dolphins fin in the lagoon, and place it somewhere that you will see it often, that dream stays in the forefront of your mind.  You will start noticing opportunities.  You may be inclined to look online to find places that offer this kind of experience.  You may even choose your next vacation based on it.  And before you know it, you made your dream a reality.

If you believe it you can achieve it.

Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success! For instance, Natan Sharansky, a computer specialist who spent 9 years in prison in the USSR after being accused of spying for US has a lot of experience with mental practices. While in solitary confinement, he played himself in mental chess, saying: “I might as well use the opportunity to become the world champion!” Remarkably, in 1996, Sharansky beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov!

Brain studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. Mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. So the brain is getting trained for actual performance during visualization. It’s been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow – all relevant to achieving your best life!- read more in this article from PsychologyToday.

Believe me now?  Ready to get started?  Let’s go!

Step 1)  Gather

You can create a board for a specific goal- such as relationship or career, or a life in general board.  It can be about feelings, things, or experiences.  There are no rules here!  Collect magazines, newspapers, postcards, ads, photos, etc and start clipping anything that jumps out at you.  It could be colors, words, buildings, clothes, faces, ANYTHING!  Don’t question WHY you want to cut it out, just do it.  This is where you let your subconscious do its thing.  When you feel like you have enough, set that pile aside.

Step 2) Sort

With your foam, poster or card board in front of you, along with your adhesive of choice, Start sorting through your loot.  Pick the ones that really jump out at you and start arranging them on the board.  Here you will either “Create” your story, or let your story “Unfold”

*Note:  Some people like to adhere the pictures right away and let the “story” unfold organically, while others arrange and rearrange until they are ready to commit and stick their images and words to the board.  I can not tell you what to do here, it is totally up to your style, intention and intuition.

Step 3) Stick

As you would expect, this is where you take the board in front of you, along with your adhesive of choice, and adhere them to the board.  If you are using glue, allow plenty of time to dry.

Note:  Don’t worry if you have blank space on your board!  That just gives you room for growth!  Our dreams and goals are always evolving, so it would only make sense that you board does too!


 Step 4) Placement

A vision board will not work if it is hidden in your closet, tucked away in a box.  The key is to be able to SEE it on a regular basis.  Your office, bedroom or bathroom are popular places.  Every month or so, move it to a different location so it stays fresh.  At least once or twice a year, look to see what is on the board that you are close to achieving.  Some boards work right away.  Others may take years depending on the goals.  I have a couple of boards that are almost completely accomplished, and others that I am still working towards.

What’s that?  You can have more than one?!  Absolutely.  Especially if you have lots of goals in different areas of your life.  I have found Pinterest to be like a digital Vision Board.  The only problem is when you have too many pins, you aren’t seeing them on the regular.  In that case it is necessary to take time to review your pins to keep your ideas and goals front and center!


Have you made a vision board in the past?  What will you put on this one?  Are you wanting more of a general life board or specific area of your life goals?  Share with me below!  You can even share a picture if you want to!

Goals & Growth

5 Ways to Change Your Thoughts

Does the little voice in your head have a story it likes to tell?  Or an underlying theme to the chatter that tells you all the reasons why you can not do something, or why it will never work, or that no one will like your work enough to pay money for it?  First, tell that voice to sit down, and shut up.  That voice is trying to protect you from getting hurt.  But what it doesn’t realize, is that by doing so it is hurting you.

It’s time to retrain your thoughts.

  1. Become aware of your “story”.  What is the common thread in your life?  What stories do you tell over and over?  “There is not enough (time, money, love, etc)”, or “Poor me, I am always the victim.”  Try to record a few of your conversations.  See if you can pick up on a theme that “holds you back”.  Ask a trusted, honest friend what they think your self sabotage tool of choice is. Start journaling so you have something to look back through to find your “story”.
  2. Make a list of the things you really truly like about yourself.  Shoot for at least 10 things, even if you really have to stretch to complete the list.  Hang the list on your bathroom mirror.  Add to the list at least once a month.change+your+mind
  3. Take note of the people you spend the most time with.  You become like the top 3-5 people you spend the most time with each week.  If they are not positive people, it will be hard for you to be positive as well.  Make the effort to surround yourself with solid role models with values you admire.

  4. Think about the music or media that you watch or listen to each day.  Really listen to the lyrics, the messages, whether obvious or not.  Just as you become like the people you spend the most time with, you can also take on the mood of the media you spend time around consistently.
  5. Appreciate the gifts you already have.  If the Universe does not think you appreciate what you have so far, why would the Universe want to gift you with more?
    Who is the most positive influence you have in your life right now?  How often do you see that person?  What is your favorite song?  Do the lyrics have a significant meaning to you?  Tell me in the comments!
Goals & Growth

Public Speaking

As most introverts can testify, public speaking can be a terrifying experience.

One month after my husband and I were married, we packed up everything and moved from Pennsylvania to Florida.  I did not have any family, friends or support network of any kind.  It took Brian less than 4 days before he had found a job.  I on the other hand, had not.

One day a commercial came on the radio for a bartending school in Tampa.  I had just turned 19, and did not know anything about making drinks.  But something inside me said it would be a great way to get over my anxiety with talking to people in crowds.  Hair of the dog that bit you, I guess.  I signed up for the course, and when I told Brian what I had done he looked at me funny.  Then he said “What are you thinking?!  You hate people!”  I countered with my reasoning and said “If I can’t get over myself and get better at talking to people, I won’t make any money.  I’ll either learn, or starve.”  I landed a job pretty quickly, and as I expected, I was forced to grow.

For months I would sit in my car pre shift and try to psych myself up to go inside.  I would have to calm my anxiety with slow breathing and remind myself over and over that the customers didn’t need to know I was scared.  I would fake it until I made it.  I would pretend to be bubbly and outgoing.

Bartending was like a mini performance each shift until it became normal.  At a certain point it became my “on” personality.  A side of me that I could summon when I had to go to a party or event where I didn’t know anyone.  Even though it served me well, it was still in small groups at a time.

About 5 years into bartending I became a Licensed Massage Therapist, started my own practice, and left my slinging drinks days behind me.

As I added years and experience to my massage career, I knew I wanted to teach classes at some point in the future. I was scared to think of getting up in front of a class where all eyes, all attention were on me.  Back when I struggled with anxiety and suffered with panic attacks, one of my triggers was to walk into a room first where it felt like all eyes were on me, judging me.  The thought of intentionally putting myself in a situation where the goal was to capture and hold a room full of peoples attention was daunting.  But once I realized it was a fear, I decided to take on the challenge.

I used to attend FSMTA meetings each month, and at one particular meeting the Chapter President was announcing that he had served long enough and the chapter needed to step up and take over.    The chapter needed new fresh ideas and direction.  It felt like he was looking right at me when he said “If someone doesn’t step up the chapter will dissolve.”  At his time I was pregnant with my son, had a busy massage practice, and my daughter was almost 6 years old.

It did not make any sense at all for me to step up and say I would serve.  I had zero experience holding a volunteer position on a board, much less leading an entire chapter.  I barley had any time as it was, let alone take on a volunteering position of this nature.  But my father is an obsessive volunteer and this was yet another way for me to emulate him in some way.  Not to mention there was a little voice in my head that knew this would be the most excellent way to get over my fear of public speaking.  And just like bartending, ready or not, I jumped in.

It forced me to get in front of a group of people, anywhere from 20 – 60 people, and speak for at least 20 minutes each month.  For the most part they were a kind forgiving group that encouraged me and didn’t flinch if I stuttered, stammered or forgot what I was saying.  I held that position for 2 years and it was an amazing experience of growth through fear.  I still get butterflies when I am about to speak, but it never stops me.


How do you feel about public speaking?  Are you afraid of it or exhilarated by it?  How did you get started, or what is your biggest fear you want to get past?  Please leave me a comment or short story below!