We asked eight leaders in the massage field — Jill K. Berkana, Anita Shannon, Sandy Fritz, Cherie Sohnen-Moe, Elena Zabala, Nathalie Cecilia, Shari Auth and Theresa A. Schmidt — to share their advice on how female professionals can unleash power and passion.

Whether you work for yourself or an employer, the advice presented here is sure to inspire.

Push Your Passion

By: Jill Berkana

Jill Berkana
Jill Berkana

Have the courage to step outside of your comfort zone. Keep your eyes peeled for any opportunity that resonates with your heart and vision.  Set extremely clear goals. Dream big and strategize a clear path toward your heart’s desire.

Expect to run into obstacles and know that when you do, you are discovering the precise pathway toward success. Everyone that you admire who has achieved greatness encountered adversity and had to overcome it and be creative in the face of it.

If you expect that, it will not be so disappointing. Don’t settle for mediocrity or for what others have done. Dream your own dream and make it happen.  Figuring out what you want is the hardest part.

We are all conditioned not to take risks, but there is no expansion or growth without it. Take calculated risks that could level you up in your life and your career. Take the actions that can bring you forward. It’s important to examine what you believe and to challenge what others are doing.

Create your own blueprint. Looking to others can often limit what you can ultimately achieve.

Know that the rough times that you go through are developing character, skill and experience. You can gain immensely from working with a mentor, but working as a mentor can be even more fulfilling and give you perspective on yourself.

If you have any trouble with your feelings of competition, embrace the idea that there is no competition and that we are all in this together.

If you do feel negativity coming from your competitors, use that as rocket fuel — but never compromise your standards or undermine your profession by dropping the value of your service. Find another way to creatively entice your clients.

Above all, never stop growing. Reach, achieve and then reach again! There is always more to explore.

Jill K. Berkana, LMT, BCTMB, is a massage therapy school founder, a curriculum architect, a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork-approved continuing education provider, a board-certified massage therapist, and the dean for the Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy.

Honor Emotions

By: Anita Shannon

Anita Shannon
Anita Shannon

I am watching a good friend go through what many women face as business owners: We tend to form more emotional bonds with our staff, and it becomes a challenge to maintain a level of authority in guiding the business through growth. Finding the balance so we can offer our feminine qualities to our staff and clients and also implement strong business decisions can be a delicate dance.

We have many great female role models in our field; people who excel at their craft, created a new tool or technique, and incredible educators who inspire therapists with their knowledge and communication skills. They may make running a clinic, private practice or education company look easy, but they work hard behind the scenes to tend the infrastructure of a real business.

One of the most wonderful tools for those of us who do not have a business background is the free incubation programs run through city, county and state governments, and also local colleges. These programs provide the guidance of experienced professionals to review, support, and help build business acumen.

Many of us rely on our intuition as a valuable part of our decision-making process and combining that with professional support to develop intentionality for clear choices enables us to create a successful career with much less stress.

One of my mentors once commented that a business is a living thing like a plant; it grows, it gets sick, it needs to be pruned and fed, it has seasonal changes. Viewing my vocation as a living entity gave me a different vision that was no longer based on successes and failures, but on opportunities and re-routing when an obstacle would appear.

Having professional and trusted support to talk things over with really helps us have more confidence in our decision-making skills.

Anita Shannon has been licensed in massage therapy and cosmetology since 1983 and has been an educator since 1990. She appears at national conventions and presents workshops on ACE Massage Cupping and MediCupping since developing these brands of bodywork in 2002. She has published multiple articles and educational videos and was inducted into the Massage Magazines All Stars team in 2019.

Be Realistic about Business

By Sandy Fritz

Sandy Fritz
Sandy Fritz

Massage therapy is a career pathway that supports women in business.  The business process is not unique to massage therapy.

Business is business.

The demands of business development, operations and management are not for everyone.  The most important decision related to success is if you are suited emotionally to be in this role. 

There is inherent risk in business ownership. Risk tolerance is necessary, and not everyone can manage the uncertainty and ambiguity of business ownership. The first three years can be a strain, and often it takes five years for a business to reach stability.  The hours necessary to manage all the responsibility usually exceed 40 per week, even for a small, part-time massage business.  

The mundane tasks related to daily operations are not for everyone.  It is easy to let these responsibilities accumulate until the little necessary jobs become critical, which can affect business success.

Other factors include attention to time management, ability to seek expert services in areas where individual skills are lacking — such as book keeping and legal matters. Success also requires a support system related to personal and family life.  You cannot concentrate on business operations when family demands such as child- or elder-care create ongoing attention.

There also needs to be a financial safety net in place, either with savings or others able to pay for personal and family living expenses.  

My most important advice is to do a thorough self-assessment related to knowledge, skills and personal and emotional readiness to embark on the multifaceted demands of being in business.  Seek others’ counsel, both those in massage practice and those outside in general service-based businesses who are experienced in business development and operations.

Schedule a few sessions with a phycologist or counselor to evaluate your risk tolerance and attention to detail.  Have multiple layers of planning and contingency plans in place.  Be realistic.

Sandy Fritz is a founding member of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education, and owns and directs Health Enrichment Center massage school in Lapeer, Michigan.

She is the author of massage textbooks including Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage; Mosby’s Essential Sciences for Therapeutic Massage: Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, and Pathology; and Sports & Exercise Massage: Comprehensive Care for Athletics, Fitness, & Rehabilitation.

Let Your Feminine Attributes Shine

By Cherie Sohnen-Moe

Cherie Sohnen-Moe
Cherie Sohnen-Moe

According to various studies, most people prefer to get massaged by a female. If you are a woman, you have a built-in advantage (sorry, guys). In my career, I’ve capitalized on the aspects that are generally considered feminine, such as nurturing, comforting and accepting people for who they are — not judging them by their appearance or health status.

Feminine attributes are not only associated with women. We all have the capability to embrace those traits; but the bottom line is they usually comes easier for women.

In addition to being a woman, I have the advantage of not having the Western society’s definition of what a fit female physique looks like. Many of my clients stated that an important factor in choosing me to work on their bodies was that they felt comfortable with me and assumed that I would not judge them.

One of my most cherished examples of how this happened is the following: Many years ago, I was in a monthly drumming circle. Even though I wasn’t currently seeing clients, I was advocating the benefits of massage, as I always do.

One elderly woman shared with me that she really wished I was still active in my practice because she would come to see me. She had never received a massage in her life and told me that she would trust me to work on her body.

I was so moved that I agreed to do one session with her.

She had a lot of body issues, particularly as she had received a double mastectomy many years prior and frankly, her torso was ravaged! I was able to gently work the area and allow space for her emotions.

After the session concluded, she said she felt more comfortable in her body and wasn’t ashamed of how she looked. Ultimately, she found another therapist to provide weekly massages that she received until her death.

Cherie Sohnen-Moe is an author, educator, and business coach. Between her educational background, life experiences, the wisdom garnered from working with hundreds of clients and thousands of participants in her workshops and classrooms, and the knowledge gained from researching hundreds of articles and several books, she is a strong resource to the massage field.

Hire an Accountant

By Elena Zabala

Elena Zabala
Elena Zabala

Through the years I have learned priceless lessons. As my business continues to change and grow, one thing that remains the same: I could not do all of this by myself.

There are many people that will play a role in your business. The most substantial advice I can share after more than 30 years in practice is the importance of hiring an accountant — someone you trust who can give you financial advice, someone that can keep your business in order, handle paperwork such as paying your taxes, renewing you LLC and checking on your finances.

Massage therapists and estheticians are in the health-and-beauty business, and paperwork can sometimes be overwhelming — and can very easily take away the right state of mind in offering your services.  Try to find someone in your community with a small firm and take your time to interview them.

Remember that this person is going to get to know everything about you and your business, your ups and downs, and you need to feel comfortable with them.

This advice goes hand-in-hand with another lesson I have learned, which is to delegate and let others focus on their own talents so that you are able to focus on your own. I have had the same accountant for 37 years and she has been the secret to my success. She’s allowed me to focus on my services, teach and share my knowledge. 

Elena Zabala is a cosmetologist, esthetician and teacher. She possesses more than 30 years in the health and beauty field and is the founder of EZ Skin Care & Wellness Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Find Balance

By: Nathalie Cecilia

Nathalie Cecilia
Nathalie Cecilia

You don’t have to define success as a status, title, or by income. Success is personal and can be defined on your own terms. It can be as simple as loving what you do and the reward of hard work and dedication.

My journey to success was having a clear vision on the goal I aimed to achieve and the impact I wanted to make on this professional industry.  My purpose was to create an original massage modality that will ensure other therapists have successful and enduring careers.

I gained confidence in my abilities by overcoming challenges and obstacles along with accepting my failures. I assure you, there were plenty of challenges.  It took me almost two years to develop my completed technique.

I used my passion and dedication as talents by continually learning and advancing my career.  A huge reward was gaining recognition and being honored as a woman-owned and operated business that improves upon and advances our professional industry.

In 2019, my goal is to place value on investing in my own health and wellbeing and finding a true balance between life and work. 


Nathalie Cecilia created and founded Bamboo-Fusion Massage. Originally from France, Nathalie currently practices in Florida and maintains her successful continuing education business. She was inducted into the World Massage Festival Hall of Fame in 2009, awarded the Teacher of the Year award in 2013, and achieved the honor of Product of the Year in 2017.

Learn to Receive

By: Shari Auth

Shari Auth
Shari Auth

Women own wellness, both as practitioners and as consumers. The majority of practitioners and clients are women, and since most clients prefer female therapists, you picked the right profession.

As women, many of us are naturally caring, loving and giving.  The challenge to being successful can be learning to receive as openly as we give.

Learning to receive means saying yes to what it is that you want and need. The first step is getting clear on what you want. When you’re clear on what you want to receive from your business it’s easier to make it happen. Receiving also means having boundaries and being able to say no to what you don’t want in order to have more of what you want.

It’s important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, nobody is good at everything. I created my most recent business, WTHN, with my business partner, Michelle Larivee. Michelle has a background in business and finance and compliments my natural strengths so I can focus on doing what I love.

Social media is an amazing tool to build and grow your business. At first, I was skeptical about social media, but it’s truly how people communicate today, so it’s vital to use it to find your audience. I’ve had so many new clients from Instagram. I try to keep my Instagram feed educational and compelling so people get an educational takeaway and a visual experience with a gorgeous post.

Self-care is hard for busy people to fit in, so the easier you can make it for your clients, the better. I highly recommend having online booking and convenient booking hours so it’s easier for you and your clients.

Most importantly: take care of yourself! You can’t give from an empty pot. I take herbs every day to keep my body strong. It’s convenient and fits into my lifestyle and keeps my digestion optimized, my energy high and my stress low.

Shari Auth, DACM, LMT, has a doctorate in Chinese medicine and is a licensed massage therapist and acupuncturist and board-certified Chinese herbalist. She is the founder of the Auth Method of Forearm Massage and authored a book and two DVDs on forearm massage. Her course is available on the Auth Method website.

Harness the Mastermind

Theresa A. Schmidt
Theresa A. Schmidt

Are you an individual female practitioner seeking to build your business, or are you a staff member working to generate revenue?  Either way, it is critical for you to develop relationships that help you and your business to grow.

As a clinician and businesswoman for over 30 years, I experienced the effects of managed care on medicine, coinciding with the growth of the massage profession.  As PT copays grew, more patients opted for massage to receive hands-on care.  When presenting continuing education seminars, I learned the value of listening as well as teaching. 

Listening and sharing with like-minded people is the key to success.  I discovered the value of creating an environment of collaboration with Mastermind groups of diverse practitioners who brainstorm topics from patient care to business building and personal development.  The power of the Mastermind lives in the alliance of people who support one another to share ideas, insights and resources, creating partnerships to achieve goals and fulfill dreams. 

Napoleon Hill introduced the Mastermind: a “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose” in his book Think and Grow Rich

Connecting with other practitioners brings innovative concepts to the table, changing challenges into opportunities.  Today, success depends on networking, connecting, contributing and receiving for growth.

Are you ready to advance your life and achieve your dreams?  Join a Mastermind group, where the collective think tank provides accountability and support as your team works together to reinforce positive action and maintain focus for vision, accelerating outstanding results.

Surround yourself with successful people, get a mentor, and harness the power of the Mastermind to create the life you deserve.

Theresa A. Schmidt, PT, integrates traditional and holistic approaches to maximize performance outcomes. Her manual focus draws from over 30 years in osteopathic-based therapies including myofascial, craniosacral, counterstrain, muscle energy, mobilization, precision movement therapy, mindful exercise, and integrative medicine. 

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