“It started actually during the Christmas holiday in 2003-04,” said Shane Evans, co-founder and COO of the Massage Heights franchise massage business.
She and her husband, Wayne, had taken their family to Phoenix, Arizona, to visit some friends. Evans, whose birthday falls right around Christmas, had been treated to a massage session.
“I got taken late and cut short — it was a disappointing experience,” she said. “It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t paid so much money.”
A few days later, she was describing her experience to a friend, who began to describe a different kind of business model. The idea behind what would become Massage Heights was born.
“I can’t claim we were the first to think of membership-based massage,” Evans said, adding that her experience in sales and her husband’s experience in health club management came in handy when they began their business together.
The first location opened on April 4, 2004, in the Alamo Heights neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas. In January the next year, the couple opened their second location in the Stone Oak area. Five months later in May, the first Massage Heights franchise license was awarded to Samantha Zarate, who was a massage therapist at the Alamo Heights retreat.
“We really had not anticipated franchising at that time,” Evans said. “We had an immediate interest from massage therapists, guests and other business owners — Samantha became almost immediately interested. The road to franchising really kind of started with her because interest was there.”
Others weren’t as surprised about the growth.
Roy Moreno was part of the original team, working as a massage therapist and eventually becoming the lead therapist at the Potranco Village location in San Antonio where he is today.
“It was hectic in the beginning,” he said. “It took a while, but by the time everything started to get going, things went sky high.”
With a people-focused, relationship-driven vision, Massage Heights continued to grow.
In 2007, the Texas-based company hit the national level, opening the first out-of-state retreat in Des Moines Iowa; and in 2010 it expanded to Canada. Now, Massage Heights boasts more than 103 operating franchises in the U.S. and Canada, with plans to open 500 more locations in the next five years.
These goals, however, wouldn’t be possible without the employees, called team members. And this team continues to grow with the company, especially since Evans’ appearance on a national TV show in December 2013.
“Being on Undercover Boss was enlightening in a lot of different ways,” she said of her experience on CBS’ television franchise series. “It was a real privilege to get to work alongside some of our team members and just spend a day in the life of one of them. It gave us insights into our room for opportunity.”
Current team members, including Daniel Jaramillo, who has been with Massage Heights for almost eight years, are excited to be part of this growing company.
“Personally, I want to continue to contribute to the company. Being there from almost the beginning is like being in a family,” he said. “There’s not one day where my job is redundant — it keeps you on your toes, very exciting.”
Moreno agreed, “It’s a great place to work and advance in life. As a therapist, I enjoy it. I’ve watched it change; it keeps growing.”
The goal has stayed the same: to provide affordable, convenient and professional massage services in an upscale environment. And 10 years later, with a solid foundation, minds open to change and dedicated team members, Evan believes their ambitious plans can become a reality.
Emily Roland is MASSAGE Magazine and Chiropractic Economics’ digital editor.