As a massage therapist, you are good with your hands.
You know the body and muscular anatomy; you know how to find trigger points and alleviate pain. There’s just one thing: You might not have business experience.
This lack of business know-how can contribute to confusion, imposter syndrome and even the failure of a massage practice. Many massage therapists give it their all and open their practices anyway. Some succeed, while others’ lack of business experience leads to pitfalls, loss of money — and even worse, the loss of a dream.
Preparation is the closest guarantee to success available. One way massage therapists can gain that experience and preparation is through a business mentor. We spoke with representatives of organizations that match small-business-owner mentees with mentors — for free — to find out how a massage therapist’s business knowledge and practice success, no matter where the therapist is on their journey, can go to great heights when there’s a mentor on board.
Start Up Faster
Ariana Vincent, LMT, is a mentorship success story. As a small-business owner, she signed up with MicroMentor, an organization that offers free business mentoring, and began working with Newton Paskin, an experienced business executive, who helped plant the seeds that led to the launch of Vincent’s continuing education school, the Ariana Institute.
“Newton lit a fire in me and fanned the flames of my excitement,” Ariana told MicroMentor, in an article titled “Massage Therapist Becomes Industry Leader,” posted to MicroMentor’s blog. “The fact that we were going to be talking every Friday helped keep me focused and productive.”
A mentor and mentee relationship can make the difference between a successful business and one on the brink of closing its doors. “Data shows that mentored businesses start up faster, stay in business longer and generate more revenue than non-mentored businesses,” says Betsy Dougert, vice president of SCORE External Relations.
SCORE is an organization comprising 10,000 volunteer mentors from across the U.S. who offer free mentoring and training. It is a resource partner with the Small Business Administration and the Association of Women’s Business Centers. SCORE matches entrepreneur mentees with mentors both locally and nationally in numerous areas of expertise, including business-plan development, marketing and tax planning.
“No matter what business you are in, having a mentor is the key to success,” says Tamara MacDuff, a Certified SCORE mentor and owner of NOW Digital Marketing, based in Rochester, New York. “A mentor can help you with stuff you are not familiar with. They can help you navigate landmines because oftentimes a mentor has walked those steps before you.”
MacDuff has mentored 120 people through SCORE in her seven years with the organization. She says the most common questions from small-business owners like massage therapists are about forming a business entity and marketing.
“‘Should I be a sole proprietor, LLC or an S CORP’? and ‘How do I market my business?’” are common questions from first-time business owners, says MacDuff.
MacDuff helps mentees develop their story and pitch, so they know how to talk to potential clients and partners about using their services. “My specialty is social media and digital marketing. I help them set up their social channels and help them determine where they have to be to showcase their expertise,” she explains.
MacDuff is a self-taught digital marketer who learned from people she followed online and relationships she nurtured throughout the years. Learning the business of digital marketing took a long time, she recalls. “The people I found were very generous with their time and resources, so I want to share that with small-business owners and give them the very best of my knowledge,” she adds.
Discover Your Landmines
A business mentor has walked the steps before you and knows where the landmines are. They can see the bigger picture of your business plan when you become blinded by the closeness you have to your own vision of your business.
“The business is your baby,” says MacDuff. “A business mentor can help you see things that you won’t see because you are too close to it. It may have been your dream since you were a teenager, so you have a very specific way you want things to be done. A business mentor can open your eyes and let you know where you may have problems, where the hills are, where the valleys are, where the landmines are.”
As an objective person, a business coach can also help you find a new path that you may not have considered; for example, a fresh marketing message to target your ideal clientele or places you can promote your services to as a sponsor. They may be able to help you see a new clientele that has been overlooked by the masses and how you could market to them with a slight change to your approach.
“If all the massage therapists are doing A, why don’t you do B? You will still serve the people in A, but you’ll get to B by standing out from the crowd,” says MacDuff. “Sometimes the changes you make are small — but because you are so close to it, it feels monumental, and a mentor will help you see that [it’s doable].”
For a mentee, working with a mentor can be as simple as a one-time call to get feedback or validation for an idea, or it can be a longer commitment. MacDuff recommends working with a mentor for three to six months on average. However, length of time with a mentor will vary on where you are in the process of developing your business and how committed you are to working on tasks that the mentor assigns to you in between calls or meetups.
Get Mentorship — and Money
The Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) offers mentoring as part of a package of resources aimed to support the success of business owners.
AWBC’s mentorship is through networking events where like-minded business owners can connect and build relationships. The centers offer a place that is approachable for women business owners to find advice, co-collaborate and even find customers.
Many of the mentor-and-mentee relationships women form at the AWBC go beyond business, says Corinne Hodges, CEO of AWBC. “Sometimes the connections they are making is as much of a spiritual lift and encouragement as it is technical advice,” she says.
Although the AWBC’s services are focused on women, men make up 25% of their clients. Most of AWBC’s services are free, including mentoring, networking events, training, counseling and assistance with loan matching.
“The greatest barrier for women — and quite frankly for all new business owners — is access to capital,” saysHodges. “It is nearly impossible to walk into a traditional bank if you are a startup and walk out with a loan. It’s just not going to happen.”
However, an entrepreneur may walk into an Association of Women’s Business Center for mentorship and walk out with resources for funding their small business. AWBC is a resource partner of the Small Business Administration and can help point small-business owners to government-backed funds, revolving loans, micro loans and other alternative loans.
Your Own Personal Cheerleader
The most successful business owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs of our time, such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, had mentors. Research shows mentorship leads to a more successful business; it helps business owners avoid costly mistakes and helps them make better decisions, according to the article “Why mentoring: what the stats say,” published in 2017 in the Harvard Business Review.
Further, a survey conducted by MicroMentor found that businesses that received mentoring increased revenue by 83%, while non-mentored businesses increased revenue by only 16%.
Mentors are people with experience who take mentees under their wing so they can learn the business faster, avoid mistakes they once made and reach success.
“They are small-business experts, who know firsthand what works and what doesn’t, and are eager to share the wisdom of their experience with others to help them avoid making the mistakes common to new small-business owners,” says Dougert.
Starting a business takes more than money. It takes courage, knowledge and commitment. There are many massage therapists out there with dreams of working for themselves, whether through a mobile business or having a brick-and-mortar practice. You may be one of them. The questions you have that spring doubt about starting your business are the same ones that keep other potential business owners from taking action.
“The fear is always the unknown. It is always, ‘Will my business succeed? Will this idea work?’ It is pure and simple; it is the unknown,” says Hodges. “Getting advice from professionals is the best way to tap into experience from people who have been on that same journey before.”
Mentees, Find Your Mentors
Tap into free mentoring services from SCORE, Association of Women’s Business Centers or MicroMentor to gain more perspective, confidence and experience from people who have travelled that road before you.
“We can help you navigate the waters of business ownership and see things that you might have missed,” says MacDuff.
Mentors can work with a small business for the lifecycle of their business because they serve as an objective sounding board for evaluating new ideas and troubleshooting problems. That means once you make a connection with a mentor, you can have someone cheering you on from the sidelines for life.
About the Author
Aiyana Fraley, LMT, is a freelance writer and health care professional with more than 17 years of experience in the massage field. She teaches yoga and offers sessions in massage, Reiki, sound healing and essential oils. Her articles for massagemag.com include “Advanced Massage Training Will Take Your Career to the Next Level — Just Ask These Massage Therapists” and “The Massage Therapist’s Guide to Assisted Stretching Techniques.”
Free Business Mentoring: How It Works
MicroMentor * micromentor.org
Create a profile, send messages to others in the MicroMentor community, connect, ask questions and solve problems together.
Association of Women’s Business Centers * awbc.org
Visit one of the over 100 Women’s Business Centers throughout the U.S. for training, mentoring, business development and financing opportunities. More than 140,000 women do so every year. (Men are welcome, too.)
SCORE * score.org
Enter your zip code and complete a request form online. Presto — you’ll be matched with a local mentor with expertise related to your needs.