opening a massage therapy business during covid-19
opening a massage therapy business during covid-19

Opening a Massage Therapy Business During COVID-19

By Danielle Galian, Contributor
January 14, 2021

Opening a Massage Therapy Business During COVID-19

By Danielle Galian, Contributor
January 14, 2021

Opening a business is difficult under any circumstance. Add in the pressures of a global pandemic, and you may begin to wonder why anyone would want to venture out on their own. But for many people, owning their own business is a dream worth pursuing. 

The massage therapy profession is no exception.

We talked to two massage therapists who decided to open their own practice in 2020 in the midst of COVID-19. Learn how these massage therapists made the decision to open their practices, the challenges they’ve overcome, and how they continue to follow their dreams even in the most uncertain of times.  

Arbor Vitae Wellness LLC South Portland, Maine

Samantha Arnott, LMT, and fiancé Zeb Browne, LMT, opened their wellness center in February 2020. A month later, they closed due to stay-at-home orders from their state. Like millions of business owners across America at the time, their dreams felt closer yet simultaneously farther away than ever due to something totally out of their control. 

Hope was not lost for Arnott and Browne, however. Having worked as massage therapists for several years before starting their new practice, they were determined to make things work and share their message of healing and the power of connection and meditation through massage therapy. “By the end of last summer, we realized we should give it another go,” explains Browne. “We were able to bring our talented skills together and through that, form something even stronger,” says Arnott. 

That “something stronger” became known as Arbor Vitae Wellness, which opened in November of last year. 

Client Response and Community Support

“Our clients have been so great,” Arnott says. “They really have appreciated the work we do and many of them book with us weekly.” From the initial hardships they endured in the early months of the pandemic, both Arnott and Browne say there’s a silver lining for them as massage therapists. “People are craving massage therapy during this time more than ever due to increased stress and isolation,” explains Browne. “We saw the opportunity to provide not just a relaxing massage therapy experience, but a truly therapeutic one, too.” 

Besides providing a menu of massage therapy services, Arbor Vitae Wellness also offers online meditation classes and programs, as well as retreats in nature and rites of passage experiences for adults. “We always ask each client what their intention is for the session that day,” explains Arnott. “And their intention guides our work.”

Future Outlook

A major intention both Arnott and Browne have for 2021 is to continue networking with local business advocates and advertisers. “We eventually want to have a second arm of the business teaching nature connection and earth-based healing,” says Browne. This is in addition to focusing on the growth of their massage therapy practice, following protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state guidelines, and providing the safest and best experience for clients. When asked what advice they have for those either wanting or beginning to start their own massage therapy practice, they both agree: “Envision what you want to do, then go out and do it. Many massage therapists are introverts, but it’s vital to network and talk to people. You really can do it.” 

Lake Side Fit Bridgman, Michigan

Owner Lacey Lucas, with the encouragement and support of her husband Jimmy, decided to turn her natural skills for teaching, connection, and wellness into a business in 2019. Lake Side Fit was doing so well at that time she wanted to offer more for her clients, including massage therapy, in an expanded practice space. She opened her newly renovated location in February 2020. Then in March, she was forced to shut down because of COVID-19.   

Small Town, Big Benefits

Rochelle French, LMT, has been a massage therapist since 2018. She’s family friends with the Lucases and began working as the only massage therapist for Lake Side Fit once the state allowed massage therapists to reopen their practices. “I wanted to expand my presence in the community to capture all the new clients I could since lockdown ended,” she says. “This is in addition to helping out the community with their massage therapy needs at my own practice.” 

French splits her time between Lake Side Fit and Head to Toe Spa Nail Bar, which she owns, only five miles away. Working at both locations has its perks, as she’s able to help a variety of different clients meet different needs under different circumstances. “Members at Lake Side Fit are predominantly very active and exercise two to six times per week,” she explains. “They are very aware of their body and together, we are able to hone very specific places of discomfort and pain. That allows me to use our time efficiently to give them relief.” Her clients at both locations have been feeling the struggles of the pandemic and have really taken a health-first approach to their own health care needs—and this includes massage therapy—in addition to finding pain relief and relaxation.

French first noticed the significance of stress on her clients at Lake Side Fit and how they went to the gym for massage therapy. “People are stressed out and are trying to take care of themselves as best they can,” she explains. “So, many clients have added massage to their regimen since most are not spending money in other areas.”

New Opportunities to Diversify

That stress reaches to business owners, too. Lucas admits that COVID-19 put a damper on their business since they had just moved into their new extended facility. “But we improvised a bit and I started having outdoor classes and posting the workouts on YouTube,” Lucas explains. Her YouTube workouts include “Cardio Kickboxing,” “Cardio Drumming,” and a 15-minute beach ab workout she filmed on Weko Beach near Lake Side Fit. Lucas is continually gaining subscribers and hopes to expand her online presence and draw more inspiration from her social media. 

The pandemic also helped Lucas understand the importance of joining the Southwest Michigan Chamber of Commerce as a way to make connections and network. “They also provided some guidance, along with state guidance, throughout the summer months,” she explains. 

Lucas wants to spread the message of building community to new business owners, too. “I look at everyone who walks through the door as a friend. It’s all about community. Don’t be scared to take risks and dive in.”

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