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5 Lessons Learned from 5 Years in Business

By Nicki Iskander, RMT

I opened my Parkdale home massage studio on January 19th, 2018.

Over the last five years, I’ve learned a lifetime’s worth of important lessons—most the hard way. Below are five key takeaways I’ve gained from my first five years in business.

Lesson #1: You’re no longer a service provider.

So, you’re a massage therapist who wants to go out on your own?

Congratulations! You’re no longer a massage therapist; you’re a business owner. This is an entirely different beast.

You’re now a full-time marketer, salesperson, copywriter, web designer, receptionist, office manager, cleaner, laundromat, bookkeeper, accountant, interior designer, publicist, and social media manager. Oh, and you occasionally give massages on the side.

If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is! You have three options:

1) Do it all yourself (I don’t advise this),

2) hire professionals to do it for you (ideal, but almost certainly out of your budget), or

3) a combination of both (my preferred route).

… which brings me to my next lesson…

Lesson #2: You’re going to need help.

No woman is an island. It took an army of women to get me to where I am today. My business coach, my web designer, my photographer and makeup artist, my copywriting coaches (I have two), my house cleaner—all women. And badass women at that. Women’s empowerment is my raison d’être. For me, this means hiring women entrepreneurs to help me run my business smoothly. Paying women good money for good work is one of my favourite pastimes. If it’s feasible, I recommend you do the same.

Lesson #3: Rejection is inevitable, but it isn’t personal.

In my nearly eight years as a massage therapist, I’ve had hundreds of people tell me I gave them the best massage they’d ever had. I’ve also had complaints. My very first online review was a scathing post on Yelp imploring people to “avoid Nicki with the dreads at all costs.” That one still stings. I’ve even had two people hate my massages so much that they asked me to stop partway through. I always thought massage was kind of like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Turns out I was wrong about that. So, what does this all mean? Do my 140+ five-star Google reviews mean I’m the best massage therapist in the city? Do the complaints I’ve received mean I’m the worst? The answer is neither (and both!). Because rejection—and praise, for that matter—isn’t personal. All it means is that I’m the right fit for some and the wrong fit for others. When you run a business, you need to learn how to sell yourself. You’re going to hear “no” a lot. Like, a lot. When you learn to befriend rejection, it gets a little easier each time. Each no gets me one step closer to a yes, and it’s the yeses that get me out of bed in the morning. There is nothing—literally NOTHING—you can say or do that will please everyone. Some people will never pick up what you’re putting down, and that’s ok. Listen, some people don’t like the Beatles. THE BEATLES. Those people are not to be trusted. My point is you can’t win ’em all, even if you’re Paul McCartney. Focus on those whom you best serve, absorb the lessons from constructive criticism, and remember that abject rejection is just part of the deal.

Lesson #4: Woman-dominated industries have a long way to go.

I could write a PhD thesis on this. One day I’ll turn it into a separate blog post. Today is not that day. For now, I’ll just say that, while I’m a proud member of a woman-dominated profession, we’ve still got a long, long, long way to go. Buckle up, ladies. The gender pay gap won’t close itself.

Lesson #5: You’re capable of so much more than you think.

Did you know I’m famous? I’ve been called a “massage celebrity” more than once. (Not a moniker I bestowed upon myself, believe me.) Why am I famous? Partly because I’m an opinionated loudmouth who spends too much time on Facebook, but mostly because I have an entirely different philosophy on life and business than most of my colleagues. Let’s just say I’ve ruffled a few feathers. Along with all the naysayers, I’ve managed to gain a small following of international fans. Every week, women from around the world tell me they’re striving for more because of something I’ve said or done. This never gets old. I freaking love my life. My goal is to be an example to other women and marginalised people of what’s possible. Had I known these kinds of achievements were a possibility for someone with my educational background, I would have aimed higher, sooner. I certainly didn’t set out to become a role model, yet here we are. Why am I telling you all this? Not to brag, but to show you that you, dear reader, are capable of so much more than you might think. If you don’t believe me, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. Go do the thing. You may end up surprising yourself. Are you a massage therapist? Check out my course. I’ll teach you everything I wish I knew when I was fresh out of school.


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