The Lounge Q+A: Chasidy Criswell, Massage Therapist
Massage Therapist, Gentle Haven Massage
It's been word of mouth...social media is very powerful.
You only live once.
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Massage Therapist Pro Chasidy Criswell is a Massage Therapist in Dallas, Texas with six years of experience. She owns and operates her own private practice specializing in Swedish, Deep Tissue, SportStretch, Collegiate and Professional Sports & Athletic Performance. Chasidy talks to CEO, Chinwe Onyeagoro about how a massage school business course initiated her plan to launch her own practice, and the importance of safety as a woman working in the massage therapy industry.
Hey, how’s it going, Chasidy? Thanks so much for joining.
Thank you for having me.
Well, we’re excited. Look, it’s all heating up. Folks are joining, waving. We’re going to get into it. So, you are based in the Dallas area?
Yes, I am.
You know some of our favorite people, like Mrs. Sugar Sweet, my esthetician, Tiara.
A few of my makeup artists use the platform as well.
Love it. You guys have an awesome, awesome community in Dallas for doing everything, just getting people ready, getting people fit, getting people relaxed, everything. We want to jump right in and hear a little bit about your story. You were in massage, but now you focus on pro athletes, collegiate athletes, which is an area that we haven’t explored a lot in The Lounge. I think people are going to learn a lot.
Can you just tell us about how you got your start in massage, and then how you went into business for yourself?
I used to be a former track and field athlete. I ran track from fourth grade until my freshman year of college. So, I always wanted to basically have a career dealing with sports. I did start off in spa work for the first three years, because I’ve been a massage therapist for six, and then when I moved to Dallas, I started working with professional athletes, a few of the Cowboy players.
Wow, okay. You started right at the top.
Yeah. Yeah, I did. Since then, I’ve worked with the Senior Bowl, which is college athletes, as well as athletes who are training for the NFL Combine to go to the pros. Yeah, it’s just been growing really fast in the last three years, which I’m happy about that.
Well, congratulations, first of all. I love when entrepreneurs are saying it’s a runaway train. That’s always a good story.
What was the light bulb moment for you to move from the spa world to massage? Even though it is still a salon or a studio, but why that type of work, using your hands, really getting in there?
That’s a good question. Whenever I went to school in Mississippi, I had one of my former track coaches where I used to go to school reach out to me to work on the track athletes. So, I was like, “You know what, maybe I should just transition over from spa to athletes, because I used to be a former athlete, so I know how it goes for athletes.” We just went from there, as me working on them before their track meets and things like that. That’s why I was like, “You know what? I might as well just work with athletes as well since I used to be one myself.”
Well, it’s interesting, starting off in the spa, doing esthetician related work. There’s a lot of hours you have to put in to just learn how to do that, and then you have to put in a whole other set of hours. There’s no duplication to massage.
So, how long did it take you to just do all the education, meet all the requirements and then move over?
Back then, when I went to school in 2015, it took me 18 months to go to school, and then I had to take a state exam and then a national exam. I did not pass it the first time by 14 points. Yeah, massage therapy, we take the same exam, kind of like nursing.
Yeah. We learn about the muscles, the tissues, the bones, medication, because if we have clients who are on certain types of medications, it can contraindicate with the massage.
There’s a lot more that goes into massage therapy than just rubbing motion. You have to know if someone has a chronic disease or that that will interfere with the massage, where you can hurt them or help them. It’s a lot of studying. I passed it the second time, thank God, because, yeah, it took a lot of studying. I still picture when I was in school for hours, even after I graduated massage school, because I was like, “I have to pass this. This is what I want to do.” I’ve always wanted to be a massage therapist since high school.
It was something I thought about way before it became a thing since high school.
Well, first of all, I don’t think most people know that you’re a medical professional.
You really are. Right? I don’t think people realize when they go to their massage therapist that you’re going into a clinical healthcare space, where your entire system is part of the decision-making as to how you’re going to do the work. How are you going to treat them? So, that’s amazing.
Did you immediately know you were going to go into business for yourself, or did you start off with someone else and then pivot?
In the massage school that I went to, we took a business class as far as resumes, things like that, actually mocking up your business draft. From there, I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to start by myself and then teach myself as I go, and then pull in professional help along the way to teach me.” So, I started on my own in 2015, actually, so when I was in school, I was planning out the business.
Wow. You know, we talk a lot about different industries and the training people go through and how in many cases, the training doesn’t include business training. So you kind of have to do that outside of it to figure it out. How did you get the business training you needed to weave into preparing you to go out there?
A lot of people don’t know, but I Googled a lot of things first for free…a lot of things can be found on Google.
The basics. So, I took what I learned from Google for free, and then from business professionals, as far as what I needed to know. And other massage therapists who were in the industry before me, asking them the pros and cons and things like that. I just built it from that. But I Googled a lot of stuff for free first before I paid for information.
Love it. There’s endless education. Right? A Google search away. I love it. One of the things we try to ask folks, because there are so many who are aspiring to go work for themselves, but they’re afraid. It’s like, how am I getting my clients? What if I can’t make enough money to cover my bills? How did you get over the fear of just all of the firsts? Your first client, your first payment, all that stuff?
I asked for help from other professionals who have been on their own, like, where did you start? Some of them start in the spa because they wanted to build their clientele, and others just word of mouth. What I did was I advertised, because while I was in school, I had three jobs. I was a student worker, and I have a daughter. My daughter was two at the time, so I was a student worker and I worked at a mortgage company.
As well as a hostess at a restaurant. So, even when I was in school, people were like, “What are you studying?” Because they let me study at the hosting, and so they were like, “What are you studying? Nursing?” I was like, “No, massage therapy.” Even then with the clinic for our calls, we could give cards to people to come into the school to get services. So, they would look for me because I’d write my name on the card. I’m like, “My name is Chasidy, I graduate soon so look for me, because I will be working on my own.”
So, I used my other jobs to get my clients.
Nice. It’s never too early to start building that client base. Love it.
Once you got your first pro athlete, how did this go from, “I’m working with the Cowboys,” which frankly, you could just stop there, and keep spreading it.
Yeah. The way that I got my first athlete is I actually DM’d him on Instagram, because I was transitioning from moving from Mississippi to Texas, so I came out here a few weekends and was actually introducing myself. I was like, “Hey, I’m a massage therapist in Mississippi. I’m going to move here this summer. If you don’t have a massage therapist already, I’d like to work with you.” Once we worked together, this actually was Rod Smith, he played for the Cowboys, and then he has a brother, Jaylen Smith, who’s actually been my client since 2018 now. So, I told him, I was like, “Hey, I work with your brother. Give me a chance if you don’t have a massage therapist.” So, it’s been word of mouth.
My clients refer me to other players, even players who don’t even live here in the off season. A lot of people train here, so, “Do you know a good massage therapist?” “Oh, yeah, Chas massages me, that’s my girl. She gets me together. She’ll get you.” So, it’s really word of mouth. Actually, I reach out to athletes as well via Instagram, because social media is very powerful. Then they see the athletes that I’ve worked with-
And then they’re like, “Yep, you can work with me.”
I can’t see how tall you are.
I’m pretty short. I’m like 5’3” and I weigh 125.
I was just wondering, these are big guys. How are you getting in there to really release that tension? What’s your secret? Are you using machines to help with it?
No. I’m trying to work out a little bit still, because my clients are like 200, 300 pounds and 6’7”, 6’8”. It’s just a lot of upper body strength. Then I make sure I use the proper body mechanics when I’m doing that, as I don’t want to injure myself or get tired really quickly. But they are some big guys. So, people are like, “You must be really strong,” So when they see me, they’re like, “You sure you’ll be alright with me?” I’m like, “Yeah.” You know? When people look at me, they kind of get like, “Oh, I don’t know if you can handle…” I’m like, “Oh, I got it, I got it.” When they realize, “Oh, she’s little, but she-“
Packs a punch. Yeah. I love it. Just going into that a little bit more, we hosted someone who runs a company called Massage Business Blueprint, which works with massage therapists all over the country to build their business. One of the things he said is that most customers, most clients, don’t know the difference between a Swedish massage and a Thai massage. Do they come in saying, “I just need you to work on my lower back,” or how do folks communicate what they need, or do you just intuit based on some assessment that you’re doing?
I ask questions, I do have them fill out an assessment form, basically their health history and what they’re looking for in the massage. When they come in, I go over it, asking, “What type of pressure do you normally get?” I get a lot of first-timers who aren’t sure, and I also get a lot of people who had bad experiences because they don’t know what a deep tissue massage is, and they go in thinking, “I want a deep tissue.” Swedish massage is more like a light touch with a little pressure, but deep tissue is more firm for sore muscles to workout those muscle knots and things like that. I recommend for a first timer a Swedish massage. For those who are used to massages, usually when you give deep tissue, they know what they’re getting, so they’re not confused.
But I usually start off the first time, if they’ve never come before, with a Swedish massage. Then I ask during the session, “Would you like a little bit more pressure, or would you like me to lighten up?” That way, they aren’t uncomfortable, because a lot of people won’t say anything to a therapist because they think this is how it’s supposed to feel. I also like to communicate with my clients and make sure that they’re comfortable in their sessions.
Well, so two questions, and this is just me personally. I’ve gone in and done a sports massage, and I was blown away, because they were moving my legs around, my arms. Straight up, it felt like physical therapy. I was like, “Oh, this seems like a bonus.” Right? Is that normal?
That is normal. Even for those who aren’t athletes, if I know that they’re a little bit tight, I do a little bit of stretching. It can open up the area for range of motion. Like the lower back, I may do a little lower back stretch and things like that. I do warn them first, like, “Hey, I’m going to stretch you, so don’t be surprised,” because I don’t want them to go, “Oh, she’s just lifting me.” I prep my clients before I do the stretching to let them know, “This may not be your normal stretching, but it is efficient.”
Then this may be a myth, but I was told that if you fall asleep at the end of the massage, it was an awesome massage. Is that true, or is that true for some kinds of massages?
I personally believe if my clients don’t fall asleep, I don’t think I did good enough. I also have clients who are like, “I’m going to go to sleep. If I snore, excuse me.” I was like, “You know what? That’s fine. It lets me know I’m doing my job right.” Usually people who aren’t used to massages, they may talk a little bit because they’re not comfortable. But after the first time they see me, the second time they’re just like, “Okay, I’m just going to go to sleep. I’m going to take a nap. Don’t mind me if I snore.” So, yes, if you sleep, then that means the therapist is doing it. But a lot of people want to actually experience it, so they’ll try to fight their sleep, and I’ve had that happen.
Right. Then you’re like, “No,” right.
This is a sensitive topic, but we’ve had a number of women who were thinking about going into massage, but are concerned about safety related issues. When men go into it, it doesn’t feel like it’s the same level of safety and security concerns. I’m sure when Uber first got started or Lyft, there were questions about, can I be a taxi driver? Can I not? Is it safe? And they made it more safe, but do you have any feedback or advice to women who were considering it, but a little nervous about moving into that profession, just in terms of being able to really serve the broad market?
When it comes to the safety, I’m very adamant about that. So, if anything, if you feel uncomfortable, just cut the session right then and there. You can usually tell by the conversations what the intentions are of the person that’s trying to receive, because they will ask you a series of questions before getting into it. I usually just let them know, “This is what I do. This is what I’m going to do. If you’re wanting anything extra, I can’t help you.” That way, it’ll cut off anything, because if you are to accept that client, they’re going to think, “Okay, this is okay. I can go ahead.” Also, if you are traveling, because I do a lot of mobile at home as well, make sure that you send your locations to somebody.
A friend, yeah.
Yeah, multiple people, because there was an incident a couple of years ago, a young lady in Louisiana who was a massage therapist, very pretty young lady, who did get killed by someone. I go back to that, because a lot of people tag me on that, and so I’m just like, “Please be careful.” Ask questions, ask them what they’re wanting and then the locations as well, just for safety measures, because it is very tough on women these days when it comes to that profession.
Okay. Thank you for that. So, your business is doing really well. We’re excited for you. We want to see you hit the stratosphere. When you look ahead, what do you want to see for your business? What are your big picture goals that we can cheer you on for?
I am currently working on opening my wellness and recovery center, hopefully within the next two years. That way I can bring in other massage therapists and we can have different services, like a sauna, hot tub, cold tub, maybe a chiropractor, if that works out.
Yeah. So, a massage and wellness center, more upbeat. Not spa-like, but at the same time, recovery. So, if people want to come after they work out, they can shower, get in the sauna, then get a massage all in one place. That’s the future plans for me and Gentle Haven to expand and actually have a team.
We can’t wait. We’re going to do a lightning round now, and we’re going to ask you a series of questions, because we want to know more about you and your lifestyle and what you love, and learn from you. First question is, what are you streaming on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, whatever your favorite network is?
Netflix, I’m actually watching Chicago Med, is that what it’s called?
Ah, Chicago Med. I’m not familiar with it. I’m going to look it up. Is it like ER, like Grey’s Anatomy?
Yeah. It’s a spinoff of Chicago PD.
So a little bit of law enforcement. I love legal thrillers. Law & Order’s my thing. Okay. What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere in California?
Yeah. Actually, I was in training camp with the Cowboys a couple of weeks ago, and we were at Ochsner, and I went to the beach for the very first time. It was so relaxing. I was like, “You know what? I need to come back here,” because I’m from the south. I’m from Louisiana, so California is definitely my go-to place for now.
Okay. Then what’s your favorite motto, favorite quote, words to live by?
Favorite quote is YOLO, you only live once.
I love it. That’s become so popular since COVID. People are like, “You know what? Let me just go do what I was meant to do.” Right?
I love it. YOLO. Then finally, what is coming up soon that we can look out for you? Where do we find you? Where can we cheer you on for something that’s coming up soon that you’re working on?
Coming up soon, I may or may not be appearing in a TV show. It’s up in the air right now.
Please tag us. Tag us.
I definitely will. I actually got the call today to be featured in a TV show and possibly a magazine feature as well. I will definitely tag you guys. I did let the secret out, because I was holding that in.
Love it, love it. That’s awesome. Okay. Where’s the best place to follow you? Should we follow you on Gentle Haven Massage, or where do we follow you?
Thank you so much for spending time with me, Chasidy. You’re awesome. I really appreciate your candor, and we’re going to send some folks your way. We’re really excited. Tag us when the stuff comes out!