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.
PocketSuite Massage Therapist Pro
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 for woman working in the massage therapy industry.
Hey, how’s it going, Chasidy? Thanks so much for joining.
Thank you for having me.
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 one of our favorite people, like @mrssugarsuiteismyesthetician, Tiara Calhoun.
A few of my makeup artists use the platform as well.
You ladies have an awesome, awesome community in Dallas. You help people do everything – preparing for big milestone moments, staying fit, helping people relax. We want to hear about your story. You were in massage, but now you focus on pro and collegiate athletes, which is an area that we haven’t explored much in The Lounge. I think people are going to learn a lot.
Can you tell us about how you got your start in massage? And then how did you get 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 have a career in sports. I did start off in spa work for the first three years. I’ve been a massage therapist for six years. 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, 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.
First of all, congratulations! 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 you are still in a salon or a studio, but why shift to massage bodywork rather than face and body skincare work?
That’s a good question. Whenever I went to school in Mississippi, I had one of my former track coaches reach out to me to work with the track athletes. 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 went from there. I work 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. You had to put in a lot of hours to become an esthetician. Then you had to put in another big chunk of time to become a massage therapist. Is there any overlap in the curriculum and program?
How long did it take you to complete all of the education and meet the requirements?
Back then, when I went to school in 2015, it took me 18 months to graduate. Then I had to take a state exam and then a national exam. I did not pass it the first time by 14 points. We take the same exam – kind of like nursing.
We learn about muscles, tissue, 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 and how it might 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 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 exam. 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.
I don’t think most people know that you are actually a medical professional. You really are. Right? I don’t think people realize when they go to their massage therapist that they’re going into a healthcare facility. Your whole health influences your massage treatment plan.
Did you immediately know you were going into business for yourself or did you start off with a partner?
In my massage school, we took a business class and created our resumes and mocked up our business plans. 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 I pulled in professional help along the way to teach me.” I started on my own in 2015. I was in school mapping out the business.
You know, we talk a lot about different industries and the training people go through. The training doesn’t typically include business training. You kind of have to learn the business side outside of school. How did you get the business training that you needed to prepare 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. I took what I learned from Google for free and then got advice from business professionals. I also got advice from other massage therapists who were in the industry before me. I asked them about the pros and cons. I just built it from there.
There’s endless education online. Right? It’s all a Google search away. I love it! There are so many who are aspiring to work for themselves, but they’re afraid. 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 all of the firsts? Your first client, your first payment, all of it?
I asked for help from other professionals who have been on their own. Where did you start? Some of them started in the spa because they wanted to build their clientele and others just from word of mouth referrals. I advertised because while I was in school, I had three jobs. I was a student worker. 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? Nursing?” I was like, “No, massage therapy.” We could give cards to people to come into the school to get services. 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.” I used my other jobs to get my clients for my business.
It’s never too early to start building that client base.
Once you got your first pro athlete, how did it go from there?
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.” We worked together, this actually was Rod Smith, he played for the Cowboys. He has a brother, Jaylen Smith, who’s actually been my client since 2018 now. So, I told him, “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 live here in the off season. A lot of people train here, “Do you know a good massage therapist?” “Oh, yeah, Chas massages me, that’s my girl. She gets me together. She’ll get you.” 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 because these are big guys. How are you getting in there to really release the tension? What’s your secret? Are you using machines to help with it?
No. I’m trying to work out a little bit 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 that I use the proper body mechanics when I’m doing that. I don’t want to injure myself or get tired really quickly. They are some big guys. 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 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. Just going into that a bit more. We hosted Allissa Haines who runs a company called Massage Business Blueprint, which works with massage therapists all over the country to build their businesses. One of the things that she said is most clients don’t know the difference between a Swedish and a Thai massage. Do they come in saying, “I need you to work on my lower back”? How do folks communicate what they need? Do you just intuit based on an assessment that you do?
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. 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. 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.
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 massage 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.
Ok, this is personal. I’ve done a sports massage. I was blown away because they were moving my legs around, my arms. Seriously, it felt like physical therapy. I was like, “Oh, this seems like a bonus.” 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. I do warn them first, “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 only certain types 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. A lot of people want to actually experience it. So they’ll try to fight their sleep and I’ve had that happen.
This is a sensitive topic, but we’ve had a number of women who were thinking about going into massage, but they were 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? Those tech companies with their digital verifications, gps tracking, and monitoring made the profession more safe. Do you have any feedback or advice for women who are considering becoming massage therapists, but are nervous about some of the risks?
When it comes to safety, I’m super clear. 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 the massage 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 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 massages as well, make sure that you send your locations to somebody.
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. I go back to that because a lot of people tagged me on that. So I’m just like, “Please be careful.” Ask questions, ask them what they want. Then send your location as well. Just as a safety measure because it is very tough on women these days when it comes to this profession.
Okay. Thank you for that. So, your business is doing really well. We’re excited for you. We want to see you rise into the stratosphere. When you look ahead, what do you see for your business? What are your big picture goals so we can cheer you on?
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, and maybe a chiropractor. It will be 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. Those are my future plans for Gentle Haven – to expand and actually have a team.
We can’t wait. We’re going to do a lightning round now. We’re going to ask you a series of questions because we want to know more about you and your lifestyle – what you love and learn from you. First question is, what are you streaming on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube?
Netflix, I’m actually watching Chicago Med.
Ah, Chicago Med. I’m not familiar with it. I’m going to look it up. Is it like ER and 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 Oxnard. 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. California is definitely my go-to place for now.
Got it. What’s your favorite motto or quote? Your 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?
YOLO. Finally, what is coming up soon that we can look forward to? Where do we find you?
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?
Thank you so much for spending time with us 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 show comes out!