What do you get when a yoga studio owner and a social work professor cross paths? You get Yomassage, a fusion of relaxing and supported restorative positions, hands-on massage therapy, and mindfulness. Tiffany Ryan & Katherine Parker started Yomassage seven months ago and have already trained nearly 1,000 Yomassage Therapists and have been featured in a six-page spread in the April 2019 issue of Massage & Bodywork magazine. Read on to get the full story.
The spark that inspired the birth of your concept: Katherine and I first crossed paths when I approached her about teaching at her yoga studio in Portland, Oregon. I am a Social Work Professor and had recently moved to Oregon after completing my massage and yoga training in Costa Rica, and was looking for a yoga teacher gig. Although Katherine didn’t have any open positions, we shared similar backgrounds. We began discussing the importance of massage and therapeutic touch. A new idea formed—combining restorative stretch, therapeutic touch, and mindfulness into one relaxing class. As the popularity of the class grew, it became apparent that we were onto something, prompting us to create Yomassage. Yomassage was originally intended to be an accessible way to receive massage on a regular basis since it was less expensive than a one-on-one massage therapy session, but it turned into something more. Yomassage began appealing to all kinds of clientele, including those who had never experienced traditional massage. We decided to create a curriculum to train other massage therapists.
The problem it solves: Yomassage’s mission is to make therapeutic touch accessible.
Massage is seen as a luxury – individual sessions cost on average $80 plus tip for 60 minutes, and around $120 plus tip for 90 minutes. Therapeutic touch releases hormones that elicit happy feelings and those of being connected to others, while reducing stress hormones. Mindfulness in the moment reduces blood pressure and heart rate. Mindfulness practiced over time rewires the brain and its response to stressful stimuli. We combine the two by having clients observe the sensation in their body while receiving massage and engaged in gentle stretch.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. It’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. PTSD affects 7.7 million adults or 3.5% of the U.S. population. Major depressive disorder affects more than 16.1 million American adults or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
Whether the client is suffering from a mental health issue, or just needs a nurturing time and space to reconnect with their body, Yomassage delivers. Clients receive 90 minutes of pure relaxation for between $35-$55. Classes are small to ensure enough hands-on time and provide the safety and community of a group setting. Additionally, massage therapists average career span is 5-7 years. This is due to how hard deep tissue is on the body, and many struggle with making enough money and/or running their own business. Yomassage allows therapists to use light touch and make more money in a single Yomassage class than they would in a single session.
How you came up with the name: Mindfulness is a main component of the yoga tradition and our restorative positions are inspired by restorative yoga poses. We provide massage therapy while in these restorative stretches and focused on mindfulness, so it’s pretty obvious how Yomassage got its name!
How you are different than your competition: Our brand is focused on making massage accessible and creating community among our practitioners and clients. Right now we are the only modality that allows massage therapists to serve multiple clients at once. There are some yoga studios doing similar classes, but they generally have large classes, don’t guarantee a minimum amount of hands-on time, and they are not led by massage therapists. Yomassage provides the knowledge needed to create an amazing experience for clients, and therapists leave our training being able to start leading Yomassage classes immediately. We have a strong community of Yomassage Therapists that support each other. Finally, we offer a membership to provide marketing and business support to ensure our Yomassage Therapist’s success.
How you make money: We have 3 main revenue sources, the first is trainings for massage therapists, the second is a monthly licensing fee for our membership only benefits, and the third is retail of merchandise and in the future props needed to conduct Yomassage classes.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur: You get to be creative and make decisions quickly to respond to demand. It’s fun and exciting to see your baby grow. We also love working with a partner that we choose! Katherine and I feel very fortunate to have found each other. We complement each other and provide encouragement when the other is feeling stressed.
The biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date: We have honestly been surprised by the quick success of Yomassage. We held our first training in September and didn’t spend much money on a website or any other startup items because we wanted to see if we would even get anyone to sign up! Here we are 7 months later and by the end of 2019, we will have conducted 31 trainings across the U.S. and trained nearly 1,000 Yomassage Therapists. We have also been contacted by international partners that would like to bring Yomassage to France, the Netherlands, the UK, New Zealand, and Canada.
Your biggest success: The universe had our back, and when one of our Yomassage Therapists reached out to a national massage therapy organization to see if they would donate swag for an upcoming training, somehow the editor of the organization’s magazine, Massage and Bodywork, caught wind of what we were doing and asked us to be featured as an up and coming modality in their Spring issue. More than 225,000 massage therapists receive this magazine and they ended up using our picture on the cover and giving us a 6-page spread. This has been a huge boost for us and with all of the training enrollments we have received due to this feature (which we would never have been able to afford to purchase at the time), has given us the means to expand, increase marketing efforts, and solidify our business.
A failure story and what you learned: It feels like we have had so many, but upon reflection, we’ve just had a lot of big challenges that we’ve been able to overcome (but weren’t so sure at the time). The first and main struggle was trying to get people to know who we were and that we were a legitimate company when we had very little resources. We learned that networking and letting anyone and everyone know who you are and what you’re doing is key. Our big break came from the magazine story, which we never could have predicted, but was a product of networking.
What keeps you up at night: Uncertainty – what is the next hurdle? Will we sustain? Is it smart to quit my other job with a family, kids, etc. depending on my health insurance and income? How can we continue to grow our brand? Did I mention uncertainty? We truly feel Yomassage is going to be a huge success nationally and internationally but at times the statistics of how many businesses are actually successful creep into the back of our heads. We quickly push them out and honestly, don’t have time to be worrying since we’re so busy building!
The best entrepreneurial advice you have received: We don’t have one person to attribute this to, but have heard it from many people on our journey: “Listen to other people, but at the end of the day, follow your gut. You know what’s best for your business”.
Your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: Think big. I remember Katherine and I sitting down at a coffee shop sketching up a very early stage business plan. She said we should think big and write down a really lofty number as a goal for sales. Internally I scoffed a bit, thinking she was being unrealistic. As I saw our initial success, I’ve realized the importance of thinking big. You go where your dreams take you, and if you don’t have big dreams, the chances of you going far are small.
The #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur: Can we do a podcast? NPR’s “How I built this” is so inspiring and lets you know that all of the big startups had their failures and were able to overcome them. It makes you realize that the big companies were started by real people just like us and that success is not easy.
The song that best describes your entrepreneurial journey: Katherine likes Unstoppable by Sia and Tiffany likes Don’t Stop Believin by Journey.
What wild success looks like: Yomassage is a household name. There are Yomassage classes all around the World and we’re able to offer therapeutic touch to millions of people. Research is being done on the impact Yomassage is having on their mental health and becomes an intervention used to treat trauma, anxiety, and depression.
Your favorite local business: Studio PDX because it’s owned by Katherine and was where we first created and held Yomassage classes.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: Katherine wanted to be a singer and Tiffany wanted to own a shoe store.
Is Oregon is a good place to start a business? It’s been great for us because of the number of massage therapists in Oregon for Yomassage specifically. Portland has been an easy place to network because it’s full of small businesses. We love the creative, entrepreneurial vibe of Portland.