by Kaia Petin

It’s been nearly 10 years since I earned my massage therapy license from Lauterstein-Conway. To be honest, it’s only been in the last 2 years that I feel successful when I tell people that I’m a massage therapist. And now, I absolutely love my job and finally feel like I’m aligned with my true purpose in life. But it has been quite the journey!

When I began working, I wasn’t willing to sign on as an employee for a chain or a spa. The idealistic “artist” in me knew that the massage I wanted to do took more physical space, more time and more energy than the typical “massage business” model provided. I also had a fear of burning myself out. So I struggled.

I tried to do it all myself. I put out a table at Gold’s gym and offered dollar-a-minute sessions to the gym rats. I “networked” and found clients in office buildings where I offered 15 minute sessions to desk-jockeys on their breaks. I put up an amateur looking website and made some business cards which I handed out far and wide. I worked for a bit as a contractor for Tom Darilek at Seize the Day chair massage. I set up a home office and traveled to client homes to do in-call sessions. I logged hundreds of massages, honing my skills and kept looking for a niche in the massage market that really fit.

You know all those questions the “business plan” project asks – who do you want to work with, where and how? What do you want your business to look like? How is it all going to work? These questions are huge keys to finding success – and the teachers at TLC did a great job of helping me ask myself what they were. Maybe I’m just hard headed, but it took real-world experience for me to find my own REAL answers to those questions.

When I finally did find my answers – everything clicked. I went from doing 5 or 6 sessions a week, to thriving – with 20 clients booked a week in advance, and with more clients on my waiting list. Was it the perfect client base? The perfect office and location? The perfect marketing plan? Enough experience to project the confidence in myself to draw clients in? A great reputation and good reviews to sell my services to strangers on the web? The perfect website with all the right business tools and great accessibility? Or was it all of the above?

My personal recipe for massage success has been – to combine technological accessibility and administrative capability, with the freedom to create my own schedule and workspace. I intentionally work with a population of clients who can both afford my services and have the desire to be participants in their own wellness. It feels as if I’m riding the larger wave of awareness about preventative healthcare that is happening in society today, and marrying the twin rhythms of internet technology and traditional hands-on healing. And the clients are digging it.

So in 2012 I’m excited to be sharing my experience and offering the tech / administrative toolset I’ve developed to other Austin therapists as a service. I’m totally psyched to be building the Curative Bodywork brand and working with other independent therapists as they search for their own personal recipe for success in the realm of healing. Austin’s spirit of high-quality, local, independent and unique work is alive and well when it comes to massage therapy.


Kaia Petin earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from USC in 1999, and then spent many years working in high tech before launching her practice as Curative Bodywork in downtown Austin in 2009. She has practiced and competed in the martial arts world for nearly 20 years and is excited to be expanding her business and her family in 2012 as she and her partner Nate prepare for the birth of their first child. If you have any questions, she can be reached by email at kaia@curativebodywork.com.