Over 20 years ago Alison Stephenson had her first professional massage and became fascinated with the therapeutic effects which led her to go on to qualify as a massage therapist but life took a different turn for a bit and then after her third child she reassessed her life and decided to go back to doing what she loves so she set up Massera Therapies in 2022.
So should we start with the massage that you had 20 years ago that has led you up to the point that you are at now?
I was bought a massage, might be more than 20 years ago now at a local spa and I’d never had one before. I was University age I think back then and it was amazing and I thought “wow”, this is you know good for well-being you know. Let’s talk about school you know, well-being, you get taught to drink your water and eat your greens but there’s actually a whole world out there that you don’t know about – that was I just had an amazing massage and then I got quite interested in it and a friend of mine and I thought right – should we should we do like a night course in massage? We had lots of time on our hands at the time, we didn’t have kids, we worked but all of our free time was free time – we spent six months at a local College doing a level three in Swedish massage course – really thoroughly enjoyed it and the course was actually great fun to do because obviously you get lots of massages, you give lots of massages, met some great people as well, a really nice bunch of people, and then at that point I really left it once I completed the course.
My career took a different route I spent lots of years working on property and financial services. Very different, polar opposites and then I had some children, got married. And probably about a year ago I thought right, this is just not working for me anymore, I’m not feeling it. I’m not feeling office work, I’m not feeling being employed and I just I was struggling to make things juggle at home with a family and a work life and I just wasn’t really feeling very fulfilled.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take about a year out after covid and really assess what I wanted to do and have a think about it and that took me back to exploring holistic therapies again, I brushed up on some new skills, added a few new courses, lots of practice and here is Massera Therapies!
I was really fortunate as well, I’m sort of in the process of and waiting for an ADHD diagnosis and I was referred to a fantastic organisation called Celebrate Difference. Laura particularly actually give me loads of support and it’s applying for an access to work grant to help me with my self-employment andgeneral support around that as a new business owner and we’ve just been building on it really from there.
I offer a few different therapies now and I started off just from my home treatment room in Fenham and I’ve now got a room in Jesmond in Urban Angels and that’s great. I’ve got that variation., I’m absolutely loving it and I’ve got a couple of other therapists here today having a meeting and working together on putting some events together between us because we all sort of have a fantastic specialism it’s all really exciting isn’t it, I’m really enjoying it.
Yes, because it’s still very new isn’t it Massera Therapies?
I’ll tell you how the name came about and it was actually Suzanne Whelan at Celebrate Difference who thought of the name, we were having a bit of a brainstorming session between us because I couldn’t think of a name for the business and it was a real sticking point that I couldn’t move forward until there was a name we couldn’t look at a website
It’s really hard coming up with a name
I think it just became this huge thing and we talked about our training in Swedish massage, Suzanne said “What’s Swedish for massage?” Massera! – I quite like the ring of that – Massera Therapies!
I think that in in this journey it’s quite a long time since you had that first massage it obviously had such a massive impact on you and then to to have a completely different career and go through, children and all of those things and then decide to do massage – the stuff that you did before you started this business was very different to what you’re doing now it’s quite a big leap, I think that’s quite brave, to make that leap, why did you decide to do THAT rather than anything else?
I think that I just gave myself some time and that’s what I was drawn to, that’s what at this stage in my life I was interested in and I wanted to help people with their well-being. I’ve been stressed and anxious and depressed and overwhelmed and all those other things and I thought I really want to help people with that stuff. I think through hands-on therapy, that’s something that I can do, and you get a really great connection with your clients and meet some fantastic people. I suppose the beauty of it is you can take it in whichever direction you want to go in as well and you don’t have to put yourself in a box. You can really explore it and I think the ADHD side of me loves that. I can take it in different directions, work in different places, in different settings, work with different people. All of this stuff I think I was lacking a bit previously, and now I feel work doesn’t feel like a chore, even the admin of running a business. I don’t feel that dread that I often used to feel in an employed capacity.
It’s nice. I’m working on this for me and to move my business in the right direction. In terms of Bravery there’s been quite a few moments in this little journey where I’ve really had to push myself and I’ve really been up anxious and stomach pains and “oh I’m not doing the right thing”. I suppose it’s knowing when to push through that feeling – is it your mind playing tricks on you and just that you’re a bit scared, or is it that you shouldn’t be doing this? And actually with me it was very much my mind’s playing tricks on me. I’m feeling this anxiety because I’m doing something different and something new and I’m kind of putting myself out there a little bit. Along the way there’s been lots of that. Certainly my first few paid clients was really nerve-wracking, asking for feedback from clients because it’s very personal if it’s not good for them, then you know it’s down to you and you need to work on that. You can’t hide behind anything or anyone. Putting together a bio about myself for the website I have really put that off for a while because it’s really hard to talk about yourself and have it in writing – it’s a bit cringe isn’t it?
But you’ve done a great job.
Thank you. It’s done at least. I sort of wish I could have got someone else to write this for me but, even things like this this podcast, it’s out of my comfort zone. I think it’s a good thing, to get out there and talk to the business owners and it might inspire someone else to think right it’s time for me to change things and do something a bit different.
You’ve got to push yourself out of your comfort zone haven’t you to get to that next thing and I think that’s really important and like you were saying those first few clients that’s a bit of a comfort zone leap, but it does get easier over time – that’s like you’re bravery’s been tested and you’re thinking right, what’s next? That’s what you’re saying – you can go and expand and do other things and run events with other therapists and that’s brilliant too. And really really start to enjoy it once you get through that.
And I think it’s great that you’re seeing the other therapists is as collaborators because often people see other people who do similar things as competition don’t they, and then we all have these horrible feelings, where you’re like “who is this person?” They’re good and then actually you know if you push through that as well and that level of bravery where you’re talking to other people who do similar things – amazing things can take place from that.
Fabulous, I’m really excited about it and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. I think everyone has these feelings of imposter syndrome and a bit of “am I good enough?” and am I gonna get caught out almost – and it is it’s just you knowing where to push through and everyone feels this, it’s how you channel it and what you do with it. Definitely working with people – choosing your colleagues, you know choosing like-minded people, and the the competitive sort of element’s interesting as well. I’m finding within the industry actually there’s lots of sharing ideas and working together. Those therapists who’ve been around a lot longer than me have just been great in terms of giving me advice and it’s never felt like you’re stealing my business and vice versa. It’s just felt like everyone’s got their own little niche and we’re all working together and it feels great, it’s a really nice way to be.
What is your favourite thing about running Massera Therapies?
Oh what’s my favourite thing? I think it’s meeting all of the different clients and therapists and the other people you come into contact with, there’s a real mix of professions different types of people. There’s people who are into alternative therapies and crystals and healing and stuff and then I had a consultant in the other day who was a very scientific minded person and it doesn’t matter where you’re at you can still benefit from a good massage basically. IT doesn’t matter what your views are or your beliefs are I think that’s what I like about it, just the variety of people that I encounter all the time
And do you think – we’re talking about your bravery here – do you think other people need to have a certain element of bravery to come to see you?
I mean because I’m really scary! 😉
No absolutely. I think a lot of people haven’t had massages before. Clients will say I’ve never had a massage before – we do we will take our time and explain this is what happens, this is what clothes you leave on, this is what clothes you take off – this is how you lie down, sort of empowering your clients you know? Making sure that they know if anything feels uncomfortable or they like something particularly or they don’t like something tell us. That’s what we’re here for, we want you to get the best out of this treatment. I think it does take a lot of bravery and I’ve had a lot of much older clients in maybe in their 60s and 70s and it’s their first massage and it’s been great. I’ve said – why didn’t I do this years ago? And they’re finally taking the leap. That’s lovely – and I found as well what’s been really nice is I’ve started doing side by side treatments with another lovely therapist and I found that there’s been a few clients coming in that way where they haven’t had a massage before. They’ve maybe got their boyfriend or the husband or their mam or their best mate alongside them, and I think that really helps those clients who are maybe quite nervous about it. They can chat with whoever, and what you’ll normally find is they’ll start chatting away with whoever they’ve came with and then after about five minutes you’re thinking – are they awake?! It does takes bravery to try different things and new things for sure.
And you’ll have had to try a lot of new different things since you started – as we all do.
Yes, I mean I’m trying to set up an online shop at the moment because I offer some skincare with the facial rejuvenation treatments that I do – and again never did anything like that before, but it’s really nice! It’s really nice to challenge yourself and times have moved on now to this online for everything. There’s guides for everything and it’s amazing what you can do. I’ve had a little play around with Canva which I’ve never used anything like that before, I mean I’m absolutely terrible at it, but you know I have a go.
At the moment that’s the one point isn’t it and I think it’s nice to have that opportunity to say okay I might have made some mistakes or whatever but I’ll look back in five years time and think but look how far I’ve came.
And I bet they’re better than you think they are
Probably, we’re our own worst enemy definitely. Definitely the next big thing that I’ve got coming up, I’ve got a sort of mini Festival event – it’s not my event, it’s an event I’m going along to. I’m gonna rock up with my big Bell tent and offer my Indian head massages or seated massages at this event and try and do a bit of marketing promotion for my business, try and raise a little bit of money for my children’s school while I’m there as well. Again that’s just another thing, I’ve never done anything like that before. Never worked in that set up before – there’ll be people running around and people having beers and kids everywhere. I’ll probably feel very nervous about that on the day but I just think I’ll probably enjoy it in the end. I think keep on challenging yourself having to find a new way to work so you do and it’ll be just wonderful.
You just mentioned your kids there, they must be feeling really proud of you as well you’re showing them further ways to be brave and different ways to do things as well.
Definitely. It’s a great lesson. I’m dead open about it and we talk about nerves and how you feel and I think it’s really good for them to see that you can completely change your career if you want to. You don’t have to be stuck in the same box for your whole life. You can mix it up, you can have lots of careers and jobs can’t you? That’s a great message and obviously I’ve been practicing on them quite a lot. They were loving that more in the earlier days and they’ve tailed off a little bit. I do get told off about that sometimes, but actually there’s a massage for them and they absolutely love it that whenever I’ve got the bed up in my home treatment room they’ll just jump on it at any opportunity.
I feel like we’ve covered your bravery to to do this in the first place and all of the things that you have to come through to do it, the bravery of your clients and the fact that you’re inspiring your children to be brave and I think all of those things together that’s pretty wonderful.
Now I was hoping you would share some tips with us on how to how to do all of this bravery stuff?
Yes I would say thanking people is really important. I think it’s super important to have people who you can trust who you can bounce ideas off and who’ve got your back – I think that’s a real key one.
Don’t try and do it alone and be by yourself and leave yourself with all these feelings if you’ve got those nerves and anxieties, talk to other business owners. Actually you’d be surprised to find that most people really do just want to help – and take any advice that you can -I’m terrible actually – I take other people’s advice, I think I know everything I’m learning. I’m really having to make myself learn to listen to other people but it’s great if you open your mind a little bit and do that – and it does really massively help.
I’d say write down your feelings as well, I’m just doing a little bit of journaling just very sporadically, but if I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed I’ll write a few points down.
Don’t take on too much all at once as well and – for example if you set up a new business – everything’s not going to be there from day one from launch date. You haven’t got to have your website done, your newsletter and everything. Your full year mapped out. Let it be a bit organic as well and don’t overwhelm yourself because I think, well certainly for me, if I have too much I feel like I’ve got too much on my plate, I almost shut down and don’t do anything – whereas I think if you chunk it down and get through it and then you look back and think actually I have done these things I’ve just, broke it all down.
They’re great tips I mean obviously I completely agree with thanking people and you say you found Celebrate Difference, that’s awesome, you probably found Mint as well which I’m in too.
Just absolutely wonderful, they’re really great.
Absolutely. I love that one about writing your own feelings down. I journal, I find that very useful, but I also only write down things I’m grateful for, I don’t really think about writing down the other stuff.
It’s a really good idea – depends on mood, but I’ll often put down things that I’m worrying about or a negative feeling that I’ve got – the positives, and then normally I put a bit of to-do in there as well like what do I need to be thinking about the next day or the next week or whatever. I don’t normally look back at it and then look at it the next day but I think the act of writing it down and making yourself think it just kind of goes in there and you know it – that gives you clarity doesn’t it? That next step that you’ve got to take doesn’t seem quite as overwhelming maybe because you’re like, it’s okay, it’s fine, it’s not that scary when I see it in black and white.
That’s it – things that aren’t really that scary either, it’s just we do this to ourselves, we let ourselves get bummed up with things.
We do – which is when we should come and see you so that you can unwind us and make us feel better.
If people would like to come and see you for a massage – which seems like quite a good idea – then where would they go to find out about that?
They could pop and have a look on my website www.masseratherapies.co.uk and also obviously my Facebook and on Instagram have got lots of information on there and I’ve got online booking. You don’t don’t have to speak to a person. I know some people don’t like speaking on the phone, you can go online if that’s not your thing.
Something I probably should have covered off as well is that I’m very neurodivergent friendly. If you really hate having spa music on during a massage tell me, if you want to bring your own music, if you want to wear your own headphones and put your own music on that’s totally fine, if you feel the cold, if you feel the heat, if you hate having your toes touched – whatever it is – any good massage therapist should absolutely tailor things to your needs and if there’s anything that you’re worried about. And also physically as well, you know people worry about things like – I’ve got a birthmark or a scar or tattoos or hairy legs or whatever it might be, people worry about these things and actually from a therapist point of view it’s a non-issue. We don’t, we don’t really see that stuff we just want to give you the best treatment that we can and make you feel good and I guess that links in with the bravery thing that actually, if you’ve got a hang up about your body or whatever if you can get past it and come in and get on that massage bed, you will not regret it. It’ll be worth it and I guarantee you’ll be back
Excellent, well that’s great thank you very much – those links will be in the show notes as well so if you need to find them that’s where you can go – thank you very much!
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