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“I paid attention to what other people were doing and didn’t do those things,” she says of her marketing approach with her business, Adagio Therapeutics Massage. “Your business skills have to be as good as your massage skills, otherwise people won’t know about you.”
Wilson has several systems in place to ensure a constant flow of customers.
Wilson’s massage therapy and healing center grew out of her experiences as a child in England, where her father helped her migraines using acupressure.
“I had malt shoved down my throat on a daily basis. My mom said it would make me big and strong. My grandfather grew everything you could think of,” she says. “I had a holistic childhood. It was idyllic.”
It was this nature-based upbringing that instilled in her the desire to heal others using alternative methods; she just didn’t know it would turn into her career.
Fast-forward several years, and Wilson is getting a massage in Gainesville and trying to figure out her calling. The therapist suggested attending the Florida School of Massage here.
“I went there and realized why I was on the planet,” she says. “Now I can’t see myself ever not doing massage and facilitating healing.”
Wilson used her savings to start her business, thinking she would give it two years and if it failed at least she wouldn’t have a huge loan to pay back. She rented a room, but realized that the rental fees weren’t worth what she was getting. She wanted to create a unique atmosphere and renting a space didn’t allow the amenities she sought for her clients.
That’s when she launched Adagio, where clients may enjoy beverages and chocolate after each massage, as well as relaxing music. “It’s like stepping into another world,” she says.
She wants everyone to understand that massage isn’t a luxury item; it’s great for your health on every level, including relaxation, pain management, post-accident trauma, headaches or sports injuries.
To demonstrate the power of massage and help others, Wilson created the “Pay It Forward Fairy Card.”
Wilson gives the card to a client, who may pass it on to someone in need within the week, who will then repeat the process. She’s had people who’ve lost their moms, been in car accidents, or had children in the hospital. The recipient then can call and set up their free appointment.
“It changes lives,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’m doing something for free. I’m doing a good deed for someone. I’m really helping.”
In addition to feeling good about it, it’s also good marketing. Around 80 percent return to get another paid massage, and around 35 percent become permanent clients, she says. Building that consistent customer base is key in the massage business, she adds.
One of the most important ways that she retains clients is by listening to them, she adds. “I know their body language,” she explains. “It’s asking the right questions and actually hearing the replies—whether they are verbal or physical.”
And that personal connection is one of the things that keeps clients coming back in the extremely competitive market in Gainesville. With the massage school in town and a general “holistic” ethos, the massage therapy market has about 1,000 licensed massage therapists.
To help fill up her appointment book, Wilson also launched the “Preferred Goddess Card.” Customers receive these handmade cards if they book at least three weeks in advance. With the card, you can get weekly massages for $50, biweekly massages for $60 and monthly massages for $70. Every seventh massage is free. It’s similar to other reward cards that people get, so they understand them, she says.
“People absolutely love them,” she says. “They really appreciate the free massage, and I know where I’m standing.”
For added variety—and to help with overhead costs, Wilson rents space to four other massage therapists, who are able to offer different specialties to her client base.
It wasn’t easy finding the right mix, though, she says.
“I was [at Adagio] on my own for two years paying that massive rent,” she says because she couldn’t find the right people to join her. “It’s about the energy, whether I can trust them and if they fit in.”
While having the rooms rented cuts down on her overhead costs, the massage therapy business is still challenging, she says. Wilson makes three lines of jewelry on the side to help defer costs. However, her big dream centers around providing massage on an entirely different level.
Wilson would like to see massage therapy centers in cancer hospitals nationwide so that caretakers could receive some much-needed attention while their loved ones receive their hospital treatments.
“When a person has cancer the treatment centers around them,” she says. “Then, if the person dies, everything stops, including the phone calls and attention from the family, which they now really need. They’re lost.”
While she knows these centers are a long way from materializing, she is gathering data to write grants and hopes to launch one as soon as the time is right.
“I’m waiting for a sign. There will be a sign at some point,” she says. “That’s my ultimate goal.”