Sometimes it takes a difficult reality to catapult one to action. Such was the case for Katie Lehmkuhl, who, after being attacked by a client where she was working in a home for developmentally disabled adults decided it was time for a career change. “I was always that person rubbing someone’s shoulders and was now interested in learning the proper techniques of massage. I had researched the three colleges that offered massage therapy at that time and decided on Harrison because of the location, the flexibility of classes, the friendly, well-informed recruiter, I met, the assistance with job placement after graduation and the ability to audit classes after graduation to keep my skills sharp,” she said.
A connection with her Strategies instructor was instrumental in the completion of her degree because shortly after classes started Lehmkuhl became pregnant and studying that had once come easily and naturally was a challenge. “My instructor was very supportive of me when I needed it the most and offered creative ways to help me connect the importance of finishing school with the mental picture of how I imagined my "best" life; as the boss of my own business. Due to some complications with my daughter’s birth she was on oxygen and a heart monitor when she came home from the hospital and I had to drop a few classes that semester to care for her. As a single parent of a child with special needs and no job I knew I could go out and get a job making decent money, but I also knew I would be doing something that made me miserable and I didn’t want to teach that to my child. I always believed I could be financially successful and happy if I worked hard. Fortunately, my sister was willing to move in with me to help me finish school,” explained Lehmkuhl. And finish, she did!
“After my externship I wanted to get straight into owning my business so I rented a studio space in Greenwood and was thoroughly surprised when I wasn’t busy right away. As a new massage therapist, I was still figuring out what set me apart from all of the other therapists. I wasn’t confident, and people could see that. I spent my whole life having this dream and felt completely devastated when it didn’t happen immediately.” Tenacity served her well and while working at her daughter’s daycare to get back on her feet she continued to do massages in her home. Missing the full-time massage work, Lehmkuhl chose to accept a position at Massage Envy where she worked for five years and built a loyal client base. “I grew as a therapist and honed my craft into a skill that is completely unique from anyone else. I let instinct guide me when I massage someone new; listening to their body with my hands. When the pressure is too deep I know because I feel when they tense. When they are relaxed I can feel the client completely relax. I now can look at a person and know what their complaints are just from the way they walk or carry themselves. During my last year at Massage Envy the thought of owning my own business became so loud that I could not ignore it any longer,” Lehmkuhl shared.
When she opened her business, some of her clients followed her and some didn’t. Believing massage therapy is built on trust she understood it would take time to rebuild a loyal client base and offered discounts, flexible hours and even volunteered her services. “I now have the freedom I never had working for someone else. I’m responsible for all aspects of my business; marketing, cleaning, charting, customer service and massaging. But it is worth it. I’m constantly learning new techniques and began making my own lotions when a client was allergic to an ingredient in nearly every lotion. Adding aromatherapy and essential oils to my sessions has proven to be a profitable venture. I also hope to expand my resume by teaching. A great thing about massage is that it will never be extinct and doctors are taking it more seriously and prescribing it for their patients.”
Her advice for those beginning a career in massage is this, “Keep a positive attitude, have a goal to achieve, work hard and constantly expand your knowledge base. Success can happen for you.”