Move over, Oscars. Take a seat, Golden Globes. This awards season, we’re only interested in the Best of YEG Fitness awards – because three of the nominees for “Best Massage Therapist” are Vicars graduates!

Kory Ring, Andrea Yacyshyn, and Dustin Ring (no relation to Kory) are among the top five finalists for the award, which is determined entirely by public votes.

The awards are presented by YEG Fitness magazine, a local publication that highlights all areas of the local fitness and wellness community.

“We view fitness as healthy living, and it’s all about balance. It’s about taking care of your body: nutrition, different kinds of activity and training, and having physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists working with you to both prevent and treat injury if you need it,” explained TJ Sadler, the magazine’s editor. “The awards are a way for us to showcase those people who are doing great things.”

Discovering that so many of their clients considered them among the city’s massage elite was a great feeling for the three Vicars grads.

“I’m so grateful to all of my clients and everyone who voted for me for this,” said Dustin, who graduated in 2017. “I never thought that I would make a list like this so close to coming out of school.”

“I was so honoured that enough people typed my name – and I have a hard-to-spell last name! It was incredibly validating as I love this work so much,” said Andrea.

Being included on lists does more than just boost a therapist’s confidence. It can have a significant impact on future business. So what can fellow Vicars graduates learn from Andrea, Dustin, and Kory’s success?

A good massage begins before the client is on the table

I asked all three of the nominees to try to identify what it was about their treatments that made clients so excited that they’d go online and vote. I expected to hear about their hands-on expertise and specialized techniques – and I did – but the first thing that each therapist highlighted about themselves was how they try to listen to and relate to their clients off the table.

“The thing my clients have consistently said to me is that they feel like I listen to them, I care, and I don’t rush them,” Andrea said.

“I’ve been told by a lot of clients that they like that I actually take the time to listen and do a proper assessment and address their concerns – just like we were taught to do in school,” Kory agreed. “And they get the results that they’re looking for, a lot of the time.”

And once your clients love your practice, they’ll keep coming back. And they’ll tell their friends.

Word-of-mouth marketing works. Don’t be afraid to ask for it!

“I actually don’t accept tips at my practice at all, and when people do try to tip me I tell them that if they want to pay me a compliment they can just tell their friends and family about me, or leave a Google review,” said Kory. “Ninety-nine per cent of my clients come from referrals, I’d say.”

No one knows how amazing you are – or is as excited to talk about why – like the clients who keep coming back to you. By encouraging your current clients to recommend you to others, you’re getting your name out there in a more authentic and efficient way than any ad could ever deliver. And, you’ll attract the kind of client who is most likely to fit in well at your practice, which means they’ll keep coming back (and refer friends of their own).

It doesn’t hurt to offer a small thank-you in return.

“I offer a $10 referral [gift] when someone sends me a new client,” explained Andrea. “A client I had from school referred another client, who then referred her sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and multiple friends. And then those clients referred people to me. It was a huge domino effect that really paid off and landed me with 10 new regular clients rather quickly.”

Don’t just tell clients about your practice – tell everyone!

One of the ways that Dustin was able to become so successful so quickly after graduating was by tapping into the professional connections that he already had as a yoga teacher. These clients and colleagues became his first cheerleaders.

“By being in the yoga community and immersing myself in different aspects of the fitness industry I’ve developed an ongoing clientele that I never thought that I would have this early in my career,” he said. “I also did a lot of volunteer events. If you’re good, people are going to tell other people.”

Some of your most important connections as a therapist aren’t with clients, but with other health care professionals. Being a source of trustworthy referrals for your clients adds value to your services at the same time as it helps clients get the care they need.

Kory’s clinic is located within Evolve Strength, a downtown gym. This mixed clinical environment has helped him make connections with other professionals.

“There’s a good referral network within the gym,” he explained. “The athletic world, I’ve come to realize, is a pretty tight-knit community in this city.”

Andrea’s practice is in her home, but that hasn’t stopped her from developing an extensive referral list of her own.

“I have a chiropractor, 3 massage therapists, an acupuncturist, a physiotherapist, a Pilates studio, a [naturopathic doctor], a medical clinic, and a pelvic floor specialist that I refer to,” said Andrea. “I have their cards in my treatment room and some of their profiles on my website. By working with them and sending them my clients, they up sending me theirs and we create a collaborative health network for our clients.”

The winners of this year’s Best of YEG Fitness awards will be announced at a ceremony on February 6, 2019.

“Looking back now, I’m definitely glad I went the Newfoundland route. It’s been a long process, but I’m finally there!”

That’s Jenna Kluthe, who graduated from MH Vicars School’s Edmonton campus in 2017. She was one of nearly a dozen Vicars grads who travelled to Newfoundland to write that province’s entry-to-practice exam with the final goal of becoming RMTs in BC. Jenna now practices in Nanaimo.

Tyler Shortridge, Karen Goforth, Jenna Kluthe, and their classmates celebrate together after writing the CMTNL exams. Photo courtesy Karen Goforth.

Jenna and her classmates chose Newfoundland because the process to apply for the exam was simpler, faster, and less expensive than going directly to BC. The College of Massage Therapists of Newfoundland and Labrador officially recognizes the Vicars program, while the BC College requires applicants to pay for a “prior learning assessment” before they can take their test. (Read more about why Vicars grads are choosing Newfoundland and New Brunswick here).

The journey to become RMTs in BC began in the spring of 2017.

“I was going to go the BC route, because I didn’t know anything about Newfoundland, but about a month before we graduated someone mentioned it and we were all curious,” said Tyler Shortridge, who lives in Cranbrook and attended the Calgary campus. “[CMTNL] were really good. They answered emails fast, they answered phone calls. It was easy to get the answers I needed, and the paperwork was simple. I think I waited two weeks to hear whether we were accepted to write the exam. They had no issues with our program.”

The Newfoundland entry-to-practice exam has two parts. The multiple-choice exam covers massage theory, ethics, and law, including regulations specific to Newfoundland. The practical exam, which consists of seven separate stations, evaluates the therapist’s academic knowledge, hands-on techniques, and problem-solving skills.

“It was a little bit intimidating,” said Jenna. “You walk into the room and there were two examiners, just sitting off to the side, and there’s the body. The examiners don’t say anything, they don’t acknowledge you, they don’t smile, they don’t do anything. You just walk in and do your thing.”

The College publishes a detailed outline of the exam structure and contents to help therapists prepare, and the Vicars grad felt that the exams were well-organized and fair.

“It was fairly straightforward. You just have to make sure that you’re confident in your answers,” said Karen Goforth, who lives and works in Creston, BC.

Nonetheless, they all felt very prepared.

“The hardest part was waiting for the results,” said Tyler. “I took the exam in August, and by the end of October I was registered in Newfoundland. The end of January is when I was able to work in BC as an RMT.”

All the time and effort was worth it.

“Being a massage therapist is awesome, I love it. I have the freedom to do whatever I want with my schedule, and I like helping people,” said Tyler. “You see a lot of different people, and it’s really nice to connect with them.”

If you’re a Vicars student or grad interested in more information about moving to a regulated province, please contact the school and we’d be happy to help.

An image of someone working on their laptop and visiting Facebook

This morning when I sat down at my desk, coffee in hand, the first thing that I did was open up Facebook. It’s the first thing I do every morning.

This isn’t a confession that I’m slacking off on the job—quite the opposite, in fact!

As Communications Coordinator, it’s my job to promote the School, share what’s happening on campus, and answer questions from clients and prospective (and current) students. And one of the ways I do this is by using social media.

Hence the morning Facebook-and-coffee ritual each morning. I log in to Facebook and navigate to the MH Vicars School business page (resisting the temptation to check my own notifications…usually!) and see how the online community has been interacting with the School.

An image of someone working on their laptop and visiting Facebook

I check the messaging inbox—recent messages have included questions about class schedules, job postings, and continuing education – and reply to comments. I also go behind the scenes to check out the analytic data on recent posts—information that’s available on business pages but not personal profiles. This allows me to learn about what our Facebook community likes, so I can create even more relevant and enjoyable content for them in the future.

I check back in with Facebook—and our Instagram account—once or twice during the day. I’ll write new posts and either publish them immediately or schedule them for later. I try to post at least once a day for the school, being careful not to spam peoples’ timelines or neglect my other responsibilities.

Relatively speaking, it’s a small part of my job. But it’s an incredibly important one. These days, it’s vital for businesses to have a social media presence. And though massage therapy is an offline profession, it’s no exception.

As an RMT, you are your own business, and your own brand. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an employee of another clinic, or run your own practice, or even if you’re a student just starting to build a network of potential clients. No matter your practice, your customers are online. They expect you to have a responsive web presence, and social media is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective ways to meet that need.

Your daily social media doesn’t need to look like mine, but if you want to grow your client base, manage your personal brand, and communicate with your clients, you should really be on social media.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer a wide range of tools specifically for businesses. They allow you to separate your personal and professional identities online, communicate with your clients, and build your ideal audience. But these tools can be complex, they aren’t always intuitive, and they’re regularly being updated. I’ve been using Facebook for business for years, and every few months I make a point to check out what new features are available.

If you don’t already have a Facebook business page, now’s the time. But you don’t have to learn how to do it alone. To learn how to set up your page, or make sure that you’re using it to the best potential, I recommend you attend the one-day social media marketing course we’re holding at the end of the month:


Building Your Massage Business
(Level I): Using Social Media to Build Your Brand

When: November 25, 2017
Where: Edmonton Campus

Sign Up


On the surface, leaving a career as an intensive-care technician to study massage seems like a

 

complete left turn. But for Suzanne Belanger, who began studying at MH Vicars School after more than two decades working in hospitals, it felt like a natural step. She’s still working in a healing profession; only now, as an RMT, she is in the position of helping to prevent injuries and pain, as well as treating them. “I saw that the allopathic or Western model was lacking in empowering care and preventive care. It’s always treating symptoms, not causes,” Suzanne says. “But there are more and more people who are looking to take charge of their own health. I’m one of those people. My passion is treating people preventively and one-on-one.”

Katie Rees

A successful personal trainer and Pilates instructor, Katie worked closely with the human body

Katie Rees

Katie Rees

every day, but still wanted to know more. She chose MH Vicars School because of the strong anatomy portion of the curriculum. She hadn’t expected to change careers, though—until she got to class. “I wanted more in-depth knowledge to help me work with my clients and to be a better personal trainer,” she says. “I hadn’t planned on practicing massage, but I really fell in love with it.” Since graduating in 2006, Katie has worked as an RMT in a physiotherapy clinic and a doctor’s office. She now owns True2Form Therapeutic Massage & Wellness Clinic in Edmonton. As a student, Katie says she liked that MH Vicars School held its students to a high standard because it drove her to excel. Now that she’s an employer, she appreciates those standards even more because she can be confident that when she employs MH Vicars grads, she’s getting the best.

In 2011, Bree Skiba had been out of school for four years and was already head of a mini massage empire: her company Balance Massage had two Edmonton locations and had just opened a third in Kelowna. I interviewed her then about her experiences as a student, and her career so far.

Watch that video here:

It’s now six years later, and both Balance Massage and the school have grown and changed. After reconnecting at our recent Edmonton Networking Night, I took the opportunity to catch up with Bree.

“I’m still doing well!” she says. “We’re almost 10 years at our original location at Moksha Yoga West, so that’s super exciting. I have a lot of regular clients who have stuck with me through the years, even through when I had a baby and came back.

The two original Edmonton locations are still going strong, and a third clinic is opening this month within TNP Fitness Studio. Bree sold the Kelowna location a few years ago.

“I have 8 therapists now, and I’ll be looking to hire more in the next couple of months. I’ve had a couple therapists now who’ve been with me for quite a while, and I’ve had lots of Vicars grads come through my door,” she says. “I also have one Vicars student on staff right now.”

Her journey has not been without challenges, however. The industry has changed over the last decade, and she and her therapists have had to work hard to keep up.

“What I’ve noticed is the saturation of massage therapy companies in the Edmonton area,” Bree says. “There are a few very large big box companies coming out of the States that have made it harder for small business owners. Those big places, they underpay their therapists, and as a business owner who pays out a good percentage to my therapists, it’s really frustrating to see.”

To thrive with this increasing competition, Bree and her colleagues have had to get back to basics: providing consistent, high-quality treatments that her clients can count on.

“I think if you’re a good therapist, and you know what your clients want, they will always, always, always come back to you,” she says. “My bread and butter is my regular clientele. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy, because they stick around.”

And a decade in, Bree has no plans to slow down.

“I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. Being a massage therapist—I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m a single mum of a four-year-old, and I can still spend a ton of time with him and take clients in the evenings. It’s just so versatile.”

To learn more about Bree, read her bio on Balance Massage here.

To learn more about Balance Massage, visit their website.

From new graduate to award-nominated small business owner in less than six months: it’s fair to say that Brenda Roy had a very good 2016. Brenda graduated from the MH Vicars Calgary campus last June, and opened her home-based clinic, Angelic Healing Hot Stone Massage in Brooks, Alberta. She specializes in therapeutic massage, hot stone, and lymphatic techniques. In October, she placed in the top 5 in three separate categories at the Brooks and District Chamber of Commerce Awards: Business of the Year (under 20 people), New Business of the Year, and the Business Professional Award.

Keep reading to learn what sets Brenda apart.

Why do you love what you do?Brenda Roy

I love working with people and I feel that I have given myself gift by going back to school to get the training that I needed.

What sets you apart as a therapist?

I have been told that my approach to my practice is quite unique, in the fact that the client’s don’t feel rushed during the treatment.  I feel that the because I am able to work an intuitive nature that the massage does not feel like routine for the client and targets their needs.

What challenges have you overcome in your career?

The biggest obstacle that I had to overcome is the fact that I had been battling depression for a number of years, as well as the fact that I entered the program at the age of 54. I went back to school knowing full well that if it I didn’t take the ‘bull by the horns’ so to speak, and push my way through, that my future would lie in the hands of someone else, doing a job I did not like and could not feel productive at.  The course at MH Vicars was one of the highlights of my life and it forced me back to the person that I remembered when I was younger.

What advice do you have for someone considering a career in massage?

Find your heart in your business, and enjoy what you learn in school as well as in your business, as you will learn way more from your clients than will every learn in school.  Take the time to enjoy life as you are trying to find your footing in the massage therapy world and don’t be afraid to learn something new.

To learn more about Brenda and to book an appointment, check out her business Facebook page.

The Vicars Grads at Work blog series shines the spotlight on MH Vicars School alumni through short profiles and extended features. If you or someone you know would like to be featured on our blog, please contact Robin Collum.

Thanks to her passion and ambition, Kerri Wagensveld’s career as a massage therapist has progressed very quickly. When she graduated from Vicars in 2014, she already knew that she wanted to specialize in sport massage. She is now a Canadian Sport Massage Therapist Association certification candidate and practices alongside renowned Canadian sport massage therapist Kip Petch and several fellow Vicars grads at the Active Life Centre in St Albert. She also teaches at the Vicars Edmonton campus.

Why did you choose massage therapy as a career?Kerri Wagensveld

I initially chose this career because I loved receiving massage and providing massage. I knew the benefits were there, and wanted to pursue this. I love sports and knew I would thoroughly enjoy a career in this field. Being able to assist this way is truly an honour and a privilege.

What do you enjoy about being an RMT?

Being able to assist athletes and clients with maintenance or recovery in their sport or at work or home, and providing self-care “tools” that will help them maximize their efforts to meet and exceed their goals.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

I’m proud that people come back to see me and that they are continually reaching out for advice on what they’re dealing with.  I’m also so honored when people trust me to receive their first professional massage and leave feeling happy they came.

What self-care practices do you use to keep fit and healthy for your career?

I work out and run. Making sure I stay very mobile and strong enough to withstand the physical demands of massage therapy.  I also ensure that I go for massage at least once per month.

What sets you apart from other RMTs?

Intentionally staying engaged with my work and trying to give each client a treatment that is unique and suitable for them.  I love the work I’m in, and clients notice this. They want someone that doesn’t just give them the same routine massage that every other client receives.

What advice would you offer to someone considering a career in massage?

I’d tell them to talk to other practicing RMTs and to go visit a school to learn about the program and to view the curriculum. Write down your reasons for being interested as well as your expectations of the schooling experience and your career after graduation. Then compare it to what you learned from therapists and schools.

To learn more about Kerri and to book an appointment at the Active Life Centre, check out their website.

The Vicars Grads at Work blog series shines the spotlight on MH Vicars School alumni through short profiles and extended features. If you or someone you know would like to be featured on our blog, please contact Robin Collum.

Since she graduated from the Edmonton campus in 2013, Vicki East has been collecting additional credentials and skills. She is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, and regularly incorporates therapeutic hot and cold stone therapy and myofascial cupping into her therapeutic massage practice. Her clinic, Ebb and Flow Healing Therapy, is based out of her home in Camrose.Vicki East

Why did you choose massage therapy as a career?

I wanted to make a difference, and I have always enjoyed learning about the body and health. Massage allows me to take that passion and apply it every day, to help someone learn about their body and what they can do to feel at their best. I enjoy helping people on their healing journey.

What sets you apart as a therapist?

I am a CLT, certified lymphedema therapist, which is a great niche to be in if you like that kind of massage. I also have a positive attitude and want to figure out what is causing someone’s pain. So I will do an orthopedic assessment to figure out what is going on and try different modalities to help decrease the pain. I combine therapeutic hot stone, myofascial cupping, MLD and therapeutic massage to give a unique approach to address the problem areas.

What self-care practices do you use to keep fit and healthy for your career?

I eat healthy. I teach yoga. In the summer I bike and in the winter I take a spin class and cross country ski. I do self-massage and get regular massages from other RMTs.

It is also important to take time to regenerate your energy, so that you have lots to give to others. You have to find what makes you happy and take the time to do that! For me, that is exercising in nature.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Reaching the goals that I set out in my business plan ahead of time – that includes training goals and increasing my business. I am also proud that many of the clients that tried me out when I was a student are still my clients.

To learn more about Ebb and Flow  Healing Therapy and to book an appointment with Vicki, give her a call at 780-679-6725.

The Vicars Grads at Work blog series shines the spotlight on MH Vicars School alumni through short profiles and extended features. If you or someone you know would like to be featured on our blog, please contact Robin Collum.