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.

One of my favourite things about working here is getting to know our students so well. Even as the school has grown, we’ve been able to maintain a really warm, open relationship between students and staff and instructors. I think it comes from a combination of our small class sizes, open door policy (and in the Edmonton offices, a “no door” policy), and drive to always put students first.

Anyway, knowing our students so well means we really miss them when they graduate, and love to hear what they’re up to once they begin their careers. Which is why I was so pleased to come across these videos we made in 2011!

Then and now, we’re constantly bragging about our amazing grads, and we commissioned these for our website. They didn’t end up making the transition when we revamped the site last year, but we’re adding more alumni success stories at the moment so I dug them up again.

And they’re so fun! Check out Bree and Jordan telling their stories about attending Vicars:

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Some of the information is out of date — for instance, we now host public clinic instead of having students do practicum placements, but it’s great to see so many familiar faces! I also enjoyed those shots of the old Edmonton location. It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than two years since we moved from Roper Road to Calgary Trail.

Watching these has made me want to hear more alumni stories! Take to the comments and tell us about what you’re up to! And hey – do you want to be profiled on the blog? And remember: I’m always on the lookout for interesting massage tales. This blog can be an opportunity to share your experiences and learn from each other. Email me at robin@mhvicarsschool.com with suggestions!