WCBC Review interviews Risa Fein of A Fine Touch massage boutique in Bellevue, Washington.

In this episode we discuss firing clients, outsourcing, and making an exit plan for your business.

Risa Fein can be found at her Fine Touch website, and on Yelp.

Full Interview Listening Options

A Fine Touch - Boundaries In Business

Risa: Hello,

Cardinal: and welcome to WCBC review, where we put the spotlight on small businesses today. We're interviewing Risa Fine of a Fine Touch Massage. And how are you today Risa?

Risa: I am good. I'm excited to be here.

Cardinal: Well, I'm glad that you're here too. This is kind of been a long time coming and I'm a massage therapist myself.

So it's really great to talk to another LMT.

And I want to learn more about a Fine Touch Massage and everything that's gone into this business that you've built for yourself. So when did you start it? What year?

Risa: Well, so let's see, I graduated from massage school in 2005. And when I got out of massage school, I was working in a salon cause I'm also a manicurist.

So I was doing that. I've been doing that for 24 years and I kind of branched out on my own. I was renting like my station at the salon. And then I was like, I had to get out of there because it was a really toxic environment. So I got out of there and I started renting a room in a space and it just kind of started from that point.

So I would say that was in like 2007. Maybe it was about a year and a half after I graduated from slash school. Nice.

Cardinal: And what was it that made you want to start the business? Was it just a salon?

Risa: It's shown everything. Like all the places I had worked previous to getting out on my own, it was just like every.

At every turn, I would face some kind of a personality obstacle. Right? I mean, the salon industry is a very toxic industry for the most part, my opinion. And I feel like, you know, it was just, I had to get out on my own, so I didn't have to be under somebody else's thumb, basically. That

Cardinal: is fair. I hear

Risa: that a lot.


Cardinal: And what was the toughest thing that you went through when opening up a Fine Touch Massage?

Risa: Well, the first place that I rented space out, it was only there for a short period of time and the person who I was renting the room from kind of sprung it on me really quickly. Like, I don't want you here anymore and you need to go.

So renting space from like a room from somebody has, was a challenge in and of itself, even though I was running my own business. I was still faced with a lot of challenges, even renting space from people

very interesting industry. And, you know, that's one of the things that I think I've learned throughout this whole process of owning my own businesses.

You know, obviously you know how to read people, right? You're a massage therapist, but that, that skill gets tuned and tuned more finely each year. So, anyway, I guess it's just a learning process. You have to just learn not just how to deal with those people, but how to. You know, control your own, you know, behavior in a situation.

So that's all, it's not just about them. It's about me too. Yeah. Again, the learning process.

Cardinal: Yeah. So with what you've learned, is there anything that you would have done differently if you had to start over from day one?

Risa: Boy, that's a, a big question. I don't want to have to start over and that's a scary thought, but I think the thing that I've learned and it's more about clients or, and also maybe in the interactions with people that you either rent from or rent to.

Cause I've done both. I learned that I shouldn't be afraid to like, put really significant boundaries around people and or to let them go when it's time to let them go.

Cardinal: Yeah. And I think in the massage industry, that's especially important because people like to push boundaries.

And even though there is kind of a power dynamic, cause you know, we're the ones doing the touching on the other person is, you know, like under the sheets, possibly disrobed and there's kind of a vulnerability there. There's still.

Risa: For sure

Cardinal: people who think that they can do whatever they want to do and treat however they want to treat us.

Risa: That is so true. Yep. I had a client that I served for seven years and I should have fired her a long

Cardinal: seven years Risa!.

Risa:  That's one of my learning experiences was when I realized that I didn't have to serve this person anymore, just because she paid me money didn't mean that I had to serve her.

And she treated me like garbage and I just took it and took it and took it. And anyway, finally, I couldn't, I just decided I can't take this anymore. And so I just moved on from it. So, and I fired her, but in a nice way, yes. I just told her, I'm sorry. I don't think we're a good match to work together anymore.

And I wish you well, basically.

Cardinal: And how did that feel afterwards?

Risa: So freeing. Yeah. Yeah. Like a weight had been lifted.

Cardinal: So we all know that 20 20 and 2021 has been a little bit different, especially for people in the face-to-face contact industry.

So, what was the toughest part about having a massage therapy business during the Corona virus?

Risa: Well, you know, of course that we were locked down for whatever two and a half. I didn't work for like two and a half months, and that was hard, but one of the things I kept doing was I kept reminding myself that I didn't have it bad off, right? I wasn't without a home, without food without, you know what I mean? Like I just kept reminding myself, there are people out there that are suffering way worse than I am, and I was able to get the PPP loan and it was forgiven. So that was a relief because I had reached out to my property management and asked them if they were going to do any kind of work with us for paying rent.

Cause at that time, I didn't know I was going to get the PPP loan and. They never responded to my email, so yeah, that was, I was like, wow. Okay. Well, I guess I have my answer then! .

Cardinal: That's great. What is it like trying to give a massage like, do you use face masks? How has that been done? Do you-

Risa: have in the beginning what I was doing, and I don't know, maybe your regulations were similar because Washington, Oregon similarities, but We were told we had to like wear, you know, full body covering like an apron or, you know, cape or not cape, , but an apron, basically, something like that.

And I was wearing smocks. I had. I wore them for months and months and months. And I finally was just like, I cannot do this anymore. It was just making me crazy. So I just stopped doing that. But everything else, I'm still doing wiping every surface down, wearing a mask, always, you know, I don't take my mask off unless my client is not in the room those kinds of things.

And then in the beginning I had to, you know, because it's my office and I had one tenant at the time and I had my one contractor at the time. Because we were supposed to be at 25% capacity. I was like, okay, everybody gets their day that we were all there alone. So we don't have clients overlapping.

And so I started off that way. And then by September, we were like, okay, let's start. You know? Cause I think we went to 50% or what, I can't remember the all the, so anyway, by that time we started incorporating everybody back in and then my tenant actually moved out. In March anyway, she moved out, which she's great.

She was so awesome. She was like, I miss I miss being with you, but I really wanted to start my own space. So she did. Right. So you gotta honor that. So and then now I still have my one contractor and I just added another gal a couple months ago, and now I'm adding a third person.

So I've, you know, with two rooms, with four people, we're all kind of part-time hours. So there's enough space and opportunity for people to be working all the time to be used. And they're still empty time. Right. So like Sundays and right. So anyway, yeah,

Cardinal: That sounds great. It sounds like it's actually working out really well for you.

Risa: You know? I mean, once the pain, once I got back to. I was it was immediately like calling clients and like within the first week I was booked a month out and then within the next month I was booked two months out and so on and so on and so on. And now right now, I think right now my first opening is like mid December.

So I'm just, and that's why I have so much need for these contractors that are working with me. So, yeah,

Cardinal: that's awesome. So it sounds like your business A Fine Touch is really taking off, but if a customer was to choose between you and three others, three other massage therapists. Why would you suggest that they give you a try first?

Risa: I would say, because what I do is healing. I'm not just doing like a fluffy relaxation massage and the girls that were the women that work for me are the same. We're all about the healing process and about, you know, And, you know, just going to any random place, like, you know, I won't say it out loud, but you know, the places the, I call them the McDonald's of the fast food of massage.

So anyway, those are obvious of those places, those places, but yeah, I mean, you just don't know what you're going to get when you go to a place like that, or even sometimes like a spa type of, you know, setting or whatever. And so. I think that that is what sets us apart and we are it's so one-on-one, it's so personal.

Like, I don't have a receptionist when you book an appointment, clients call I'm booking them to myself or to the other therapists. And it's very, you know, one-on-one or texting, whatever, but it's just, it's just you and me. It's not, there's no front desk person putting you on hold.

There's none of that. So

Cardinal: nice. That's great. And how do you get most of your customers these days?

Risa: Well, I mean, I have been in BNI as you know, for Nine years. And so I get a lot of clients from BNI and a lot of, you know, a lot of referrals come from that. But I also, because I've been doing nails for 24 years, I have clients that I've known for 22 years, you know, so some of my clients have been with me a long time.

Some clients have been with me. You know, I met like through, you know, other places like I used to work out years ago with this one guy and. This woman. And now she's my client. Her husband is my client and their kids would come in and see me occasionally. I did not see them for a year and a half and I miss them terribly, but I basically known them for 12 years.

Right. So, That's kind of how a lot of word of mouth. Like one of my regulars just got married recently. And so she sent her new husband in to see me. And several years ago she referred me to her dad who is also my regular client now and that kind of thing.

Cardinal: Nice. And for those of our listeners who don't know, BNI is

Risa: network international.

Yeah. It's

Cardinal: really fun. Wednesday morning is the highlight of my week getting together with my chapter and listening to everyone's presentation and then having. My 45 seconds in this, in the sunlight

Risa: and yeah, that's, it's nice. I mean, I miss meeting in person after night. I know you haven't been in it that long and you've only experienced zoom for BNI, but so when we transitioned from being in person to meeting on zoom, I was secretary treasurer at that time.

We my leadership team, you know, the president and the VP, who's now no longer in our chapter, but we inherited that. And so we had to like, you know, transition that and you're that out. And so being in BNI, as long as I've been in BNI, I'm S we were so used to meeting in person. So I do miss that. I mean, I'm happy that I get to see everybody every.

But I still really miss being in person. I'm really excited for us to be able to get back to that as soon as we can. So, yeah.


Cardinal: migrating all that online is no small tasks kudos

Risa: to you. That was mostly our precedent, but still it was, it was somewhat of a group effort. I would say.

Cardinal: So speaking of migrating online, has the internet played much of a role in the growth of your business as it's evolved

Risa: over the years?

Just a little bit. I don't do social media. I absolutely despise Facebook. I have a Facebook page, but for my business, but I never look at it. I don't go to it. I, in fact, I was thinking the other day I should shut it down. I don't do Instagram or any of those other. What I do is have a website.

I do have a website and have for a long time. And I also have a, have a Yelp page as well. And I've gotten some clients from Yelp over the years, you know, they, they sort of trickle in, but I definitely in one of my clients that I got from Yelp was a number of years ago. And he stopped seeing me, not because he doesn't want to, but his wife is now my regular client.

So it just kind of, it just kind of like people flow in and out, you know, how. Yeah,

Cardinal: so, if you had to look a year into the future, where would you want A Fine Touch to be?

Risa: So that's actually an interesting question because so I may be having to move, but I'm not a hundred percent sure what's going to be happening.

So my next door neighbor at my business talked to our property manager. And property management told her that They were gonna let her do a two year lease with an option to do a third year. Well, my plan is to my husband's gonna retire in about six and a half years. And so when he retires, we're going to move away from this area to someplace where it's a little less crowded and a little less populated and have a little more space.

And when that happens, I will be closing my business at that point or selling my book of business to somebody else or something. But that's all for six more years, I have one more year left on my current lease and I'm going to talk to them and I'm going to tell them that I planned, I want it to be there for five more years, but you know, we'll just have to wait and see what they say, but if not, then I probably will be looking for a new.

To lease for five more years at the end of this year. So long answer to your one question. So

Cardinal: would you be moving out of

Risa: Bellevue? I know I would stay in Bellevue. I've been in Bellevue my entire career. I would not leave Bellevue. Maybe I would like go like I'm on I'm near bell red road. So I would go up a little bit of bell red road, just I, but if that's still Bellevue, I think it's still Bellevue.

It could technically be Redmond. I don't know exactly where the property lines are, but or the it's not property, but city lines, I don't know where all that is. Yes. I mean, I would still be within you know, two to three, probably probably two mile radius of where I'm at now. I don't, I don't want to stray too far because every time you move, oftentimes you lose clients.

Although I doubt that will happen with me, but you never know. I doubt it though. That

Cardinal: makes sense. You had me panicking a little bit when you're like, I'm going to move to a more secluded area and I'm thinking like the Olympic peninsula,

Risa: like up in the, well, this is going to happen. That is going to happen, but not for five years.


Cardinal: So we are nearing the end of the interview and something that I like to ask everybody is if you had a new, fresh business owner in front of you, in this point, it would be a massage therapist who wants to open their own private practice.

What's the number one piece of advice that you would give them?

Risa: Wow. Gosh, that's a good question.

Cardinal: Lord knows massage therapists need some business advice because

Risa: massage that's one thing that people tell me a lot is that I'm really good at the business side of massage massage therapy. And I'm good at both.

Obviously. I mean, my clients are, I'm so busy, but, but I'm really organized and you know, just making sure you have all your ducks in a row and That kind of thing. I mean, I had somebody tell me that I should teach my actually my end goal. Once I do move out of here and sell my business is to become a massage therapy teacher at some school nearby, wherever we're going to be living.

But somebody wants told me that I should teach the business side. As well as the other, because so many therapists are so lacking in that department. So I guess that would be the thing I would say is, you know, making sure that, and the other thing I realized is some massage therapists and not all, but some of them are kind of flaky and that that's a misnomer.

I think a lot of it has to do with like Phoebe, from friends and that whole like stupid, you know, information that people get from TV shows and movies and whatever. There are some out there that are just so focused on the bodywork and like the natural and all those pieces, but they're not focusing on the business.

So I would say that would be the thing is to make sure you know how to get the business stuff.

Cardinal: Yeah. Yeah. There's a book called the E-Myth that talks about that a lot. I'm not sure if you've read it. It's short for entrepreneurs, so it's not like, you know, email, like it's a, and they, he talks about how every entrepreneur has three sides of themselves.

They have the technician, which is the person who does the job, you know, gives the service or makes the good or whatever it is. They're the. And then there's the manager, which is the person who plans the systems and make sure that like all the admin stuff is getting taken care of. And then there's the entrepreneur who is like the visionary, you know, the big picture, like, what is, why are we even in business?

What are we really doing? Where do we want to go? 10 years in the future? Like the big planner and how most business owners. Get into business and they're technicians and they're just doing their service, just making their goods and they're not, and that's a great way to get stuck and dumbed up actually.

You know, we get into business to have freedom and not really be under anybody else's control, but then our business ends up being our boss and is controlling on us and how we spend every minute of our time. So it's kind of like bringing in those other parts and remembering, oh, you know, I don't have to do every single part in my business.

I can outsource.

Risa: And I do outsource some things, for sure, like my bookkeeping and I didn't for a long time. And it would stress me out so badly. So I was like, when finally, when I just was like, I can't do this anymore. And it, that again, that whole weight lifted off your shoulders. It was just a huge relief for me.

But this the thing that you said about systems in place and those kinds of things, that is me to a T Like I am the manager, but I'm also the technician. And I guess I'm the entrepreneur as well. So I'm kind of all three of those things, but I have delegated responsibilities to other people again, why I need so many contractors because I'm so busy.

I don't have the capacity to take care of every person. And of course, there's this piece of me sometimes. Well, maybe I should put, add some hours so I can take more people. And I'm like, Nope, I've been doing this for a long time. And when you've been doing this, as long as I have, it takes a toll on your body and you have to give yourself some room to, you know, let somebody else take care of clients.


Cardinal: yeah, anybody who's not a massage therapist, listening to them. Okay, thank you therapist, because it is a very physical job and they're working hard all

Risa: day long. Yes. Very.

Cardinal: Yes. So Risa , thank you so much for hopping on WCBC review with me. Where can people find An Fine touch massage?

Risa: A fine touch.net is my website.

So you can find me there. That's the best place,

Cardinal: short and sweet. I love it. Yeah. Nah, I will put that in the show notes so people can go check Risa out if you're in Bellevue, go and get a massage. Great. Thank you so much.


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