Watch the Ocean Tides Massage Interview
WCBC Review interviews Aaron Hutchinson, the owner and massage therapist at Ocean Tides Massage.
In this episode we discuss building a business from the ground up, enjoying the work you do, and balancing working on your business with working in your business.
Aaron can be found at Ocean Tides Massage in Bellevue, Washington.
Cardinal: Hello, and welcome to another episode of WCBC review, where we put the spotlight on small businesses. Today I'm interviewing Aaron Hutchison of ocean tides, massage. How are you today, Aaron?
Aaron: I'm good. How are you?
Cardinal: I am so fantastic. It's been a busy day, but I like it that way. So you are a massage company based in Bellevue, Washington.
Aaron: Yes, I am Bellevue Seattle all over.
And when did you get started?
I moved here in Seattle in 2010. Took about a year for massage therapy school, probably about 2011, 2012.
Cardinal: Okay. And what got you into this business?
Aaron: When I moved, I moved from Vegas and I just, I was just trying to get away from the hustle and bustle.
And from when I was younger, I was always told like, , that was, I had strong hands. I played sports a lot, and that was good with touch and massage. So it was always kind of a passion of mine. And then when I moved here in 2010 on my intent was massage therapy school, just to kind of slow down life, getting more and more in touch and just kind of get more in tune with life and an outdoors and in the Zen of life, I guess.
Cardinal: I love how zenned out massage therapists are most of the time, because it's just as relaxing for them. Right. Doing the whole thing. You have to be in your own grounded space in order to give a good massage.
Aaron: Yup. It's definitely true. I, I I'd benefit from giving massage just as much as I, , like, like getting one.
Cardinal: So when you first started back in 2012, what was the toughest thing you encountered when opening your business?
Aaron: Starting a business from ground up. Like all the little things that you, you didn't know that you would, you would need or need to do.
I, I always thought about maybe starting up like a another business to help small businesses start up just like taxes and stuff and, and just permits and all of this stuff that you didn't didn't know that you would need. , I'm sure there is, but it'd be nice if there's regulation checklists that you could go through and check things off, ?
Cause you don't know until you start doing it.
Cardinal: Right. There's definitely a lot of hoops to jump through and I wish I had that checklist as well. Cause I mean, we just started up two years ago and it's, it was a learning process for sure. So a checklist or mentor would be nice for that.
Aaron: The next checklist that I'm on is his employees. And there's a lot of things that, , if you've never had employees before, , there's a lot of things you need to go through, like as far as providing health insurance, or do you 10 99 them, or do you direct hire them or
Cardinal: how many employees do you have?
Aaron: Right now I have two working with me. But I'm looking to hire more. I feel there's during this trying time, there's been a lot of massage therapists that either, either a got out of business, shifted their focus away. Or a lot of people just like the massage therapist age generation seems like it's gotten a little old.
So I think there's a lot of people just kind of retiring as well. So I think there's a, there's a big need for massage therapists right now. Probably now with the schools closing for awhile there's probably, that could be a whole lot of new, a massage therapists I'm coming out. Yeah. Okay. I'm sure a lot of the classes will be online.
So, , probably, , starting, , six months from now they'll be an influx, but right now it just feels like it was a big demand for them.
Cardinal: It's hard to do massage school online. Like how more hands-on a profession. Can you get,
Aaron: I don't think there's anything more. Hands-on the massage therapy.
Cardinal: Yeah. So if you had to start over from day one, is there anything that you would have done differently?
Aaron: There is, I, I would have focused more on. Social media and in web website stuff and in advertising I relied mostly on word of mouth, which is the best advertisement for massage therapist.
But in today's time, I mean, you need a, you need a web presence and you need people to know where you are and how to find you. And that's been one of the biggest things that I didn't realize starting off which I'm just now realizing with search engine marketing and Google, and , there's even, there's, there's a lot of places to choose from.
So when people are choosing, you need to, you need to give them the Avenue to find you.
Cardinal: Exactly. And I feel like massage therapists are especially marketing adverse. For the viewers who don't know, I'm actually a licensed massage therapist and myself and going through school, we had a, a credit of business advice for massage therapists.
We had a whole class like that and pretty much all of it was like charge what you're worth, charge, what you're worth, charge, what you're worth. And that it's okay to Mark it and it's okay to. Reach out to people and that running a business is a lot more than just doing massage.
Aaron: Yeah. Charging. What you're worth , is a key point too.
I've had some clients that I've been seeing for eight years. And it's hard to raise your prices with them. Cause , they're like, they'd become a friend, but at the same time, they're also understanding. And , so that's been one tricky, tricky point that I've found as well, ? Well, it's time to raise the rates, ?
And then I tend to be like, is that okay? They're just like, Hey, , this, this inflation, all that stuff so
Cardinal: well, and we want everyone to be able to afford massage. It's such a. So many people discount it as a luxury when really, I think it's a necessity for so many of us. And so it's hard to walk that line between, well, , I need to make a living and I need to put food on the table and a roof over my head, versus like, I know that not everyone can afford, , a hundred bucks every month or every two weeks.
So, is there any way that you remedy that in your business?
There is I try to giveAaron: as many for referral discounts and stuff. So if they people want to, get a little bit off their massage, , referrals, I give $20 referral bonuses, so. They can, they can kind of control, , Hey, because everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that needs a massage.
This was getting, , and the best word of mouth, like, Hey, I got a massage from Aaron. You should go check him out. ? So then I give the referral bonus to the person, the new person, and then to the person referring them as well. So that's, that's been the best form of advertisement that I've found.
Cardinal: That's great. That's super smart. So in that referral kind of leads to my next question. If a customer was choosing between you and three other businesses, just like you why would you suggest that they give you a try first?
Aaron: Well, it all depends on the client and it all depends on the people that, that the choosing from as well.
I have no problem referring people to, to other therapists. I actually think there's a benefit to sometimes seeing, seeing a different therapists. Everybody has their different techniques and different styles. So I guess for me, it's just the no pressure, ?
Hey, you, it. If I, if I'm a great fit, , I'll let . But if I'm not, then, , also be like, well, this person can be really good. Or, , both of our styles in, , in contrast can both benefit you. So I don't really look at it as much as competition or, or, , trying to get this client over somebody else.
As a massage therapist, I just, I want people to be taken care of. And there's certain avenues where I feel I, I Excel and there's certain avenues where, , other people Excel. So.
Cardinal: I love that. That's such a great answer. I feel like massage can be a lot like musical preference. , some people like rock. Some people like pop. Some people like jazz
Aaron: and some people like all, all of them combined. And I think like, like with my clients, even like with some of the other therapists I work with, I, I I've been saying, Hey, , it's good to try different techniques once in a while too, , I'm not saying don't come back to me, but , find, find what works best for you.
But in my experience, what works best for people is a little bit of variety, I guess.
Cardinal: Yeah, and just listening to their body and listening to the feedback that it gives you with that technique. So I know you mentioned that one thing you would have done differently starting over would be to get on the internet game faster.
So how has the internet played a big role in your business as it's become more prevalent?
Aaron: I'm just starting to get work on my web pro Web presence a little bit more. I just got my website up and running ocean tides massage .com. And I actually, I had one designer a few months ago, but it was a little Is a little more detailed than, than what I went and talked to a kind of a web guru.
And he said, what? You just need something basic that, that gives people the options, book, your hours your location. So he kind of streamlined a little bit. So it's more of a landing page now.
I had to start doing some advertising for that. I'm gonna start doing some posts and stuff like that to kind of get the word out there and hopefully drives more traffic to me.
Cardinal: Great. So any of our listeners, you want to go check Aaron out, he's at ocean tides, massage .com. And that will also be in our show notes so that you can easily find him there.
Also have his Facebook there as well. Cause the Facebook really is great. I mean, Massage just kind of lends itself to be very relaxing in a photogenic sort of way, just taking pictures of the rooms and all of that. And it looks like he's got a couple of little funny things, some funny tiktoks on his Facebook here as well.
So definitely go check them out over there. Okay. COVID non withstanding. So pretend we're we living in a post COVID world already because COVID is mess with so many plans already. If you had to look a year into the future, where do you want to be? Where do you want your business to be?
Aaron: So I've been doing the mobile. I have a eight and a half by 14 trailer. I convert it into a mobile massage studio. And the reason why I did that because I was doing mobile and people's houses, but I was worried about kids pets. It has to rearrange areas sometimes getting oil on the floor.
So I created the, the trailer and it's been great. But just recently opened up my own studio. And it's got three, theamed bedrooms, fire earth and ocean. And in the back I have a personal training gym with the infrared sauna, which I've been sitting in really. I just got that up and running. But where I've envisioned myself in a year is, is kind of maybe opening up other locations.
I want to thrive as a business owner, but I never want to get away from doing massage. I think I'll do massage even when I'm 75, 80 years old. Just because we talked about Zen for me as well, it'd be nice to have a few other locations and it's been a lot of work creating these themed rooms and creating a a theme, I guess.
But it's also been a lot of fun and, and rewarding to see your finished product as well.
Cardinal: That's awesome. So what'd you want your locations to all be in Washington or are you looking to head East or where do you want to be?
Aaron: I'd like, I'm kind of centrally located. So Washington, maybe, maybe Oregon.
Because I want to be able to, be able to pop into each one of them and, , and work with clients. But like maybe like Bellevue, I really like, it's a quiet, but that's fairly close. So maybe like up North a little bit more maybe mill Creek or down South near Auburn or something like that.
Just make it more accessible for people to, to get to you. Cause Bellevue from, from Auburn, , it's about an hour drive giving, give or take with traffic. So
Cardinal: yeah, people aren't going to want to drive that far for a massage. That's when mobile massage cars can come in really handy. If you've got a couple people down in Auburn, you can schedule them all on in the same day and.
Aaron: See now that's, what's great about mobile massage, ? So when I, when I do trips like that, like, well, give some friends and make it more like a massage party. That way it's beneficial for you, your friends. And then, , cause you can't just drive down from one, one massage, , cause I still want to give the best deal as I can, , so, but when you're in an hour or two in traffic, you got to account for that.
Cardinal: Yep. Those are always my favorite mobile gigs to do. I've done a couple of mobile ones and the parties are my favorite because everyone's already there having such a good time. And then it just kind of feeds into the rest of the party atmosphere and just. I don't know, it's really fun.
Aaron: I did a few of them and one of them I did, I went to a, it was in Bellevue with the trailer and I think I did like a half hour.
I did, I think I worked with eight or nine people that day. And it was fun. , it was a great vibe and it was a really cool addition to, to somebody is get together with COVID. Now it's a little bit different, but , if, if the party's like five or six people, , they're close knit The benefit is they don't have to go anywhere.
They don't have to be out in public and the party comes to them.
Cardinal: True. True. Yeah. I really like what you're saying also about wanting to expand your business, but still doing massage because , massage therapists don't work 40 hours a week as massage therapists that would just destroy our bodies. I mean, I think the only ones who do that are the cruise ship therapists, and I have so much respect for them.
They must be so buff. But I think that that's a really good balance between like doing massage and still being able to work in your business and walking that line between the technician and the entrepreneur.
Aaron: That always sounded fun though, during the cruise ship, but I heard that so massage therapist, they're also servers, bartenders, , they gotta, they gotta get their money's worth and the employees.
So, but I always thought that'd be a fun little gig.
What I was gonna say is I feel longevity for massage therapist is it's tough for a lot of therapists, but for me, I played a lot of sports.
So you learn a couple of different things. When, when you're doing that is you learn how to use a work through, through injuries be take care of yourself and your body. And I think that's really benefited me as far as longevity and work, work habits and stuff like that. Hm.
Cardinal: Yeah. That's a good point.
I bet you have a good awareness of your body and the. Ergonomics and body stance. It takes to move efficiently.
Aaron: Yeah. And what's, for me, what's nice is I have my table all the way up. So my massage, all upper body, the low back, I never really had any low back problems, which a lot of massage therapists deal with because they need to have their tables lower so they can use their body weight to get that correct pressure in there.
But with me I have little broader shoulders, so I can just get in there and. And not yet to have to put the wear and tear on the, on the low back. Wow.
Cardinal: That's so interesting. I don't know anybody who has their massage table all the way up. Well, I guess now I know one person, there you go.
Okay. So we're closing in, on the end of our interview here. I just have a, I have two more questions for you. The first one, and again, I'm going to be talking about a post COVID world, cause I know that we all have special circumstances right now where things aren't necessarily normal. But what's the number one way that you bring in new customers.
Aaron: Well, the new number one way is going to be a search engine, marketing website and stuff like that. So I've been waiting to get my website up and running so I could put that on the, my gift card. So I have a bunch of gift cards. I'm gonna start giving out to local businesses around me and anybody that just is interested.
So if you visit the website, you can email me. I'll feel free to say I'll send out some gift cards to people, but I want to go out and just kind of meet and greet people and just start. Word of mouth, , it all comes back to that as a massage therapist, there's nothing better than referrals and word of mouth.
And it's been, , somebody that's gotten work from somebody because there's a lot of trust involved with massage therapy as well. So when you already have that trust built up with somebody and they pass that on that that's a golden ticket right there.
Cardinal: I love that gift card idea.
Aaron: What's funny is I, so I got a bunch of cards to put the gift cards in, but their Christmas cards, because I was planning on handing them out for Chris holiday cards. So they're still getting them. So, but hopefully they see a little, little, get a little smile out of it.
Like. , so,
Cardinal: okay. So one thing that I like to close all my interviews with is if you had a new massage business owner in front of you, if they're fresh out of school and they're like, what? I actually wanna start my own practice. What advice would you,
Aaron: What advice would I give them? You just.
There's going to be good days and bad days are tough days and easy days. And you, you just it's, it's all about finding the correct balance. You just got to not let the, the tough days, bring it down and you just gotta, you gotta ride the wave when you got the wave web presence and just surrounding yourself with a good group of people in this case, other good massage therapists, cause see you feed off each other.
You teach each other. And we don't know everything. So it's good to have other massage therapists around that you can ask questions about. And that, that, that's another thing too, is like the power of Google. You can, if you don't know anything, you get online and you can find it out, figure it out. So.
Cardinal: I like that tip about hanging out with other massage therapists too, because it can actually be kind of a isolating profession, , when you're in the room doing massage usually, or just, it's just you.
Aaron: That's another thing too, is another point that I think makes me really well is I take negative energies and I feel like I kind of recycle them.
Into into positive energies. So massage has been great for me too, is because it's just a way of regenerating energies into positive energy is, and you give that those energies back to the client, but in it with you as well, it tends to like positivity bees, bees positivity. So you just keep bringing that positivity.
Cardinal: I love that. That's beautiful. Okay, well, thank you so much, Aaron. And one more time. Where can people find you at
Aaron: ocean tides massage .com. We're also on Facebook, under ocean tides. We're located at 2001 24th Avenue, Northeast, suite B 108, Bellevue Washington, nine eight zero zero five.
Cardinal: Fantastic. Okay.
I'm going to, it has been awesome interviewing you. Thank you so much for hopping on and taking the time for this. And I hope that this COVID craziness will be done and you will achieve all your business dreams in a year from now. Maybe we'll check back in, in a year and see where you're at. Let's do it for sure.
Aaron: Thank you. Okay. Bye. Bye. Have a good day.
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