We had the opportunity to connect with massage therapist and entrepreneur, Jo Bruno, a 2017 NHI graduate, who runs the Massage Garage business, to find out what initially sparked her interest in massage therapy, what it’s like running a massage business, and what she’s looking for when hiring student externs. Find out how Bruno landed this exciting opportunity, what keeps her motivated, and her insider tips for those seeking a similar career path.
Q1: How did you become interested in a career path in massage therapy?
Bruno: Massage therapy found me. I wasn’t seeking it at the time. However, with that said, healing by touch has always been natural for me. The academics and more medically based education didn’t initially interest me but that quickly changed once I began taking classes at NHI. Learning the muscles, bone structure and different modalities of massage strengthened my knowledge. Combining my massage therapy education and new found respect of the massage profession with my history of healing others, I have learned new skills and strengthened old skills that will help me continue helping others heal through their pain and stress.
Q2: You mention that massage therapy found you, what about the opportunity to take over the Massage Garage? Did someone reach out to you or did you come across the opportunity on a job posting?
Bruno: Right place, right time. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Universal connection, God’s will, or luck. We can spend hours discussing the way life takes its turns and unexpectedly hands us an opportunity that turned out to be exactly what everyone involved needed. When the time came for me to find an externship during my junior segment of NHI’s Massage Therapy Training Program, I did a lot of research on chair massage business. I couldn’t find anything that interested me so I started expressing my concern to my friends and family. One of my close friends had the “perfect idea.” He introduced me to Keri Denney, of Massage Garage. She had been working in the Kaiser education department lobby for years, providing chair massage to Kaiser employees and anyone else interested. I started my externship with her and it turned into a great business and personal relationship. Over time, we became friends. I started working for her once my externship hours were finished and I’ve kept in close contact over the year we worked together. Her life took a drastic change recently and she and her family decided to move to Ireland. Keri didn’t want to see her 20+ year old business go down in the process of her move. She wanted to see her business continue going strong for the health and wellness of Kaiser employees as well as other business she provides throughout the Diablo Valley. The work she has created was something so powerful that even a move out of the country couldn’t stop it from growing. So, now here I am taking over the business. I will continue to do what she’s done and I will expand the business to a Pit Crew Externship Program, where I will provide NHI students with opportunities to learn chair massage at multiple styles of events.
Q3: Getting involved with the Pit Crew Externship Program sounds like a wonderful opportunity for students! What specifically are you looking for when you’re hiring externs for the Pit Crew?
Bruno: Authenticity. The most important thing to becoming a great massage therapist, I have learned, is authenticity. Always be yourself and trust who you are as a massage therapist. Question something when it doesn’t make sense or if something is difficult. When hiring externs, I’m looking for expression, authenticity, honesty, and someone who can exemplify self-care.
Q4: I’m sure many NHI students are interested in following a similar career path. What advice would you have for students who are interested in running their own massage therapy business?
Bruno: Know who you are as an individual, know your boundaries and learn patience. Be willing to learn, be challenged, and get frustrated. Cry if you must. But, do it! Do the research to find out what you need. Be organized. Trust your instincts and do what feels right. Trust your heart, but don’t ignore your mind. Running any kind of business is a risk. As a social media strategist who works as an independent contractor, I have learned that creating my own hours and working when it was convenient for me was so much more beneficial than keeping a 9-5 job. It’s important to have a sense of independence when you’re running a business. You don’t have a supervisor to talk to when something doesn’t go right. There is no boss you can turn to if you’re out of printer paper or if a massage chair breaks. The responsibility is yours. Remember that. Know what you’re getting into. Find an accountant and someone you trust for tax season. And most of all, have fun! Enjoy the work you do. Love the work you do.
Q5: As you mentioned, running your own business can be challenging. What keeps you motivated?
Bruno: The most exciting thing about running The Massage Garage Pit Crew is the fact that I have the ability, opportunity, and gift to help others heal. There’s an awakening, and many people are seeking a more in-depth understanding of themselves and others. Many people are hurting, stressed out, and even scared. I am given the opportunity to provide a healing touch to those who are seeking wellness in their lives. It’s amazing what 10 minutes of healing touch can do for someone. It’s amazing what it does for me.
If you dream of running your own massage therapy business like NHI Alums, Jo Bruno, James Girard, or Tobi Lessem, we want to help you achieve your goal. Fill out the form on the following page and a member of our admissions team will help you take the next step in having a career you love.