In 2008, Amelia Wilcox and her husband experienced a dramatic reversal of fortune. With the recession underway, sales plummeted at their home-based online outdoor equipment business and their debts mounted. Wilcox’s ongoing work as a massage therapist and her husband’s full-time job as a firefighter, along with his moonlighting gigs, including working in security, were not enough to make ends meet.
As they hit a financial abyss, Wilcox remembered that a massage-school classmate provided chair massages at a relative’s company. She called her schoolmate to find out everything she could about how the sideline business worked.
“I took my friend’s idea and tried to make it better,” said Wilcox, 34, the founder and CEO of a seven-year-old, fast-growing corporate chair massage business called Incorporate Massage in South Jordan, Utah.
At the outset, Wilcox struggled. With no access to financial resources, she provided free massages to secure the services that her start-up required — for website development, graphic design and legal work.
“I also needed to sell my husband on my vision,” she said, noting that their financial woes had made him anxious about spending money. Overall, she invested less than $1,000 to launch the business, with web-hosting and business services among her outlays.
Initially, Incorporate Massage grew slowly. Wilcox turned to friends to facilitate her meetings with their employers, and she exhibited at conventions of human resource professionals and wellness trade shows.
In 2014, Wilcox made a strategic marketing decision. She stopped pounding the pavement and reallocated her marketing dollars to strengthening Incorporate Massage’s digital presence through an improved website, blogs, social media and online advertising.
“I don’t need to meet anyone face-to-face,” said Wilcox, who works from home to be near her five-year-old daughter but holds large company meetings in a space that represents Incorporate Massage’s headquarters address.
Today, the company provides chair massages throughout the United States and Canada to about 1,200 corporations annually, half of them recurring clients. Although the firm’s diverse customer roster encompasses manufacturers and financial institutions, tech companies represent about 50% of its business; the market for skilled tech employees is so competitive that chair massages are among the benefits employers offer to attract and retain talent, said Wilcox.
Her customer roster encompasses HubSpot, an online business development firm, and USANA Health Sciences, a producer of nutritional supplement and health care products. Incorporate Massage, said Wilcox, is equipped to handle companies with multiple sites in multiple states and with more than 500 employees at each location.
The firm’s massage prices for special corporate events, such as employee appreciation days, health fairs or retreats, range from $95 an hour for a two-to-five hour program to $70 an hour for 51-plus hours; weekly, monthly or quarterly massages start at $80 an hour for two to five hours but can drop to $65 an hour for 51 or more hours.
Based on the American Massage Therapy Association’s 2016 consumer and massage therapist surveys, corporate massages represent an untapped market. A mere 1% of consumers received a massage in the workplace last year while 18% of massage therapists provided their services in a client’s workplace. Meanwhile, the largest percentage of consumers – 22% – got a massage at a spa in 2016, while 45% of massage therapists performed their work in a client’s home.
At Incorporate Massage, revenues are on track to exceed $2 million this year – a 133 percent jump over its 2016 results, thanks to its digital efforts as well as its network of more than 400 massage therapists; an administrative team of 20 people who work remotely from their homes; and its proprietary technology that performs a raft of functions, including scheduling massages, dispatching appointment reminders to clients and enabling therapists to receive and respond to text messages about upcoming jobs.
To keep up with demand for its services, Incorporate Massage is currently adding 30 to 40 massage therapists each month. Each therapist undergoes a two-week hiring process that involves about three virtual interviews, a skills assessment and a background check.
For Wilcox, Incorporate Massage represents the culmination of her business philosophy: “If you’re going to do something, be the best at that thing.”