If you asked me a few months ago about the biggest obstacle my small massage business had ever faced, I would have told you the story of our roof leak that devastated us in February 2019. I would have told you the story of how my staff came together at another nearby small business to see clients to the best of our ability after a strategy meeting over pizza at another small business. I would have told you how we worked endlessly as a team to finally recover and how the debt that accumulated during our month closed was finally paid off! We were finally on top again! I would have told you I never wanted to ever be in that position of helplessness as a small business owner and employer of other massage therapists ever again. I would have told you I couldn't ever do what I did last year again. I worked 12 hour days , 7 days a week and in the process injured myself and became ill. Here I am though. Planning to make a comeback.
I have been quiet for weeks unsure of what to say or what to do, since Governor Roy Cooper mandated a state wide closure March 25th. Many of you know I teach continuing education for massage license renewal in addition to running Fire & Ice Therapeutic Massage and seeing clients. Ultimately, teaching was what allowed us to come back from the flooding. I also spent time the beginning of the year writing a book scheduled to a release in August. These activities were supposed to secure the future of Fire & Ice Therapeutic Massage, so we would never have to go through what we went through last year ever again.
A few weeks prior to closure, the state board of massage told all the massage therapists in the state they could do all of their classes online. Which would have been fabulous had any of the classes I teach been approved for anything except for live hours. I refunded thousands of dollars in classes back despite having a no refund policy and also being unaware that Square and Stripe were keeping their online fees on refunds as of January. I did what I felt like I had to do for the best of my staff, students and clients until I couldn't refund anymore. Honesty has always hallmark for me when it comes to business. I thought we would be fine since I had a bookcheck on the way and some savings under my belt. I was wrong.
Online I run a massage therapy community for small business owners. The first part of my quarantine was lots of free strategy calls and trying to remain motivational and supportive. I tried to check in with my staff of slack daily. I hold a certification to teach massage continuing education, so I tried to focus on building courses for income and making sure that everyone had the support they needed. The first week and a half I answered students calls in the middle of the night almost daily and had more conversations than I would like to recount about suicide. I referred young business owners to telemed, following up daily to make sure they hadn't carried out their fatal wishes. A few weeks in my hope and encouragement began to feel fake and sound. One day at a time.
My bookcheck didn't show up as expected. I got a bill for additional unemployment for my staff. Our payroll company can't explain it and weeks of trying to call unemployment has proven useless. Vendors took payments out of our account early and after being asked to stop. Package holders disputed whole packages, because they weren't getting their April appointments. The accounts sank into the negative.
We had been told once before we could reopen April 12th. When April 12th rolled around, I began to cancel appointments. Some were understanding of the government mandated closure. Others were not. Each message got harder and harder, so I sent cancellation emails in tears silently praying for this all to be over and hoping for forgiveness for not calling. I simply couldn't have the same conversation again.
I said I would never do what I did last year again. Yet here we are. Another situation out of my control has fallen upon us. The lines of credit and savings are now gone. I stupidly attempted to do the right thing over just telling people "no." We have applied endlessly for government grants and loans for small businesses. Of my employees, one has received unemployment. As a self employed business owner I wait to see if the PUA program will deposit their promises. I watch people waste their stimulus checks while I check the IRS website daily for signs of mine to feed my 8 year old, pay bills and those of the business. Most of you know me as never hesitating to donate a gift certificate or basket to your cause or give you an extra few minutes on a spot that hurts. I didn't do those things ever asking for you to return them and I feel ashamed to ask for your help now. My staff and my family need your help.
For a few weeks, I have tried to take this whole event a day at a time. I had considered closing my LLC and reopening under a new name. I have considered walking away. I have considered moving my office into my home and downsizing. I have considered all the options. None of those options felt right. Fire & Ice Therapeutic Massage is my baby. Its 5 years of sweat equity, sleepless night and working 80 hours a week. Its laughter and tears. Its been lesson after lesson... None of which I would ever wish away...
Even through this mess. I can't walk away from my staff or my clients. I can't allow myself to drown in the bottomless pit of grief or panic that I feel. I can't answer the work email or the work phone, because I don't have the answers you seek. I can't come to your home and massage you. Its a class 2 misdemeanor and I will lose my license. I can swallow my pride and ask for help. As much as it hurts what little pride I have left... Many of my colleagues have had success through this period with Gofundme. Gofundme is matching campaigns and while I have resisted for weeks, I need your help. Please help Fire & Ice Therapeutic Massage to make it through this nationwide event and come back to serve the people in our community that we love the most- all of you. This money will pay up our bills, allow us to purchase supplies to ensure your safety when we reopen and any excess will go to our staff and to help the community that be serve.