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Check Out Melissa Johanning and Alicia Rice ’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Johanning and Alicia Rice .

Hi Melissa Johanning and Alicia Rice, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Thank you for having us! So we met almost 6 years ago while working at a Barefoot Massage studio just outside St. Louis City. Our time there was spent growing a passion for Barefoot Ashiatsu and Bodywork but we also quickly clicked as friends and colleagues. In 2019 we realized it was time to go out on our own, to build a business that created a supportive environment for not only our fellow Massage Therapists but also provided an opportunity to grow even more as bodyworkers. Connected Bodywork officially started in January 2020 (great timing, we know)!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t entirely been the smoothest road, but we can say that we have learned a lot in the past 2.5 years. Opening right before a global pandemic was unexpected and scary, but it forced us to slow down, to reevaluate ourselves as bodyworkers and new business owners. We both agree that our business would look much different if the pandemic hadn’t happened. We are also extremely grateful for the support our clients gave us during the months when we were shut down. While we still have room to grow, we are taking it at a slower pace, learning from 2020.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Connected Bodywork is a collaboration of Massage Therapists. There are 5 therapists, the majority specializing in Barefoot Ashiatsu. Thai Massage and Fascial Stretching are also offered, which are growing in popularity. Instead of employee/employer, the therapists here are either self-employed or independent contractors. This gives them control of their schedule, the clients they work with, what they charge, and more general freedom. We wanted to create a space that supported our colleagues through shared expenses while encouraging each other to expand our knowledge and passion for Bodywork. We truly inspire each other.

So what is Barefoot Ashiatsu? In traditional massage techniques, the therapist uses their hands, knuckles, or forearms to apply pressure. In Barefoot Ashiatsu, we use our feet. Working above the client provides a broader, deeper, and more consistent pressure. We hold onto two overhead, parallel bars to maintain balance while gravity does the work. So this modality is not only beneficial for the client, it keeps the therapist from quick burnout and extends their career. Each session is tailored to the individual client’s needs. We occasionally incorporate movement, helping our clients improve their flexibility and range of motion, while still providing a relaxing massage.

We love surprises, fun facts, and incredible stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
The studio we met at was also a training facility for Massage Therapists to learn this technique. 4 out of the 5 Massage Therapists here started their Barefoot Ashiatsu journey at that same studio years ago. We spent a lot of downtime helping out with classes and working with each other to become better and better. This ultimately means that we have a unique history with this work and our passion for it is felt in each session!

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Image Credits
All photos were taken by Emma Bright

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1 Comment

  1. Susan

    July 15, 2022 at 3:50 pm

    Great story about a great business

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