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Meet Cristin Coke of Stress Less Onsite Chair Massage

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cristin Coke.

Cristin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I never dreamed I would become a massage therapist. I graduated college with a major in Communications. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I “grew up” but I had a pretty firm idea that I wanted to be self-employed. I worked in the retail and restaurant industries for a while and then worked my way into a self-created, independent position in advertising sales for Beach Happy Magazine, Full Speed TV and later Lava Magazine.

Working in Action Sports was fun but not lucrative. It was also predominantly male. I started an annual networking event called “The Gathering of the Goddesses” for women in the Action Sports industry. We met at various ski resorts in the West to network, exchange ideas and snowboard. We had five fantastic Gatherings but it was not a profitable enterprise.

I was in my late 20’s and needed to settle on a career. I had taken interviews and worked at a few Action Sports companies and even worked at a software company for a while. I was unfulfilled and knew there had to be something better. I was lamenting to a friend one night about my dismal job prospects. She had just completed massage school and had begun working as a massage therapist. She suggested that I give it a try. I remember laughing. ME? A massage therapist? I had never considered it. I was, however, very interested in herbs and aromatherapy and had begun studying essential oils for wellness – so there was the opening. She implored me to just take ONE massage class. So, I did. I LOVED IT! I surprised myself and my entire family. I was beyond fascinated. I dove in. I completed 500+ hours and I began working on creating a clientele and growing a business.

Growing a massage business is not done quickly. My goal was to be 100% independent and earn 100% profit for every massage. It took me about five years to get to that place. I worked for spas and chiropractors and did chair massage to supplement. It wasn’t long before I realized that chair massage was an excellent marketing tool for my table practice. I soon started Stress Less. With no funding, Guerilla marketing was my game but it was tough. I was literally cold calling and knocking on doors to companies all over Orange County, trying to get in the door for chair massage. I even placed flyers on windshields and passed out business cards in corporate parking lots. I would fax flyers to companies who advertised want ads in the Orange County Register. I would fax my flyers one at a time to the numbers I had highlighted in the classifieds and actually gained a few great accounts that way! I eventually purchased (via sweat equity) a colleague’s very small chair massage company, adding their clients to my account base. Stress Less then grew organically, mostly through referrals!

Fast forward to 2017 and Stress Less is celebrating 20 years of shoulder scrunching! We have the most wonderful team of therapists and I have “hung up my hands” for the most part and am now the behind-the-scenes facilitator of the company. I love this business but what I love most, and always have loved, is bringing people back to their bodies. I always joked with my clients that we are not a floating set of eyeballs! There is a body attached that we need to be aware of and nurture. We need to put good food into that body and good images into that body and think good thoughts. Body, mind spirit! I love watching people make positive changes in their lifestyle, even simple changes like quitting soda and drinking more water.

Corporate chair massage allows us to touch people who would typically never receive a massage! People who commute up to two hours to get to work every day and arrive with their shoulders like stone and often suffering from headaches and pain! We get to help them! We get to give them a moment to themselves, to feel their body relax, to breathe, and think about themselves for 15 minutes or 30 minutes.

That’s a HUGE gift! We love it!

Another thing I love about Stress Less is creating jobs for my team. I am happy when my massage therapists secure a new table client because they were working for Stress Less and someone enjoyed their massage. It’s not all about the company’s financial success. It’s about helping people feel better and helping talented therapists make a living doing what they love. It’s just win, win, win all around.

Great, 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 been a smooth road, especially in the beginning. One of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was the perception of massage in the workplace. In the 90’s, it was not normal for people to be having massages at work. In most cases it wasn’t heard of and when you talked about it people were confused. “You want to do what…where?” There were no massage chairs at the mall and the airport like today. Massage was for the wealthy or privileged and was enjoyed at the spa or in the comfort of your home.

Massage in the workplace was a brand new idea! People would look at me like I was from Mars sometimes when I would approach them with the idea. Companies weren’t really offering employee wellness programs as readily as they are today. So it was tough to work through that perception. I had to learn how to talk to Human Resource professionals. I traded chair massage for membership to an HR industry newsletter.

Later, when it came time to grow, it was challenging sometimes to find loyal, dependable, talented and hardworking people for the Stress Less team. I went nationwide for a while and had accounts in New York and Chicago. I scaled it back to LA and Orange County to keep and develop quality relationships with my therapists and clients.

Please tell us about Stress Less On-site Chair Massage.
I can’t believe we are celebrating our 20th year in business! We now have two decades of experience providing chair massage in a variety of settings for a variety of companies.

Companies trust our service and expertise for special events, trade shows, golf tournaments, staff appreciation and on-site wellness and massage programs. Our team is well vetted, talented and loyal. I think what sets us apart from other companies is not only our history and experience but our customer service and how we care for the relationship with our corporate clients and each team member we touch.

What am I most proud of? I am most proud of our team. I seriously get misty when I think about how much I love my team. They are simply the loveliest bunch of people I know and I am blessed to work with each one of them.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Obviously my friend Debra, who convinced me to take a massage class, deserves some serious credit. If she hadn’t persuaded me to give massage a try who knows what I would be doing right now. There would be no Stress Less.

I also credit my mom, naturally my biggest cheerleader. She introduced me to essential oils and holistic health long, long ago. If she hadn’t created an environment for me to be aware of these things I may have never stepped onto this path, which I truly feel I am meant to travel. She also tirelessly promoted me and even landed me a few clients in the beginning when I struggled most. Many thanks go to my mom.

There are some teammates who have contributed greatly through the years. Kari, who was and still is always there to collaborate with me and lead with her crazy sense of humor and hyper organized mind. And June who is a living angel and one of the most loved massage therapists I know. June is a true gift to me and to all she touches — an amazing help to me always. I have to say each member of my massage team deserves accolades.

There is a long list of clients, each with a different contribution. I submit that every company who has entrusted us to care for their team members has contributed to Stress Less just by giving us a chance to serve them. We appreciate our client’s business tremendously.

And I have to give the most credit to God, who hears all prayers and answers them in His own way, sometimes in the least expected ways.

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