"In that time when things were closed down, people really started to feel what was going on in their bodies...they were just craving that touch and massage. They were like 'I think I need some calming down; I need some work on my body...' Their body was telling them you should go do this...People really were naturally craving that, some care."
Erin Poovey is the owner of Camino Massage Therapy in Colorado Springs. With a unique variety of techniques at their disposal, she and her team of massage therapists provide personalized, therapeutic care to subdue or eliminate longstanding pain.
In this episode, Erin discusses how being deemed a “non-essential” business during the COVID-19 quarantine meant some major shifts in how they met clients’ needs, including a new focus on education and at-home self care.
Listen to our conversation for Erin’s perspective on the power of physical touch amidst an isolating pandemic. For more COS in COVID stories, visit our full library of interviews.
Joe: Hi there. I’m Joe, president and founder of Keyhole Marketing.
Shannon: And I’m Shannon Jirik. I work for Keyhole as the assistant brand manager.
Joe: And this is Metaphorically Speaking, a podcast that explores the mysterious side of marketing.
Shannon: Well, hello, and welcome to Metaphorically Speaking. We are continuing our COS in COVID mini-series by talking with Erin Poovey from Camino Massage Therapy in Colorado Springs for this episode. So this was a really fun one. If you’re not familiar with Camino Massage or massage therapy in general, what they offer is just a variety of therapeutic massage techniques. So that can be couples therapy or couples massage, corporate massage, but they’ve also got some really interesting techniques. And I think Joe and I’s favorite was the Ashiatsu massage, which if you don’t know about it…
Joe: It’s kind of like-
Shannon: …look them up on social.
Joe: Yeah, it’s kind of like gymnastics with massage. I mean, there’s basically-
Shannon: Yeah, It’s got a very acrobatic feel to it.
Joe: Yeah. I would say check out the photos on their social. There’s bars involved from the ceiling, and basically there’s… The therapist walks on your back and uses those bars for support, but is able to get deeper leverage and to push deeper into the muscles. I thought about it this last weekend actually because I had a massage. The first one in a long time and she did not do that technique, but I was thinking, “What would it be like if this 65 year old woman just started doing Ashiatsu on me right now?”
Shannon: Oh, yeah.
Joe: But didn’t do it. But I think I can just tell it seems like a pretty practical approach, actually. Because there’s some leverage you can get from that technique that you can’t by reaching across the table or doing some of that kind of stuff. So it’s interesting to see photos of, and I’m sure interesting to experience for sure.
Shannon: Yeah. It was a fun flashback for me. I used to certainly in no professional capacity, but Ashiatsu massage on my dad’s back as a child.
Joe: Oh, nice.
Shannon: Just walk all over his back. And when I say as a child, I mean I could still do it like I did at age 10.
Joe: Yeah. You’re not exactly… You’re not a towering figure today.
Shannon: But anyway, Erin talks about the impact that COVID had on their business, and for them, it was really substantial. Their practice shut down for two solid months, where they could not welcome clients into their business. So they had some major adjusting to do. And we just loved her story because you could see the selflessness that Camino Massage had even in this time where they can accept business, and they still hosted virtual classes, zoom programs, self-massage programs for people to have that element of self-care, that element of massage or self-touch, even while they couldn’t visit Erin and her therapist.
Joe: Yeah. And I think some of that’s going to continue even, obviously today, while their doors are open, but even for the long run, which I just… It’s an intriguing approach. I like that approach where she’s thinking beyond “What do we offer? And you have to come in and pay for these services. That’s what we do.” But she’s helping people away from the practice to be able to take care of themselves, increase their lifestyle. And it just deepens the relationship, I think. And it’ll be interesting to see how that goes down the long run.
Shannon: Absolutely. And we’re super passionate about educating, as well. So I love to see that that’s what they did. You know exactly what you said. Like they didn’t have to keep that secret sauce to themselves. They’re happy to share it and help people become just better versions of themselves.
Joe: For sure.
Shannon: So thank you, Erin, for sharing your conversation with us, and we hope that you all enjoy it.
Joe: So why don’t we just start out a little bit with just share just a quick synopsis about Camino Massage? Why do you exist in the first place?
Erin: Yeah. So we provide therapeutic massage. We also do something called Ashiatsu, which is barefoot massage. So we actually use our feet to provide the pressure instead of hands. And we basically exist to help give people a space to chill out, chill out their nervous systems, find some relief in common pains that they’re feeling. But I think, basically, I think, it’s transitioned over time for me with what I think about bodywork. And I used to just think like we can get in there and fix all the things. And I think what I’ve really learned since then is that people need time to let their bodies decide what’s going on. And if you can give them a space to relax their nervous system and bring awareness to their body, then that will naturally happen. Instead of you just bring in all the pain for them.
So I learned a lot along the way there. And so that’s what we do. We just try to provide a space for people to chill out, and get some good bodywork, and feel better when they leave.
Joe: Nice. How long have you guys been in business now?
Erin: We’re in our seventh year. Yeah.
Joe: Oh, okay. Nice. Tell me, for those who haven’t seen your practice and photos, I’ve followed it online for a little while and through social media, and I was definitely intrigued by the techniques. Can you describe the barefoot… Just create a mental picture for us to see what it actually, what that looks like.
Erin: Totally. So from the client feel side, it’s like a regular massage, like you’re still coming into a safe space and undressing to your comfort level, getting on a massage table. We’re still using lotion. It’s not walking. Like some people think like, “Oh, are you the people who walk on our back?” And we’re like, “No, we’re not walking on your back at all. It’s still sinking into that tissue and still gliding up your leg or down your back, over your shoulder. It’s still a glide, not walking.”
So it feels very similar in that regard of what you’re used to from a massage. But the difference is that when people want deeper pressure, what they really consider a deep tissue, sometimes a thumb or an elbow can be really poky or intense. So when someone’s trying to get those trigger points, and so the body will kind of guard against that. And we just find that the foot sinks really nicely into that tissue. So you can get deeper without the body going like, “Whoa, not there” kind of thing. Starts to protect against it. So it’s just, for some reason, the body really responds well to the way the foot fits into the muscles.
Joe: I haven’t tried that massage, but it definitely seems like it probably gives a much better control, much better leverage, and be able to get into deep tissues probably better than from the side of the table, as much as you can try to reach from that angle.
Erin: Yeah. That weight being over the body, instead of from the side, it makes all the difference for the nervous system, and gravity really helps get you deeper.
Joe: Very cool. How would you describe… Who do you serve? I mean, is it just the common consumer? Is there a certain niche that you try to reach out to and connect with?
Erin: We see a lot of different kinds of people, but I’d say mainly who we try to talk to through our marketing, who we’re targeting and who we see a lot of would be like active, retired, or the busy professional who needs time to chill out, who is also active on the weekends. So they have soreness from being at CrossFit or hiking the trail, but then they’re at the computer Monday through Friday. So that stuff really starts to creep into your body. Or busy moms carrying kids around and breastfeeding. We also do prenatal. So we find a lot of pregnant moms with common aches in their body. So we see a lot of different kinds of people, but that’s who we try to reach out is like people just want to chill and feel better.
Joe: Thinking about where we are right now with COVID, how was your business immediately impacted by the pandemic’s arrival? Were you able to stay open at all? Were you closed for a period of time? What was the immediate response or impact on your business?
Erin: We did have to close. We closed. Yeah, I can’t remember the date we closed exactly. But we were close for about six to eight weeks, I believe, somewhere in there.
Erin: I think starting out, we closed a little early, earlier than was recommended for us. And that was mainly just because we didn’t really know what was going on, and we wanted to be on the safe side that we were doing no harm. And so we didn’t have a lot of information, and we just were like, “I think it’s okay to stop right now and see what’s going on before we make a decision.” And then a few days later they decided to have everybody close. So we felt pretty good about making that decision, and so about six to eight weeks. And it was hard to be away, but also a good time I think to let therapists reset, spend time with family, and just stayed in communication about what was next.
Joe: Yeah. It definitely was a lot of conflicting information initially. And not that it’s completely certain now, but I know that definitely in those early days it was what do you do and what… This is such a new thing for all of us. Were you able to serve your clients at all during that time from a distance in a digital format, or was it sort of just everything’s silent for six to eight weeks?
Erin: No. I was really lucky in this regard of, we were starting to introduce something that we call our self-care classes, and I was actually supposed to host my very first one in our studio that week. It was on the schedule. People had signed up. And so basically, in that class, I was going to be showing how to use massage balls and how to use cups and combined self-massage, cupping, and stretching all in a class for people to learn how to do that stuff at home. So I would guide them through the class.
Joe: Oh, whoa. Okay.
Erin: So I was supposed to host my first one here that week. And so when we closed down, I was like, “Well, let’s just see if we could do it virtually.” So I sent out an email to the people who had signed up, gave them the option like, “Do you want to try this?” Got some more people to try it too. And so we started hosting virtual self-massage classes weekly, had one every Thursday night. And so those were great. People could pop on zoom with me, and I would basically lead them through how to do some breathing exercises and self-massage their spots.
And then we also were doing weekly… We sent a few out a week as we were closed, little videos of self-massage too. So people that were not signing up for the virtual classes. Our client list was still getting a weekly email of saying, “If you’re having tension in your neck or upper back, this is a little five-minute video of how to self-massage that at home.”
So that was a great way to stay in contact. And we were using BombBomb for that. Shout out to Colorado Springs’ local BombBomb for our video emails.
Joe: Okay, yeah. Nice.
Erin: And they were great because then clients still got to interact with us. It makes it really easy to also respond to those emails. They can give you a little heart or a shout out and say hi. And so they were really encouraging in that whole time too. So it was great to send them videos and get their response of, “You guys are doing great. Thank you for this.” And “Needed that.” It was so great to hear from them too.
Joe: That’s awesome.
Erin: That’s really encouraging. Yeah.
Joe: Yeah. That’s just so amazing to always hear these stories of either, some technology, or some approach that was already either on the cusp or we never envisioned it, but it’s… This whole pandemic has kind of enlightened a brand new idea in ways to connect with our clients in ways we wouldn’t have considered or wouldn’t have pursued, had something like this not arrived. So it’s always so inspiring for me to hear those stories.
We interviewed a counseling group in Colorado Springs, and just talked a little bit about the mental health challenges during this time. From your perspective, have you seen any shifts in people’s physical health? Any specific new changes or new requirements or needs that people have come to you during this time that maybe you hadn’t seen prior to COVID’s arrival?
Erin: Yeah, we try not to get really personal in that realm with clients. We’re more here to see what’s going on with their body, but you pick up on it anyway. And what I did find is we got a lot of new clients right off the bat. And I think, just from what I can guess, what was happening is that in that time when things were closed down, people really started to feel what was going on in their bodies, and started to feel like… And I think even from like a nervous system kind of anxiety, depression place too, of saying like, wow, I think they were just creating that touch and massage. They were like, “I think I need some calming down. I need some work on my body.” So it was really interesting. People who hadn’t had massages in a really long time, their body was telling them, you should go do this. So we got this rush and a lot of new clients. And so I think just from assessing that, I’m like, wow, people really were naturally craving that. Some care.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. And I think just the being at home and a little bit less hustle and bustle, you actually get to hear yourself, hear your body, that you normally are drowning out with all of your activities. At least I’m speaking for myself. I know that tends to be my issue of always being on the run and not really paying attention to the signals my body’s trying to tell me.
Erin: Yes, totally.
Joe: Have you had to shift any… Did you have to change anything? Not have to, did you make any business changes at all when you saw some of these people who were a little bit more aware about those messages their body were telling them, did you make any changes to things you offered or just made aware of the needs as they were coming in the door?
Erin: Yeah. Not really. I feel like what we were offering already was just perfectly in line with what people were seeking. So it’s always just been a really calming, safe place to come into. And the work that we do, we do offer deep tissue, but it really is… We try, like I kind of explained earlier is it’s really important to let that person’s body relax, let their nervous system relax so that you can then do deeper bodywork if you need, or if there’s areas that need more work. So we just really lined up with what people were seeking anyway.
So that was really great to see like, “Oh, we’re already doing this thing and, yes, it’s still a safe, great place to come so that you can just relax, and feel better when you leave.” And so it offered this escape a little bit, but in a safe way, because I found that, too, people wanted some normalcy, but they also wanted to feel smart about the decisions they were making and feel safe in the businesses they were choosing to start to see again.
So we’ve always scheduled a good amount of time between our sessions. So we just kept that for our sanitizing between clients, and our therapists are all wearing mask, and we’re asking clients to wear a mask. So I think all of those. We also limited… So our clients don’t run into each other in our lobby. We’ve staggered all of our appointments. So the only person you see when you come in as a client is your therapist.
Erin: So I think just providing so that they felt safe here, and a little bit of normalcy back into their routine.
Joe: Yeah. It’s been interesting. I have a client who’s an orthodontic client. I know they’ve made some changes to who is allowed in the waiting area, conversely during this time. But I think that’s probably one of those shifts they might make down for the long run because it keeps things, keeps the numbers low, keeps a little bit of the chaos down of kids and family members out there waiting for their family member who is getting orthodontic care, but are there things like that where you’re doing it today, but are there some shifts where you see like down the… I think we should do this forever. Like we should make these changes for the long run. Do you see any of those things on the horizon for your business?
Erin: Yeah. I think that a lot of the things that we were doing… I think like you said earlier, these things were in process. So we were working on expanding self-care for our clients. So right before this happened too, I had also done a big order of massage balls and cups and foam rollers and all these things. We wanted to really start educating our clients about that before this happened. And so that’s just sped this along and definitely a part of our business that will keep going is how do you keep taking care of yourself at home between your sessions? We really want to empower our clients to know how to do that and how to listen to their body and how to self-correct when something’s going wrong before they can get in to see us, or make better strides between their appointments too, by doing some self-care at home.
So it just really encouraged us to keep pushing forward with that. We were always like, “We really want to do this. Let’s start adding it in.” And it just sped that up. It would be nice to someday have our lobby with more people in it again. And we hardly ever had a lot of people. It’s always just like two or three, but it’s nice to feel that community aspect of a space too. So I don’t know, I guess we’ll see how it starts to transition.
Joe: Yeah. I love that approach of the online self-care at home. I think some people might look at that is contrary to your business. You want people to come into your space for you to do the work and for you to actually give them the tools to just take care of themselves in between appointments, and it actually probably ends up guiding them back to you for ongoing care for things they can’t do, but there’s the little things they can do along the way. I just love that. Love that really unique approach of giving you the tools to do some of the stuff we could do for you, hopefully developing a deeper relationship along the way, and they keep coming back to you. I love that.
Erin: Yeah, absolutely.
Joe: Well, thanks so much for the time. I mean, it’s just, again, I’m amazed that just the resiliency of businesses, the response, sometimes even the unknown vision of what to do next. You didn’t know COVID was coming, but you already had some of these things in place. And I love just your ability and flexibility to shift as well. So, excited to see what’s on the future for you. And I’ll certainly be in there as well to get the barefoot treatment. No doubt.
Erin: Awesome. You have to try it. It’s the best.
Joe: Definitely. Excellent. Thanks so much again for the time, and we’ll be in touch.
Erin: Yeah, thank you.
Shannon: You’ve been listening to the “COS and COVID” miniseries on the Metaphorically Speaking Podcast. At Keyhole Marketing, we tell big stories for small businesses.
If you’re in the Colorado Springs area and struggling to tell your story in this season, we’d love to come alongside you and help you with your content, branding, SEO, social media, or photography needs.
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