How did I go from running an anti-piracy and anti-terrorism team in the U.S. Navy to owning a Massage Envy Spa franchise? It may not seem like a natural transition but for me and my family the healing power of massage has given us a path to life outside of active duty that we never could have imagined would be so powerful and fulfilling.
My family has historic roots in the U.S. military dating way back to 1889. My great-great-great grandfather was the draftsman and builder of the Eisenhower Building, which stands next to the White House. I joined the Navy in 2004 as a nuclear engineering electrician’s mate student, and then transitioned to a military liaison position. Afterwards, I served onboard the USS Boxer and was present at the rescuing of Captain Philips and the Mersck Alabama. Commissioned as a US naval officer in the Supply Corps in 2010, I served as a supply corps officer onboard the USS Mesa Verde. During the Libyan Liberation operations in 2011, I ran an anti-piracy and anti-terrorism team called VBSS.
After shredding my left knee in 2006 while standing watch on active duty in South Carolina, I became an orthopedic patient requiring physical therapy. In fact, both of my knees have required multiple surgeries and therapies for long periods. Eventually, a surgeon recommended that I also begin a regimen of regular massages, which have helped tremendously with the recovery process. I’m not the only one – military veterans often find themselves taking advantage of massage therapy after their time in service to help them with recovery from health issues. My amazing and beautiful wife purchased a Massage Envy Spa couples massage for us as a Valentine’s Day gift in 2008, and we became members of that clinic then. So when I medically retired in July 2013 as a disabled veteran, I already had a strong connection to the health and wellness industry and Massage Envy Spa.
My wife, who enlisted in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman in 2003 and is still on active duty serving as a Pediatric Registered Nurse, and I are both big believers in the healing power of touch. We also believe in the power of teamwork, which is such a large part of serving our country and how we raise our children. The Massage Envy Spa team and business structure really impressed us and led to our decision to open our own franchise location knowing that we would have the power of an experienced team behind us.
Unlike other franchises where the owners of different stores or clinics compete against each for self-gain, Massage Envy Spa works regionally to promote all owners working and succeeding together. Our regional developer has been by our side from the time we invested and will be with us until the day we retire. This company grew through the recession when most other franchises were closing stores. As a former business manager before I enlisted, that achievement speaks volumes to me. With all of these great aspects, along with Massage Envy Spa’s passion for changing lives, they were our only choice.
We love being part of a company that in today’s “what’s in it for me” business mentality, is truly trying to improve lives and offer pain relief from conditions such as arthritis and chronic headaches. Some of our most rewarding moments have been when clients who have suffered from multiple illnesses or chronic pain have come out of their massage sessions crying tears of relief that they can finally sleep or bend over or reduce their pain medications. Many have even sent cards to our clinic thanking us for finally relieving their pain and helping them find a pathway to wellness.
Business ownership is hard work, and not every day ends in thank you notes but knowing you have helped change someone’s life for the better is the ultimate reward. But if I can offer a few pieces of advice to fellow veterans who are searching for purpose and fulfillment outside of the military, I would recommend the following:
Connect with a TEAM
Our military service instills in us the value of teamwork, and it is a core value that carries over into our lives outside of service. It was the idea of having a full team behind my success that drew me to a franchise business. My wife and I draw daily from the experience and resources of the Massage Envy Spa team.
Put your skills and experience to work for you
The discipline instilled in us through our training and time in active duty can serve us well in being able to run an effective and successful business. Many companies recognize this and make it a priority to recruit employees or franchise owners with military experience. For instance, Massage Envy Spa is a proud member of the International Franchise Association’s VetFran Program and offers a discounted franchise fee to veterans. The company, which currently has more than 30 veteran franchisees located across the U.S., has even implemented a marketing program to educate and recruit veteran franchisees.
Follow your passion
Many veterans look to the health and wellness industry and its resources as a way to ease back into society and the workplace. Through their experiences they often develop a passion for the power of healing which stimulates the drive to run a successful business in which they believe strongly.
I have had the benefit of experiencing first-hand the healing properties of massage, and I have seen the difference that it made with my own medical problems. You may not have a similar situation, but you can pursue a business opportunity that you truly believe in. Start with your personal interests and beliefs, and look for ways to incorporate them into your professional life.
There are 24 million American veterans and approximately one in 10 owns a small business. Whether it’s leadership skills, perseverance, focus on goals and overcoming challenges, or any of the other traits ingrained in the military experience, we are uniquely positioned to excel. Find a company that values veterans and the qualities that we bring to business ownership, and you will be on your own pathway to wellness and success.
Austin Amsden is owner of Massage Envy Spa in Midlothian, VA