Small business owner Nicole Christ keeps keen eyes on her customers’ experiences at Ballaura Wellness Spa in Olympia. She wants people to be relaxed and soothed during their entire visit. Attention is given to every detail. At the same time Nicole is creating and maintaining an environment that works for her employees.

“There’s a high burnout rate for massage therapists,” says Nicole. She wants people to have a sustainable career. Defying industry norms, Ballaura is making a difference for the people who work there.

Front Desk Manager Angela at Ballaura Wellness Spa headshot
Front Desk Manager Angela at Ballaura Wellness Spa will listen to your needs and match you with a therapist. She supports her team to offer exceptional customer service. Photo courtesy: Ballaura Wellness Spa

“This year was a game changer and eye opener,” says Nicole. She reported that during and since the pandemic, over 10,000 therapists have left the industry. How do you retain the people that provide the services for your customers? Training people is expensive and time consuming. Clients develop preferences for therapists and want to continue seeing them. It’s a big picture that Nicole thinks about all the time.

Nicole, herself a massage therapist, knows first-hand the physicality of the job. It is not impossible, but it is not realistic to think that people can do this job 40 hours a week. How do you make it work for your team?

“We decided that we could not do industry norms,” says Nicole. Massage therapists at Ballaura are employees rather than independent contractors. They are offered a package of benefits. One piece is training. Ballaura makes sure to have available the required classes, which are paid for by the business. “It’s expensive,” says Nicole about keeping up with the State required credits. Ballaura maintains a continuing education calendar. Monthly options are available but not mandatory.

Therapists new to Ballaura also get to work one-on-one with the LMT Manager. “We want people to have tools and confidence and to gain knowledge, says Nicole, adding, “We are proud of that.”

Ballaura offers customers a host of services:

  • Cupping
  • Gua Sha
  • Intraoral
  • Myofascial release
  • Passive and active stretching
  • Sports
  • Lymphatic drainage
  • Deep tissue
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Pin & stretch
  • Relaxation with guided breathing techniques

All therapists are trained in Gua Sha and cupping, and certain therapists do other advanced services. You request ahead of time exactly what you want to ensure you are matched with the most appropriate therapist. Importantly, customers do not pay for these add-ons. This might not seem like much, but that means that during your massage you aren’t questioned about if you want something else and find at the end of your massage there were extra charges. With no up-selling, your therapist is a therapist, not a salesperson. There’s no pressure felt on either end. Your massage is a relaxing time, and your therapist is not angling to meet sales goals.

Samara, licensed massage therapists at Ballaura Wellness Spa, headshot
Samara is one the licensed massage therapists at Ballaura Wellness Spa. She has clients of all ages and holds multiple certifications. Photo courtesy: Ballaura Wellness Spa

“We offer health benefits to our team. It’s a good health plan,” says Nicole. When therapists have worked 160 hours, they get a free massage. There is paid time off and vacation time can be accrued, up to four weeks in a row. It is also possible to work covering shifts for teammates.

There are snacks in the breakroom. Time is built in to turn over the rooms, which actually gives the therapists a breather in-between sessions. It keeps the schedule on time, and neither therapists nor the clients are rushed.

Kelsey, a licensed massage therapist, has been part of the Ballaura team for four years. It’s the right match for her. “I can do 20 sessions a week,” explains Kelsey. She knows the work challenges her body. Time away from work is spent on selfcare including yoga. She appreciates the energy Nicole puts into maintaining a desirable workplace. “I really feel heard,” says Kelsey. She also likes being able to get services at 50% off. “That’s not the industry norm,” Kelsey adds.

“The industry is changing a lot,” says Nicole. Expectations from employees shifted greatly over the past two years. “Owning a business in not easy. What brings me joy is creating a company culture that supports a sustainable job and workplace,” says Nicole.

Hailey, licensed massage therapists at Ballaura Wellness Spa, headshot
Hailey, a licensed massage therapist, is part of the team at Ballaura whose owner works hard to create a place for therapists to stay healthy and happy. Photo courtesy: Ballaura Wellness Spa

Maybe what hasn’t changed is that massage truly helps people, physically and mentally. We live in a stress-filled world. Scheduling time to be quiet, to relax, to be pampered, to be kind to yourself supports your overall well-being and your ability to function optimally. You can find tips to get the most from your Ballaura experience on the website. In addition to massage, Ballaura has an infra-red sauna that can be used to enhance your treatment or be treatment unto itself. It’s not the too hot, steamy room but instead a soothing heat. Six programs offer benefits that vary from detoxing to pain relief to relaxation.

If you are a LMT (or nearly certified) and considering a workplace to call your home, Nicole is interested to talk with you. Learn more on the Ballaura Wellness Spa website.

Ballaura Wellness Spa
1017 4th Avenue W, Olympia


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