Suzanne Wigmore made an exciting career change and successfully returned to work after a two-year break to start her own business. Having returned to the UK after taking a career break to move to Germany with her military husband and young family, she moved from engineering to starting her own massage business for ‘Mum’s to be, athletes on the go and everyone in between’.
1. Hi Suzanne, our careers have both involved career changes as we first met when you were working as an engineer for Jaguar and I was working as a family law solicitor. What prompted you to make the move from engineering to starting your own massage business?
When I married someone in the military I knew it was only a matter of time before I would have to rethink my employment. We move, on average, every 2 years, with the last time being to Germany. We then added children into the mix, so I ended up taking a career break to begin with. However, as our daughters got older I began to realise I needed to get back to work, mainly for my own sanity. I had qualified as a massage therapist a few years earlier, as I had experienced the benefits that massage delivers, particularly when training for sport, but also during pregnancy, and I wanted to pass on these benefits to others. It is also a career where you can be really flexible around hours and location, so fitted well with the military lifestyle.
2. What steps have you had to make to set up your own business?
At first I was a bit unsure about what my business plan would look like as there are several ways to structuring a massage therapy business. I am quite risk averse and wanted to ‘give it a go’ without investing too much money or time. I felt this would help me decide whether it was the right thing to do for me and my family.
Luckily, The Ashcroft Practice advertised that they were looking for a new therapist to join their clinic of natural health therapists, so this felt like a good start. I work from there one day a week and this has helped me to establish my business. I then explored delivering mobile treatments outside my husband’s working hours to keep childcare needs to a minimum. This has proved particularly successful and enables me to be flexible around the children. I had already purchased most of the equipment I required when I qualified, so this also kept my initial outlay low.
I started by using Facebook as my main marketing medium, joining local groups and creating blog posts to gain interest in my page. Fortunately, my sister is a graphic designer and she was a great help in developing my logo and marketing materials, which helped with face to face marketing and gave me simple ways to advertise wherever potential clients might be. I also created my own website to help me gain clients from online searches, this was an entirely new step for me, but website creation is not as hard as it looks.
3. You are a Mum, military wife and now business owner, how have you found returning to work and juggling family and work commitments?
Due to the nature of the work, I own my own diary and so am able to work around my family. The balance has actually worked extremely well. There have been a couple of times where I have either had to leave early or finish late and my husband has had to do the nursery run. On these days it makes me wonder how we would cope with a 9-5 office job where I would be doing this every day. Hats off to those who do!
Being self-employed you do have to have extra motivation, as you are totally responsible for generating business. I do work most evenings, which is sometimes the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day looking after 2 small children. However, once I get out and get going I always enjoy it and it is definitely better for me than crashing in front of the television.
4. What were the biggest challenges you faced in making this career change and how did you overcome these challenges to make the start of your business a success?
Having confidence in my own ability. You have to be really good at selling yourself and as I am not really into self-promotion, this was quite uncomfortable for me. I had to make myself tell people about what I do and ask them if they were interested. I was initially embarrassed about using social media so much and worried about what my friends would think. However, after some time I realised that most people just want you to do well and are really encouraging. If people aren’t interested they will say so, unfollow or not engage and that’s fine too. I am getting better at not taking it personally.
5. Tell us a bit more about your massage business and how this career choice suits you
A massage therapist for all. I particularly specialise in Pregnancy and Deep Tissue Massage, but I also work with the elderly and disabled. I work with the client to understand what areas require attention to improve their mobility, release tension, reduce swelling and increase energy levels. My mobile and flexible working practice allows the treatment to take place in clinic or in the comfort of the client’s home and can be done at a time that suits them. I understand that it can be difficult to get treatments when working, with young children or with reduced mobility and these are often the people that need it the most.
6. What advice do you have for those wanting to return to work after a break and thinking of pursuing a career change?
It can feel a bit daunting if you have been out of work for a while but, in most cases, people have worked before, so draw on those skills. It is amazing that even with a career change as different as mine, how many skills you can transfer.
Having that time out, and maybe particularly now having children, really helped me to focus my mind and define my priorities. Time has become more precious to me, so it was important for me to do something that I would enjoy and found fulfilling, so think about what you want to spend your time doing. Being self-employed gives you a lot more choice and although you’re on your own, you’re also in control.
You don’t need to have a fully formed plan before you start out. I am always of the opinion that things happen for a reason and it is not about how you got there, but what you do next, so don’t over think things and take each opportunity as it arises.
Thank you, Suzanne, it is so exciting to hear how combining returning to work with a career change can be successful on so many levels!
Find out more about Suzanne Wigmore Massage Therapist here