Overcoming tragedy to find success is always something admirable. Losing 5 immediate family members in a short time period and still find the motivation and drive to build a business is on a whole other level. Brenda Santos is an inspiration to all who are lucky enough to know her.
Brenda has learned a lot while building her business as a massage therapist. She has taken the time to share her story and insight into the business world with all of us. You can learn more about her business on her website and Facebook.
Tell us about yourself.
I have a lot to say about myself. My journey has been an interesting one so far.
From a young age I always knew I wanted to help people. I never liked seeing people in pain or suffering. I remember in high school, I wanted to be a social worker so I could help others through challenges in childhood like I had.
Well, that reality quickly changed when someone had said things about that profession, which would go against my beliefs. I was always so gullible and naive. From that moment, I had no idea what path to take. I stumbled across Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy Assisting Program. I read into it and thought “perfect for me”, I could get into college quickly and graduate 1.5 years later.
I took the course in Sault Ste. Marie and finished my placement in Pembroke. I really enjoyed hospital settings. I was able to help so many people as well as broaden my horizons in that field. Once done school, I was unfortunately not able to find work in my field. I had spent relentless hours career searching only to be let down or not experienced enough or in one case over-qualified. I did end up finding work in my field in Mississauga, but only to cover a maternity leave. It was a great experience.
After that year was up, I had no work to turn to. Out of nowhere, a man and I had spoken and unbeknownst to me, he owned a digital imaging company. I had no experience but graciously, he hired me. He brought me to a hospital where his services were utilized and that was when I knew my life purpose. That life purpose again was to help people, but to also be that positive light for others.
After that short lived career, I was back home and working any job I could find. I landed working as a physiotherapy assistant at a nursing home. I did this work for years but one day There wasn’t much personal growth in that profession. I then stumbled across Massage Therapy and thought it was perfect. I could see people from the time they walk in to the time they leave. I really believe with a listening ear and a hands on approach to aid each person needs. No one is ever a number or a paycheck to me. They are always a person with a story.
After, I graduated, I was expecting my first child with my husband at the time. I didn’t work until 2 months after my son was born. Here’s where my story starts to crumble but also to shape and grow myself. My then husband had to leave the country due to immigration concerns. I felt lost and trying to overcome baby blues with my 5.5 month old son. Thankfully my Dad and Step-Mom took us under their wing. I’m forever grateful for them.
I faced a lot of challenges while trying to juggle being a mom, daycare for my son, working, etc. as most moms do. I was now a single mother (yes I did have support from family) with minimal assistance. I tried my best to have a long distance relationship with my ex and tried to visit his home country as much as possible. But finances always give us a wake up call and limit us. Finances had always been my stress as it was never there as a cushion. Eventually our relationship crumbled.
In the midst of all that I lost my Grandma and Dad within 2 months and 3 days in 2012. In 2015 I lost my step mom and my sister in 2016. Finally, I lost my mom in 2018. Talk about losses eh? I love my family dearly but their time on earth was complete leaving me vulnerable and trying to be strong for my son. I feel so bad for my son with so many losses in his short life so far.
Personally, I have experienced anxiety and functional depression since my dad passed. He was my best friend. I took it upon myself to meet with a body worker, a person who knew the chakras and how to try and restore and heal them. That body worker completely transformed my life and saved it too. I went from the victim of childhood issues and current deaths to everything happened when it did and those loved ones did the best they could do for that time.
I worked as a Registered Massage Therapist for several businesses and experienced pros and cons. One day I was given the opportunity to work for myself. I was excited but unfortunately I didn’t take into account of location. I started the business just outside of a city in the country. It was a 3,000 square foot heritage home all by myself. I had been there for about 8 months and did reasonably well considering location wasn’t ideal. The landlords had to close the doors and follow through with renting the house to a family. I was sad about this but in hindsight everything happens for a reason. I was out of that heritage home one month before my step mom passed. When I left, I said to my step mom that I would never own a business again. My step mom told me to never give up on that option.
I continued to work for other places until again, I was given an opportunity to work for myself but in the city this time. The space is shared with another professional. I thought it was the perfect opportunity and split rent is always great.
My first year was quite interesting and I definitely used all my savings for slow months. I attended several networking meetings. I tried to stay positive in every aspect as we attract what we think and/or put out there. The first year of business is like a roller coaster, it has it’s up and down moments. My business continues to slowly grow. I now like to think my business and personal self are growing together. I have been very fortunate to have the amazing clients and supportive friends that I have.
When people ask if business is at it’s capacity I always smile and say, “I’m always looking to grow/build my business and always taking on new clients”. My silly side challenges my whole city to receive a massage by me. I love my career and love knowing that I can possibly make someone feel better and put a smile on their face. I feel very rewarded seeing others feel better. If one feels better, they will be more productive and less stressed.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is advertising. We never seem to have the finances for the fees they ask. I also find in today’s society, we are pounded with sales, flyers and supporting this and that cause. People are feeling nickeled and dimed anymore and are reluctant to listen to every sales pitch out there.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
I can’t really say that I wished I had known something before I started. I believe you need to have an ideal direction, but ultimately I believe in growth with the journey of your business.
If you could narrow your success down to one thing, what would it be?
God first as he provides us with everything as long as we ask. My success is also defined by my clients, without them I have no work
Where do you see yourself in a year?
I only see myself growing better with knowledge and the community being aware of my business.
What are your top three tips for women starting a business?
- Follow you gut intuition/instincts
- Listen to advice but don’t do everything suggested as sometimes it’s not pertinent to your profession.
- Listen to your clients/customers and donate your services to support your community. You never know the community one day will support you.
What is a typical day like for you?
My typical day is being a good human being and grateful for my abilities to help others.
I’m a mom and business owner. I am there for my son but am always on call to schedule appointments. I always like to be very organized with my day and prompt to answer work texts, calls, messenger messages, etc.
Smoothies, coffee and herbal tea help to balance my life between work and play.
What is your business motto or quote you live by?
I have several. My tag line for my business is, “Massage That Works”
Quotes are: make every moment count, everything happens for a reason, try and find the positive in every situation and it takes a smile to start a smile.
If you were starting your business over again, what would you do differently?
I would research better advertising avenues. Not all advertising/marketing draws business to you, nothing is guaranteed. Don’t assume social media will draw business your way as well. Don’t take it personally if people unfollow or unfriendly you.
People love free information, give them this insight to learn more about what you can do/offer. Always be consistent with your signage and business cards. They should be uniform in color.