Eric Stephenson


I could talk all day about how closely playing the guitar and massage are linked! Louis Armstrong talked about music being the space between the notes, and I talk about massage as being the space between the strokes.
Getting as far out of my comfort zone as possible, working with homeless kids not much younger than me was life-changing.

Partner, Well World Group, Director of Education, imassage, Inc.

Eric Stephenson wasn’t the only kid who grew up dreaming of being a guitar hero. But he might be the only one who ended up becoming a massage hero instead. Is ‘massage hero’ taking it a bit far? The company Eric founded in 2006 along with his partner Debra Koerner, imassage Inc, has helped thousands of people maintain and grow a career in massage and in spa. So for our industry, that is indeed heroic. 

“We started imassage to address the low retention rate among massage therapists - the industry was just hemorrhaging people, with about 40 per cent of massage therapists leaving the industry within two years. Burnout, insufficient earning opportunity, whatever the reason, we saw a need and an opportunity.”

A background in teaching had, on the face of it, nothing to do with spa or massage – especially since Eric was a guitar teacher. But it turns out massage and guitar aren’t quite as unrelated as you might think: “I could talk all day about how closely playing the guitar and massage are linked! Louis Armstrong talked about music being the space between the notes, and I talk about massage as being the space between the strokes. Like music, massage and body science are about rhythm, flow, and pace.”

His hectic travel schedule makes playing in a band impossible, but although Eric misses performing, he doesn’t miss the creative strife that so often comes with multiple egos and music influences. His high school band, The Lizards, only performed twice, “our debut and our finale,” and in true rock fashion went out with a bang: “It was a high school talent contest so we were forbidden to use pyrotechnics and smoke bombs. Half way through, our monster mascot came out and unleashed enough smoke to fill the auditorium. Audience members were coughing and rubbing their eyes because of the putrid smoke... and The Lizards were disqualified." Very Spinal Tap…

Contrary to rock cliché, Eric’s youth wasn’t all purple haze: he spent a year working in shelters for young homeless people, something that gave him perspective that has influenced him ever since. “Getting as far out of my comfort zone as possible, working with homeless kids not much younger than me was life-changing.” Being a part of a tight-knit group of volunteers was a powerful communal experience, and even though his weekly stipend was just $15 he looks back on it as a time of great abundance. 

Eric’s association with ISPA started off a happy coincidence but developed into a much deeper relationship. “We were amazed to find out that ISPA was based just a few miles away from us. So we called, and the next thing we knew Jim Root, then Chairman of ISPA, was on the phone for an hour. He became an incredibly important influence on Debra and I and on our business. We knew instantly that we had to become members, and it’s a decision we have ben grateful for ever since.” Every hero needs a hero. We’re glad Eric found his at ISPA!

 


I could talk all day about how closely playing the guitar and massage are linked! Louis Armstrong talked about music being the space between the notes, and I talk about massage as being the space between the strokes.