Will you please introduce yourself?
I’m Cammie Toloui. I’ve been a photographer for most of my life, doing work for publications and shooting weddings, family portraits and events. Around the time I was turning 40, I decided I needed a change and I chose to study massage. I graduated from East West from the 801-hour program in 2010 and immediately started working in the clinic at school and did that (in addition to starting my own practice) for about a year. I rented a room with one of my former classmates and built up my business for about 2 years and then my life changed radically! My son went off to college and I went on a trip to England to do some street photography, which is when I met the man who eventually became my husband. So I moved to a small town in southeast England and had to figure out how to start my business up again in a foreign country.
What drew you to massage therapy?
When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do besides photography, I took a class designed for women of a certain age who were thinking of re-entering the workplace after kids. One of the exercises was to make a list of all the things I like and find interesting and want to learn more about. I made my list and then narrowed it down until it was distilled into this one very exciting-sounding profession: Village Witch. I figured that massage might be a good entry-level position on my way to becoming the village witch, so I looked into what was available in Portland and found East West College. After the intro day, I knew I had found the next phase of my life and that massage would be a perfect fit for me. I’m still not the village witch, but I’m very happy to be helping people to feel better through therapeutic massage.
Why did you select East West College?
I could tell that East West had very high standards and was well organized. I had gone to another school for their intro day and to me they seemed less professional and the intro day at East West was compelling, fun and helped me decide to follow the path to being a therapist.
Since graduation what has been your biggest professional challenge? How were you able to overcome it?
Currently my biggest challenge is marketing, especially on social media. I’m told it’s what I should be doing, but I feel that the personal nature of finding a massage therapist isn’t a great fit for social media. I find most people want to find a therapist recommended by a friend. That is at least true here in England. To encourage this, I tell my clients that for every person they send to me for a massage, they get £10 off their next massage. This turns out to be an effective motivator and it’s how I get most of my new clients.
The other big challenge is the number of clients I’m able to see in a day or a week. When I first started out I would schedule 4 or 5 clients in a day and would sometimes see 20 in a week. That ended up being way too many for what my body was able to handle. But I had a son and rent and all those things and had to work as hard as I could.
These days I see a maximum of three clients a day, but not on consecutive days because I need time to recover my energy. It makes me wonder – how I will sustain this as I head into my 50th year on this planet? How many more years do I have as a massage therapist and what do I do once I can’t sustain it anymore? I don’t have retirement savings. Maybe I need to start thinking about retraining to learn something else? Big questions that I haven’t figured out yet…
Since graduation what is the best part of your professional career?
Without question the best part is watching people walk out the door feeling 10 times better than when they walked in. To be able to make people feel better is like having a superpower!
What words of advice would you give future students at East West College?
Don’t undervalue yourself by lowering your prices to substandard rates.
Don’t work yourself to the point of pain and injury – figure out what you’re comfortable with and then get a job doing something else on alternate days if you need to so you don’t burn out.
Take your time and let your hands find their way around the client’s body to assess what’s needed – don’t just do your massage routine, giving a one-size-fits-all massage to every client. I know you probably don’t think you will, but after a while that can start to happen.