After all the walking to and from the parades, reaching and gyrating for beads and hoisting youngsters onto aching shoulders, licensed massage therapy practices are yet another local industry that benefits from Carnival.
“I get a flurry of clients post Mardi Gras,” says Jessica White, owner of Jessica White Massage. “Besides clients who want help with legs and feet, I get clients who really need help with repetitive motion injuries caused by throwing beads, a uniquely New Orleans injury.”
She also helps the women who made sure everyone had a good time, were costumed creatively, well fed and kept safe by their keen and omnipresence eyes.
“The season can be very draining and debilitating for women,” White says. “Generally speaking as women we do, we give, but we rarely receive. Women can come for a massage, switch gears and get into the receiving mode they deserve.”
White received her license in 2005. When Katrina hit she visiting friends in Reno, Nevada and except for coming back to clean up and retrieve that which could be retrieved, she and her husband stayed in Reno. She got a job at a holistic center where she honed her skills. She then worked in Washington D.C. where her rates were $150 for a 90-minute session.
But she wanted to return to New Orleans. However, coming home in 2009, she found the city changed. She had to cut her price in half as she began building back her clientele.
For several years she rented space and was paying on average $600 a month for part-time use of a tiny studio.
So White recently took a colossal leap and brought her business to her home. Jack, her 5-year-old son, moved his room to the guest room and his room with 100 square feet of space became her studio.
“With a home-based business the most important issue is security, so I advertise exclusively by word of mouth. Also, this lends a sense of warmth and inclusivity to my practice.”
The move was a bit of a burden on her family as the house, when she has clients, needs to be restrictive, tidy and quiet.
“My family has risen to the challenge,” she says. “Jack is my assistant, he helps clean my stones and he knows many of the technical terms. He also likes to give me massages, which is quite charming. I think it is empowering for a business woman to share her work with her son.”
Currently, she faces a positive challenge; she has more interest in her work than she can handle. She also has clients who want to come nights and weekends. She doesn’t want to work nights and weekends, but she knows every time she turns a client away, she is earning nothing from that exchange.
White says she wants to take the next step and grow into a business and not just a practice.
“My dearest hope would be to take on a licensed apprentice and expand my business into a small building in our back yard. It will need a fair amount of renovation, but I think we are ready.”
So with the her lawyer husband, who will battle the red tape and legal issues, and her son’s earnest assistance, perhaps White will be ready to open her new business, Lemon Balm, to next year’s Mardi Gras throwers and weary post-Carnival moms.