PORTLAND – How to conjure Melissa Brodeur of BeeWell Massage, without going all “woo-woo”? After all, she frequently (and playfully) dons a pair of bee antennae, her website cursor has a swarm of honeybees following it, and the title of her business is a little whimsical.
But ask anyone who’s been on the receiving end of her talented hands, and they’ll tell you there’s something in her mission (alternative healing, music and – what else? – the health of the world’s rapidly diminishing population of honeybees) that sets her apart from other massage therapists.
Growing up in Vermont, Brodeur was hired at a local organic farm for her first job, where she learned that “Melissa” meant honeybee in Greek. She was compelled to learn about, and love, what she calls “these important, tiny and voiceless creatures.” The more she heard about the devastating challenges that bees are facing and how tragic (and possibly apocalyptic) it could be for the earth to lose them, she knew she had to make it a part of her mission to raise awareness and money for the honeybees’ cause, making and marketing books and using her own honey massage oils in treatments.
BeeWell Massage is mostly about massage, but it’s also about living a healthy lifestyle and being a good steward of the planet’s ecosystem.
Brodeur, 34, recently pulled up her Vermont stakes for Portland, where she has quickly become a go-to for stress relief and even providing a bit of sanity in the corporate world (many companies now offer weekly massage as one of the perks to lure talent from bigger markets).
Hers isn’t some ditzy hippie pipe dream. Brodeur works hard for her living, showing up at the aforementioned office buildings, malls, and festivals, building a solid client base and establishing her honeybee-saving brand.
Q What were your most important needs in getting started?
A I knew no matter what I was going to do with my massage practice, honeybees would somehow have to be involved, so I came up with BeeWell Massage. [Next came] a website, and [after that] I needed clients. In order to run a successful business you need to make money, but it was hard for me to put a money value on my services. [But] I finally figured out that I needed to be able to accept compensation for my hard work. The customers appreciate the services and I appreciate that they want to compensate me. It’s a win-win.
Q What was there about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
A When I was child, I remember always sort of doing my thing. I was very independent and always knew what I wanted. I knew exactly what I wanted BeeWell Massage to be. I didn’t actually have the courage to go out on my own until I was working almost three months straight, every day between a “real job” at a health food store and building my practice. I just knew in my heart the time was right. Going out on your own is always a risk, but taking a leap of faith can be necessary sometimes.
Q What do you think the advantages are of being a female entrepreneur?
A Women are finally getting some recognition for being leaders and business owners, I love that we are right there in the same game as the men. I am not sure if it’s an advantage or not, but I love being a part of it. I feel as though women entrepreneurs are a part of something larger than ourselves. As for massage specifically, I think when people want to get a massage treatment they are looking for a warm, nurturing, responsive environment and that does tend to usually (but not always) be women.
Q What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
A Create the business you want. You are going to spend most of your energy on it so what do you want it to be? Once you know what you want, do not let others tell you what you should or should not be doing. Do not compare yourself to other business owners or businesses. We are women, we are given the gift of intuition for a reason, do not be afraid to listen to it.
Q If you knew then what you do now, would you have done anything differently?
A The first thing is I would have taken my own advice from the previous question. And the other is I really wish I had taken at least one business class. Being self-taught is a great way to learn, but trial and error can sometimes be very frustrating. Some education in business can be very helpful.
– Lucia Davies