Dry Brush on Midday Makeover WENY TV

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Rasa Spa’s mission is to serve the well-being of the whole person through healing, client empowerment, fostering a mindful community, and cultivating a tranquil, beautiful atmosphere. It is owned by Rachel Hogancamp and has a number of locations: 310 Taughannock Blvd., Ithaca, In Island Health & Fitness at Community Corners and at the Cayuga Medical Center on the first floor, just outside the birthing unit in Ithaca, NY. They are attempting to wrap around the whole being by offering a variety of bodywork (waxing and skincare, massage, a scrub or wrap, an energy work session, or acupuncture), skincare, yoga classes and meditation. They are the host to a lovely tranquility room, changing rooms, saunas and showers, Community Space classroom, and treatment rooms. For an appointment you may call (607) 273-1740. You can visit the website for a full list of treatments at www.RasaSpa.com or email them at info@RasaSpa.com . They are also on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Founded by Rachel Hogancamp, a former massage therapist herself, the spa is very careful in its hiring process and can confidently say that only great service providers are hired. It’s an important aspect of who Rasa is in the Ithaca and surrounding community, and allows the spa to truly offer a unique session to every client. The intent is as if you are in a private practice and you are going to see your therapist. We want that same experience with bodywork and skincare. We offer different facials, but within that service we allow the esthetician and the massage therapist to do their best to tailor that session to whatever that person’s needs are. We don’t “upsell” a relaxation massage to deep-tissue. We prefer to accommodate the client’s needs on that day.

Interview with Rachel Hogancamp, Managing Partner

How is the Medical Massage service that you offer different from other massage sessions?

It is only different in the sense that we want clients to feel that they can book the session they need that day. For example, if I had whiplash and looked at the website, I might choose a medical massage. The reality is that if that same person came in and just booked a regular massage, our therapists would still treat it as a medical massage. Some people think “spa” is a place to go sit in a sauna, hang out with a girlfriend, and have a glass of wine. Rasa is different. We are very much about therapeutic bodywork and skincare.

Does medical Massage get covered by insurance?

Sometimes. You have to know your own insurance. With advance notice, we can provide an invoice and session notes for anyone who requests it and then you can submit that to your insurance company for reimbursement. Often people don’t know if their treatment is covered by insurance and we have begun suggesting that they ask. It may be covered in full or partially, but it is dependent on each insurance plan.

What are your offerings at Rasa Spa?

Besides many different types of massage, we offer a wide range of body treatments like wraps and scrubs. We offer an Ananda scalp treatment based off the shirodhara service. We offer Reflexology and Reiki. In our skincare department, we offer facials, including microdermabrasion, waxing, and eyelash extensions. To round things out, we also have yoga and meditation classes.

How long have you been in business?

I opened Rasa Spa 11 years ago (November, 2006). I personally have been doing bodywork since 1994.

What has been the evolution of that?

I graduated in 1991 from Ithaca College (which got me to Ithaca) with a degree in Arts Administration – music, theater, art history, and the business management of that. When I left college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was offered a job to work at a production house on Broadway (in theory what I wanted to do) and turned it down. I stayed in Ithaca, took some photography classes and began doing some photography at the Ithaca Times and with theaters at Cornell and Ithaca College, as well as some freelance work. I had always been interested in law and thought I wanted to go to law school for entertainment law or some sort of advocacy work.

A friend of mine was a graduate of the Cornell Hotel School working at the New Age Health Spa in the Catskills. She discovered they were opening a massage school in Ithaca and suggested I attend as a better way to pay my way through law school. I thought that was brilliant. I had maybe experienced two massages before and some Trager work.

I was in the first class at the Finger Lakes School or Massage in 1994. When I graduated I still didn’t know what I wanted to do but decided to stay in Ithaca a little longer. My friend and I opened up Bodyworks in Ithaca. I had various partners over the years, but ended up owning it on my own. I did the business management of it along with bodywork. I was also teaching at the massage school during this time. From 1995 to 2006 my work life was a mix of doing massage myself (10-16 clients/week), teaching at the massage school in the major modalities a lot, and doing some photography on the side.

Around 1999, a teaching colleague and fellow bodyworker, Sondra Hartmann, and I talked about opening up a spa. We got as far as doing all the designs and drawings with someone who was a client of hers and owned a lot of property in town. The pricetag on it was about $2-3 million. We immediately thought, “can’t do that!” However, what was interesting in doing that exercise was that I met Mary Tabacchi, a professor at Cornell, through my friend from massage school and Bodyworks partner Brenda.

In 2004 I got a call from Terry Ciaschi. He said, “we are opening up this wellness center and I got your name from Mary Tabacchi, a professor at Cornell in the Hotel School.”

Mary is one of the main founders of the Spa industry in this country. That is no exaggeration. Susie Ellis, Mary Tabacchi, and a few other folks sat in a room where the New Age Health Spa is, decided we needed to make the spa industry happen here in this country, and they did. So thankfully, I knew Mary. The hospital and the Ciaschis called Cornell and asked who should we talk to and Mary said you need to talk to Rachel.

The last major funny piece of this is, I got the call and two days later I was getting on the road for a month to manage a music tour that a friend of mine was doing to raise money for cervical cancer awareness. I met with the spa group the next day and over the course of a month on the road, I thought and dreamed about what I would want to do. We had conversations and negotiations. We landed on 50/50 ownership and chose where we were to be in the building. At the time, the Cayuga Wellness Center was a shell. Island Health was the only part of the building with a solid footprint of where it would be. They thought Rasa Spa would be on the first floor in the beginning for visibility. As we talked, we realized there was nowhere to grow. We would be in the confines of a smaller space. So we went to the second floor and worked with architects to develop the design. It was fabulous to be a part of the entire creation process including what sheets to buy and where the walls would go.

That’s how it all happened!

Are there any misconceptions about you or your business?

When people don’t know us, they assume one of 4 things:

  1. They hear the word ‘SPA’ and assume the beauty industry.
  2. Because we are in a medical building, people are surprised when they see this space. People assume it might be smaller or that it might be sterile. They think the spa might not have the warmth that we imbibe here.
  3. They hear the word ‘Hospital’ and think you have to be part of the hospital to participate.
  4. We LOVE it when people linger here. Nap. Meditate.

If there is a misconception it is that people do not understand we are a stand-alone business that is in partnership with the hospital and the health club AND that our mission is Whole Healthcare.

What are your greatest achievements?

Staying in business for 11 years is one of them. We just keep growing thanks to this amazing community we live in and the wonderful staff at Rasa.

We also opened up a treatment room at the hospital over a year ago. This was something I wanted to do when Rasa began and it took 10 years to get there. We are just seeing patients in the last six or so months. We began with a very makeshift thing – setting up a massage chair in the hallway to service staff. After a few years, I backed out because it wasn’t feeling right to have massage only in the hallway. A couple of months later, I got a call saying CMC had a space for us. The hospital took care of setting up the room and it’s been great to be able to staff three therapists there, four days a week.

Do you have any Stumbling blocks?

Hindsight is an interesting thing.  I would have to say that as an individual, going into partnership with two corporations has its challenges. Technically, I am in business with three companies if you include the health club, CMC, and the building owners.  Due to the nature of how these things work they are really more investors and good neighborly partners even though we collaborate.

I work as the Managing Partner with a salary, which is different than if I were just an owner. It’s not a comment on the financial aspects so much as it is about what it takes to run a business this size. I would have done that differently so that I’d feel as though I had more support at the ownership level. As it stands, given the way things go, we all work well together it’s just that at times it would be wonderful to have another “person partner” instead of a large corporation partner.

On the list of things we do in collaboration includes offering a free 30 minute massage to any new member to the health club. The health reimburses the spa for a portion of the retail rate of that service to help offset our expenses. Also, the hospital subsidizes all of our time at the hospital which is great. I just think it’s a lot for anyone to run a business with 50 employees. I can’t ever really take my “owner” hat off at Rasa which can be tricky as another manager in the business.

I would also have loved to figure out a way to have water in the spa for hydrotherapy. I believe the only way to have achieved that was to have taken the first floor of the building. It’s something that we miss. We all thought that because the club has a pool and a hot tub, we could have figured out a way to utilize that. People here are in “spa” mode. Most don’t want to walk through the gym in their bathrobe to swim in the pool or sit in the hot tub.

Are people here employees?

Everybody is an employee. When you ask someone to come in at a particular time, they are an employee. It has all the other implications of taxes and insurances and disability. We have 50 employees here. Of the 50, maybe five of them do not want to have their own practice. It creates an interesting dynamic because we don’t have a non-compete here and allow anyone to work where they would like to in order to piece together a schedule that works for them. Many folks don’t want to be full-time at a spa.

An interesting fact about Rasa’s sessions is that most other spas do a 50 minute hour with a 10 minute turnover for the practitioner. We do a 60 minute hour with a 15 minute turnover. Not only are we charging the same rates as other local spas doing 50 minutes, we give our staff an extra five minutes for turnover. That’s money we are sacrificing from the business for that commitment.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, when you enter the website, I envision you doing the “Which Rasa Do I Want To Visit Today?” question. You could be at the hospital, at the Cayuga Wellness Center, in Community Corners, or at our destination spa location up at the Inns of Aurora. Clients can have lots of different experiences under the Rasa umbrella.

Float Tank (REST) on Midday Makeover WENY TV

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Seamus Kennedy is the owner of Live Well Upstate in Elmira, NY. They are a drug-free, medical clinic offering the full gamut of Chinese medicine which includes Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and supplementation, medical massage therapy, nutritional consultation and guidance, and personal cultivation particularly in meditation and qigong practice. This also includes a Float Tank. They have been in business for 5 ½ years and may be found at 408 W. Church St, Elmira, NY  14901. They may be reached at (607) 733-3373, by email at Seamus@LiveWellUpstate.com or info@LiveWellUpstate. Their website is www.LiveWellUpstate.com and they also have an active Facebook page. They are also on Twitter.

What has been the evolution of your business?

When I graduated from SUNY Albany I had a BA in Linguistics and had secured a job in Japan teaching English as a second language. I was leaving in a few months when I realized it was not going to be enough to satisfy me long-term. I was living in Philadelphia at the time and started going to my friends’ medical school classes. I shadowed her doing rounds at the hospital – getting my feet wet without having to commit. I had always been excited about the option of being a doctor. I came to the conclusion that if I went into medicine, I would not be able to do the conventional route.

I decided to go the Naturopathic Medical route. I enrolled at what now is the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM.edu) in Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. When I was there, I found myself skipping histology class to go listen to the Dean of the Chinese Medicine program talk about Chinese Cosmology. I was hooked! I changed my track from Naturopathic Medicine to Classical Chinese medicine and I never looked back.

I moved back to the east coast fully intending to settle in Ithaca. I had a classmate living in Spencer and she said, “Let’s look in Elmira. There is nothing like this going on in Elmira”. I remember when we looked at properties in Ithaca nothing was moving smoothly. I was getting parking tickets. People were rude. I was feeling frustrated with Ithaca. I went to Elmira to look for properties and it was like the heavens opened up. People were incredibly helpful, kind, very interested and going out of their way to help. We found the building that we practice in now through a person who did the landscaping here.

At the end of this one day I was feeling excited. We went to the Elbow Room and sat next to a fellow who did the landscaping for this property. He mentioned there was this building for sale. He thought it was tiny – probably 700 square feet – it had been empty for awhile – probably get it for a ‘song’. We went to look at it and discovered it was 2600 square feet and did need a lot of work. We did get it for a ‘song’.

It took us the better part of a year to get the financing together for the renovations. It took a village. The whole neighborhood, friends, especially family helping out and we created this beautiful little oasis in the middle of Elmira.

Do you have investors here or is this all yours?

All of my debts were consolidated into a mortgage that I am continuing to pay off.

 Are there any misconceptions about you or your business?

That is hard to know. I am told that people speak kindly of what we do here with some enthusiasm. Our business is almost completely word of mouth, based on the good work we do here. That is how we have built up business over the last few years.

Do you have employees or contractors?

Everyone here is an employee including myself.  We are moving in the direction of self-management, otherwise known as Teal organizational model (based on Reinventing Organizations by Frederic LaLoux). It takes me out of the position of ‘Benevolent Dictator’. One of the reasons we want to do the self-management, it gives people the freedom to develop what they want to develop within the supportive environments of Live Well Upstate. It’s not just “This is what we are doing next. Everyone fall in line”. It’s more like how do you see this place growing; what do you want to contribute; how are you going to do it”? Suddenly all the enthusiasm in the world is there.

Is acupuncture covered by insurance?

Acupuncture is covered by several insurance policies but not by everyone. We here at Live Well Upstate do not bill insurance directly. There are a couple of reasons:

  1. It keeps our costs down because it’s a pain in the butt to do it. (That may change as we expand and have MDs and Chiropractors on staff here. They may insist on a billing department, which I would support if it made sense).
  2. Most people who have some benefit for acupuncture can get reimbursed if they do that work for themselves. It does a service to a patient’s healing if they are actually participating in how their care gets paid.

What are your greatest achievements?

Surviving 5 years in Elmira, NY? (hahaha) That’s one.

Also, doing a lot of public education about what Chinese Medicine is and what it is not.  I practice rather classical old school Chinese style of acupuncture. Getting people to understand that the provocation is necessary to stir the system to self-healing is kind of a big deal.

Another accomplishment is getting folks to understand that they have more control over their health destiny than they believe. We are working to undo some of the programming that the culture has created of doctor as minor diety who knows all and we are simply to toe the line. We want to give people real tools to promote confidence. Checking into their own body and their own health is really important for them in the long term.

Have you had any stumbling blocks?

The main stumbling blocks are with people who have come into our organization who have tried to take over by force of their personality and what they think their skills are. Then having to basically school them in transparent management that doesn’t have ego behind it, which is a very difficult thing to have to do to someone who is really accomplished.

How has that worked out?

They have left. It is perfectly appropriate. We have all learned from those experiences. I have particularly learned what to look for when bringing new people on.

Also, we have had financial difficulties in the beginning. The whole neighborhood and family system pulls together for you and you are still not quite paying your bills – having to do those reorganizational things that are painful and a little embarrassing. It happened. We all pulled together. We are consolidated and very stable now.

If you had a Do-Over, would you?

From a certain point of view, everything unfolds as it is supposed to. In retrospect, the main thing I would do is be more confident in what it is that I already knew and not cow tow to strong personalities that thought they knew better.

Where do you see yourself in 5 Years?

In 5 years we expect to have a larger facility and that may mean expanding into the other 2 buildings that are here on the property. We want to be able to offer integrated, conventional and drug-free care in one place. We would want it to be very strongly community based and not just boutique medicine. We do heavily rely now on the people who can afford to come here to keep everything going. But the long term is to expand and add services to people who would not otherwise be able to afford drug-free care and instruction in self-care, nutrition, exercise, personal cultivation, and all of these things that keep you healthy to begin with. It is really important in a community like Elmira.