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Meet Trailblazer Sarah Cafiero

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Cafiero.

Sarah, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
After years of living with Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis and being treated within the traditional medical model, I began to receive massage on a regular basis. It changed the way I thought about pain relief and effective holistic health solutions so much so that I eventually went to massage school. After many years of working as a practitioner, I decided to open my own small clinic in Tucson where I would rent space to other practitioners that wanted to work within a community. There was such a great need for more of this model that in the first 3 years we expanded 3 times within our building, the last expansion brought our largest renter to us, Centerline Movement, which is a fantastic Pilates studio. We are now home to over 35 small business owners all renting space and working together to provide our clients with manual therapies, movement, meditation, acupuncture and more.

Has it been a smooth road?
When I look back, I can honestly say that it has been a relatively smooth road, but it’s important to know that I say that as a person who has worked very hard at seeing any struggle that I experience as an opportunity to grow. I’ve certainly learned some lessons, and while they may have been hard in the moment, they all taught me valuable lessons and expanded my capacity as an owner. But, I’d be lying if I said it’s all been easy. I’m a small business owner of two businesses, really. My own private practice which takes one sort of attention, and then the management of my clinic, which takes a whole other skill set. I’m also a mother to two young children. Juggling all of that and feeling like I’m doing it well has been hard. I put a lot of myself into my work and into the advocacy I do for massage therapy, and I work hard to be present with my children. Balancing all of that can be challenging, and while I may pull it off, I spend a lot of time worrying that I’m not doing enough for everyone.

Another hard lesson for me, personally, has been that I genuinely like people. I find it easy to relate to whomever is in front of me, and I find a way to connect with them. That probably doesn’t sound like an issue, right? Well, in those moments, I often overlook aspects of personalities that may not fit well within a community model or certain personal obstacles that may make being a small business owner a big challenge for that particular practitioner. So, the tendency to want everyone to like me – as well as my true enjoyment of pretty much everyone I meet has been where the greatest learning has occurred. I’ve had to refine my skill at knowing who can enter into a large group of healthy and happy practitioners and thrive, as well as who has the skill level that will allow them to genuinely be successful within the walls of Rooted. Learning that not everyone will like me or like the decisions I make for Rooted has been a big challenge. Being uncomfortable is part of being a business owner, so I’ve worked hard at becoming detached from how other people view me, and stay committed to my goals and keeping the field of massage therapy elevated at all times.

For women that are just starting the journey of business ownership, I feel very strongly that it is imperative that they seek mentorship of some kind, preferably someone that has experience opening a similar business. It’s also important to remember that while there is no one that knows your business better than you, it’s OK to ask for help. Advocate for yourself and your needs. It’s OK to take time to think through a decision. Mistakes are opportunities for growth. When I first opened Rooted, I was telling a client about a huge mistake that I’d made in spending a large sum of money on something we ended up not needing. He got quiet for a minute and said, “You know Sarah, college is expensive and right now, you’re in college. It’s OK to spend a some money to learn these valuable lessons.” That shifted my perspective greatly, and I use that view often to remind myself that I am always learning, always growing and that is what life is all about.

We’d love to hear more about Rooted Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.
I began my personal practice after years of living with chronic pain, so I have cultivated a practice that is focused on working with people that are also managing a chronic pain disorder or ongoing issue that keeps them trapped in that place of pain. It has been my greatest honor working with and helping people find a way to gain insight and understanding around their body, and to help them manage that pain in a holistic way, oftentimes allowing them to move freely again and without medication. What emerges from that relationship is deeply profound and rewarding and I am currently not taking new clients due to a very full practice.

Rooted is my other passion, and it is unique in that we rent space to practitioners that want to work within a large and healthy work community. I have heard it referred to as a co-op, and while it’s not a co-op, it has some of the same elements at play within the work community. The practitioners all have an understanding that the primary goal is that our client gets what they need from their therapy. That means that if we feel that our client would be better served by a different therapy or therapist, we will refer them to that better fit. It takes the idea of competition off the table when we work together like this. We see one another as equally important and skilled at serving the needs of the client, and turn our attention to identifying the specific therapeutic needs of each individual client. We spend time discussing client cases, thinking about how we can more effectively help them and we rely on one another for professional support. Our clients say things like, “it feels like home here” and “thank you for creating this place” and it just makes us all feel so grateful. While I may have created Rooted, I am absolutely not responsible for it’s success. Every single person that works within our walls contributes to the success of the space. They tend to it, are proud of it, and they all put in their own unique care and attention. It creates the ambience and without them, there would be no Rooted.

Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
This is my absolute passion and I have built a business around genuine networking practices. Rooted doesn’t market, we build relationships with people. I feel so strongly that creating community creates abundance in small business. It’s pretty easy to join BNI or to find a SCORE near you or to even reach out to someone you admire that has already achieved what you are pursuing and ask them to meet with you. These are valuable and attainable things you can do today.

In addition to those things, I’ve worked hard to create relationships with as many practitioners and complimentary business owners as possible. I speak at massage schools, I mentor, and I’ve been known to throw a mixer or two, bringing therapists together. I give class tours at Rooted, I reach out to like minded practitioners and other health care providers and let them know who we are and I go to their facility to meet them and touch base. We have a large referral book in our clinic that is filled with information about other practitioners because not everyone that works at Rooted is going to be the best or only fit for our clients. People in pain need to have many helpers, and what works for them today – may not be what works for them in 2 months. So, I don’t believe in competition, I believe in collaboration and community. It is the heart of my business and the core of who I am. Because of this, Rooted has grown immensely in the 5 years it’s been open both with our renters and our clients. We have healthy referral relationships and have created a community both inside and outside our walls.

For me, networking has to feel good and it has to feel authentic. It is not in my nature to do things any other way. So, this has been the type of networking I’ve done. It has been successful enough for me that I recently started another business that is focused on mentorship and consulting for other practitioners and business owners.

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Image Credit:
Rooted Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, Kathleen Dreier Photography, Torey Salyer Photography

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