I have always loved massage, really loved it, since as long as I can remember. But I’m going to be honest, my enjoyment lay very much on me being the one on the receiving end. Whether it was creeping into buddhist meetings to doze with my head in my mum’s lap to have my hair stroked aged five or sticking my feet in front of my dad’s face for a foot massage whilst he tried to watch TV, if there was a chance of a massage then I’d be there, head, shoulders, feet, hands, at the ready.

Growing up, boyfriends soon learnt that massaging my shoulders or stroking my back gained more thanks than any box of chocolates could and I would often dream up ideas for a massage machine that could hang above your bed like a child's mobile, rotating long, thin sticks that could stroke your back as you lay snoozing on your front underneath it (why has that not been invented?!).

But, many people love chocolate but have no interest in becoming a chocolatier. I have always been a major fan of pancakes and was traumatised when as a child I told a woman making crepes on a stand in the south of France that she must have the best job in the world. She quickly retorted that it had made her hate crepes. Making them all day, every day, she could no longer stand the sight or smell of them...Hate crepes. Yes I know. Traumatising. So I was cautious not to forget the valuable life lesson she had taught me.

However, after graduating university in Manchester as an actress and financially facing the stability of a bowl of jelly, my best friend who was living in London told me of a massage company that was offering free training for girls to learn massage and work in clubs and events. Clients would ‘Pay what they thought the massage was worth’, which I thought had the potential to be a great or terrible idea. Being curious and not yet understanding that alcohol was a contraindication of massage (!) I thought this sounded like a suitably flexible job to support me around acting jobs and, what the heck, I could even learn a new skill.

What I soon discovered was that I was good at this. Really good at it. Perhaps my love of massage meant that I had an instinct to what felt good, perhaps it was because I imagined myself in the other person’s skin when I gave massage and that empathetic bond meant I really connected to them and their needs. Or perhaps it was just because I genuinely loved massaging people. But the feedback was great and my pay reflected it. It helped that Manchester was dirt cheap to live in, but I could happily survive off working two evenings of massage a week, putting the rest of my time into acting roles (and partying - I was 22!). I began to study other styles of massage and weave them into my routine, and probably most importantly, I learnt to really feel what the muscles of the person in front of me really needed.

I moved down to London a year later and began to work for the same massage company there. Within a few weeks I worked an exhibition where the arrangement was that we had to pay for our massage shift and then we could keep whatever money we made on top. Me and my best friend were doing very well but at the end of the day I was heartbroken to see a new therapist who had massaged for 8 hours straight, be forced to pay over the full sum, walking away with only £4 for all her efforts. When I queried this with the head therapist responsible for collecting the money that day she was devastated too but explained that if she didn’t, the boss would charge her for the shift instead. I said there and then that I didn’t want to work for a massage company that had no compassion for their therapists, especially as without their therapists the company could not exist. The other girls agreed, but then laughed sadly and said, ‘See you next week?’. I didn’t.

My best friend and I discussed our desire to work for a massage company that understood that to truly treasure our clients, the therapists themselves needed to be treasured. A massage company that could prove that it could be lucratively successful whilst valuing everyone. A massage company run by people who knew what it was like to be a therapist, rather than someone who just saw it as a lucrative business venture. And then we thought, a massage company run by, well...people like us.

We were only 23 years old and the thought of setting up a company was daunting. But we began, taking it step by step. The first question we came up against was what would our massage company be called?

Both my best friend and I are buddhists. We are members of the Soka Gakkai International, a lay buddhist organisation dedicated to creating peace through dialogue, culture and education. The philosophy is based on the Lotus Sutra, one of Shakyamuni's final teachings that taught that all people without exception have the potential for absolute happiness within their life. The lotus flower holds great significance for two reasons. Firstly because it bears fruit and flower at the same time. This represents the simultaneity of cause and effect, or more simply put, that if we make great causes in this lifetime we can feel the effects of those causes in this lifetime, no waiting to go to heaven or be reborn in wonderful lands after we die. The lotus flower also blossoms in the muddiest ponds, representing that the more difficult our circumstances, the more beauty we can create through transforming them. Plus Lotus flowers are super pretty right? So, that was it, we definitely knew we wanted a ‘Lotus’ in there.

But then, what about something to represent the massage directly? We wanted a word that could represent the connection experienced through massage, the power of massage to affect our muscles and physical well-being,  and the emotional response caused by it.

The dictionary definitions of ‘Touch’ had it covered:

  1. bring one's hand into contact with.

  2. handle in order to interfere with, alter, or otherwise affect.

  3. produce feelings of affection, gratitude, or sympathy in.

So 'LotusTouch' was born. Within a year we had provided massage for big clients such as Orange, Eon, Saatchi and Saatchi. Over the years it has been amazing to be part of companies as they grow and expand. For one client we began by providing office massage for 3 hours a month for their 25 staff and now provide weekly massage for their massively increased team and have provided them with therapists for their offices in New York and Sydney! We like to think their success is definitely down to how treasured and relaxed their employees are!

Ten years after starting LotusTouch I feel incredibly grateful to say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And as far as putting me off massage? Not a chance! I now get to have massage more than ever by swapping massage with my fellow therapists after a shift. And I just love it more and more.