Entrepreneur Michelle Harkey in her Los Alamos office with LAVA founder Nik Seet. Photo by Mandy Marksteiner
By MANDY MARKSTEINER
One of the goals of LACDC’s Los Alamos Venture Accelerator (LAVA) is to celebrate entrepreneurship, because entrepreneurs are taking a risk to do something cool.
Michelle Harkey of Los Alamos is an entrepreneur willing to walk away from a safe and stable existance to build a life that she dreamed for herself; a life that she creates every day. Before starting her own business she was an accountant. She was paid well, and had a consistent career. But there was a problem.
“I was working long hours and not receiving the benefits of my success. I wanted to build something where I saw the benefits of my hard work,” she said.
Her journey began with a desire to get an education
Harkey moved to Los Alamos because she wanted her kids to be enrolled in the Los Alamos school system while she attended St. John’s College, in Santa Fe, to earn her Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts in the spring of 2013. Now she is pursuing an additional Master’s Degree in counseling from Southwestern College.
She supported herself and her family by helping others
Opening a massage practice, Mullein Leaf Massage, made it possible to support herself and her family while having the flexibility to pursue her education. Giving massages led her to the big question of her business: Why are some people always tight?
As a massage therapist it was impossible to ignore the fact that some of her clients were coming in week after week, and their tension never went away. How could she help those people? Harkey discovered that the real problem for many chronically tight people was that they were not connecting with their bodies fully and were holding residual tension from past experiences and beliefs.
There are many reasons that people disconnect from their bodies.
“Women have a way of thinking that their bodies should be something other than what they actually are. It should be thinner, with fewer blemishes, or more toned,” Harkey said. “When you feel like your body is not OK, you break the connection with it. When we disconnect, we change the way we interact with the outside world.”
Experiencing any type of trauma (which is a situation the mind and body are not prepared to effectively handle) can also interfere with the mind/body connection.
Her mission to help women find themselves
During the past several years, Harkey has experienced profound personal growth by getting in touch with her own body. Her spiritual journey helped her business blossom into something more meaningful than massage therapy.
“I found myself. I came into myself,” she said. “Now I help other women find themselves.”
But what does it mean to “get connected with your body” and how does it help?
“I have women who come in here believing that they are less than everybody else. That they are not worthy,” Harkey said.
These women tend to carry those thoughts and beliefs in their bodies in the form of chronic tension and extra weight. She also works with women who have had childhood abuse, and who continue to carry the strong emotions from that abuse in their bodies as adults.
Harkey uses a variety of healing modalities and coaching to help women move past the trauma of their past.
“People who are able to survive something that big, they have to have a depth of character. When you turn a coping mechanism into a life skill, something amazing happens,” she said. “People are able to shift, so that they are now lifted up. I help people get themselves out of the hole and build themselves up.”
Finding ways to grow her business
As a coach, Harkey is able to help her clients go deeper and find the root cause of their tension and weight gain so that they can live happier and more meaningful lives. As a business owner, she is finding ways to reach more clients who want her exclusive one-on-one coaching, whether they are located in Los Alamos or another part of the country. She starts by inviting large groups to her workshops to learn about her coaching. She offers an experience, a service that they have never tried before, like a somatic release session. From there they have an opportunity to engage with her at a deeper level.
Harkey also is in the process of documenting what she does for her clients and packaging her knowledge in the form of workbooks and videos that people can purchase for less than she would charge for coaching.
The biggest challenge that she faces is finding time to invest in marketing her higher-value services. In order to spend more time coaching and promoting her upcoming online courses, she would have to spend less time giving massages or possibly hire another massage therapist to work for her.
Who is LAVA and why are they featuring local business owners?
The Los Alamos Venture Accelerator is an economic development program sponsored by LACDC. Obstacles paralyze most businesses before they build enough momentum to take off. With LAVA, business owners will have everything they need to maneuver through those road blocks and get their business moving in the right direction: mentors, coaches, financing, access to investors, training, marketing systems and a clear roadmap that leads new entrepreneurs through the process of launching a business.
LAVA is a one-stop-shop hub where aspiring entrepreneurs can solve their most pressing problems, like finding investors, gaining access to a qualified tech army, or navigating the process of bringing a technology to a commercial market. When LAVA profiles promising entrepreneurs, their goal is to build the connections that form a thriving business community.
Visit www.LAVA.guru to find services from local entrepreneur marketing, to entrepreneurship education, to finding a team or mentor.
This fall LAVA founder Nik Seet will offer a class called Financing the Entrepreneurial Enterprise at the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation office, located behind the Post Office. The class runs noon to 4 p.m., Friday, Sept. 19. Email Seet at email@example.com to register.