Q&A With the Women of Massage Envy
The C-Suite at Massage Envy is more than 60 percent women, spearheading the initiatives behind the first and largest massage franchise. With an increasing number of female franchisee’s Beth Stiller, CCO, Kristin Paiva, General Counsel, and Kathy Collins, CMO, discuss being a woman in the franchise industry, what the industry can do to make franchising more accessible, and offer advice for female entrepreneurs.
As Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), Beth Stiller spearheads commercial and operational strategies for the Massage Envy franchise network. An innovator of the customer retail experience, Beth has spent over 20 years in retail positions including top posts at Duane Reade and Walgreens. Today Beth oversees nearly 1,200 Massage Envy locations and she knows that consistent, personalized experiences are key to the success of the company.
As General Counsel, Kristin Paiva leads the legal team while overseeing legal and risk management concerns as well as franchisee compliance for Massage Envy’s franchise network. Kristin’s background includes over 10 years in private practice litigating disputes on behalf of a wide variety of national, regional, and local clients. She thrives in the company’s vibrant culture
and remains laser-focused on the removal of legal barriers that might impede Massage Envy’s advancement as an industry leader.
As Chief Marketing Officer, Kathy Collins joined the Massage Envy team in 2018 and has hit the ground running. A franchise industry veteran, Kathy was tasked with showing the world the whole brand picture, making it clear that Massage Envy’s mission was to make self-care and wellness a regular part of people’s daily, weekly and monthly routines.
What challenges have you encountered as a woman in business?
Beth Stiller (BS): Early in my career it was a more prevalent issue. Being a young, ambitious woman surrounded by middle aged men with a lifetime of experience was more than a little intimidating. I’ve been lucky to progress through my career surrounded by strong, ambitious women and men who have understood the unique challenges of female leaders trying to do it all – be successful mothers, wives and business professionals.
Kristin Paiva (KP): Prior to my current position, I was in private practice as a commercial litigator, which, in many ways, still bears the marks of a male-dominated specialty. Though I was lucky to practice in firms that championed gender diversity and allowed people to move up based on hard work and ability, I still encountered situations where the expectation was that a man would perform a particular task, not me. In my experience, these situations were rarely caused by outright gender discrimination, although that certainly has happened, but instead resulted from gender stereotyping. That is, I was challenging preconceived gender roles, and I needed to reset expectations.
Kathy Collins (KC): Early in my career, as I walked into a client meeting, my boss said, “Now remember – your job is to look pretty. Leave the talking to me.” We’ve come a long way. I don’t want to say that without exception, everything is fair and equal. I am proud of Massage Envy and other companies I have worked for that have made significant changes and moved their brand and working environment forward.
What opportunities does franchising offer female entrepreneurs?
BS: When a business owner has skin in the game, they are more likely to get involved, voice their opinions, and look for best practices to make their business better to help grow and support the brand. While the pressure to deliver industry-leading programs that build franchisee profitability is immense, the reward when you get it right and can help female franchisees have a brighter future makes it all worthwhile.
What can franchisors/the franchise industry do to support and obtain more female franchisees?
KP: It’s possible that franchising suffers from challenges similar to those I experienced in private practice. The industry has historically been male-driven, current and potential stakeholders continue to expect that men will play the key roles. The best way to breakdown and change outdated expectations is for women to grow their visibility as industry leaders.
What advice would you give women in leadership positions in franchising?
BS: Everyone needs to find their own style of leadership as opposed to conforming to a text book model – male or female, leading with authenticity is the only sustainable way to lead. I personally struggled for a few years and found myself trying to adapt to fit the styles that seemed to be successful and rewarded in the big corporate male-dominated environment I was part of. When I stopped trying to fit in to someone else’s idea of how a leader should act and react I began to lead in a more authentic way that was “my style.” I connected better with my team, felt more comfortable and found greater success.
KC: I think it’s important for women not to change who they are in a professional environment. If your personality happens to be fun, loud and smart – be fun, loud and smart. Always. Just stay true to who you are.
How has Massage Envy empowered you and other women – franchisees and the executive team – involved in the brand?
BS: We are blessed to have some amazing female franchisees in our network, and the best way to continue and grow is to give these women a chance to take on larger roles in the brand. Having four of these female business leaders represent the network on our National Franchisee Advisory Board brings their unique perspective to the table and raises their exposure, expanding their influence.
KP: The leadership team is a primary reason I joined Massage Envy. I’m proud to say that within our team I work beside two phenomenally talented women in Beth Stiller and Kathy Collins. Each day, I am inspired by their depth of knowledge and ability to execute within their departments.
What advice would you give female franchisees and entrepreneurs?
BS: Put yourself in positions to listen and learn from those with experience. Learning and mentoring isn’t always a structured or documented program; for me it was about the unscheduled conversations before and after the official workday when people let their guard down. Getting their insight in to the issues of the day always gave me a broader view and perspective.
KC: Ask yourself if you are ready to run a business, represent a brand, and create an environment that others dream of being a part of. Then ask if you’re ready to do that every single day, for the rest of your working life. Make sure you believe in the brand with every fiber of your body, heart and soul. No brand endures forever; but great brands led by great people reinvent and disrupt. Hold on tight and enjoy!!
Find out more about Massage Envy here.