We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Hutchins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karen, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
For many years I worked at home so my work life and personal life kind of just blended together, and not always in a good way. Since work was always around me it was hard to “stop”. Any chance I got I would feel compelled to check in on my business things. When I opened my brick and mortar business two years ago I finally felt what it was like to leave work and not necessarily be around it while being at home. I thought this would be great and I would have a better work life balance because I could leave work at work and be present at home with my family when I was not at work. But then, as a new business owner I found myself staying longer and longer at the business and I was barely home and away from it. I was getting to a point where I was really feeling how much I was working and was trying to figure out a plan to make changes. Then COVID-19 hit and I had to stop everything. My business had to temporarily shut down, forcing me to slow down and re-evaluate things. I’ve really appreciated the time that I had at home during the shut down and I realize how much I have been missing being at home with my family while I was working so much before. I am taking this time to re-set, adjust my schedule and my expectations for myself for when my business reopens. I am hiring more employees so that I don’t have to do as much myself, and putting in place a training plan so that I can feel confident that my business will run okay without me being there all the time. I know that my work life balance has not been balanced in the past, but I appreciate being forced to slow down and have the time to re-evaluate and make a game plan for moving forward so that I can feel like my life is more balanced in the future.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have been a dual licensed massage therapist and esthetician since 2000. I love doing what I do and helping people. Being able to do both massage and skincare is one thing that sets me apart from others in my industry since most therapists only do one or the other. My clients love it because they can come for both a massage and a facial (or wax) at the same time and not have to change rooms or change therapists. In my previous life, I was a computer programmer. I sat at a computer all day developing neck, shoulder, and wrist problems. Now, as a massage therapist I am able to help other people who have these same problems, and I can relate to them because I came from a corporate background and know what it is like to sit at a desk all day. I became interested in skincare because I had problems with acne when I was younger. At the time, I had never had a facial and had no idea what to do about it. I ended up seeing a doctor who prescribed harsh medications, making my skin more sensitive. If I had known what products to use at home when I was younger, I would have been able to avoid the medications and the sensitive skin issues. As an esthetician, I am able to recommend proper skincare products and give guidance to my clients before they see a doctor, which can often help the problem before it gets out of hand, and many are able to avoid using harsh medications. Having a corporate background and also problem skin in my past allows me to relate to my clients in a different way than other therapists. I feel being able to relate to people in this way has helped me get to where I am now. When I decided to make the leap and expand my business by opening up a spa and hiring employees, I definitely had challenges, but I think my corporate background and computer programmer brain has given me the ability to shift from therapist to business owner and wear both hats. I still see clients, but now I also run a business as well. Being a business owner is not an easy feat. Even though I knew it would be a lot of work, I really had no idea how much work it would be. You can read books about it and talk to others who have done it, but it’s one of those things where you just really don’t know and can’t anticipate how it will be until you’re in it. I have had to push myself a lot, but I have grown so much as well. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve gotten this far and I know I can do it. I also have a good support system. My clients, friends and family are all my cheerleaders and fill me up when I’m feeling down. I want people to know that when you’re overwhelmed with running a business and feel like you just can’t keep going, you’re too tired, or you don’t have enough time or energy, you’re not alone. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed and find it inside you and push yourself. When you really want it, you can make it happen!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I had a friend visit San Diego, one place I would take them is to the beach. You have to visit the beach in San Diego! We would go to the beach a couple of times, at least. One day we would go to Mission Beach. We would rent boogie boards to play in the water and then bikes to ride along the boardwalk. I love going up and down the boardwalk and people watch at the beach. After spending some time in the water, we’d go to Belmont Park where we could have lunch, ride some rides and visit the arcade. I think that Mission Beach and Belmont Park make for a fun San Diego day, especially with the kids! Another day we would go to Ocean Beach and visit OB Dog Beach with the dog. I love the vibe in OB! We could hang out on the beach for a while, spend some time walking around the neighborhood and then have lunch at a dog-friendly restaurant sitting outside with a view of the ocean. One of my favorite gems in San Diego is Balboa Park and we’d probably spend a couple of days there too. We would get the Museum Pass so we could hop around and visit some of the museums. Balboa Park has so many great museums! The next day we’d go to the San Diego Zoo, which is also in Balboa Park and is another place in San Diego that you have to visit when you’re in town. Another fun outing that I love to show off to San Diego visitors is to take a ride on the ferry across the bay to Coronado. It’s so nice to be out on the water and when you get across the bay you can see the San Diego skyline. After returning to downtown San Diego on the ferry we would walk down to Seaport Village for some lunch and shopping. I also love taking people to Old Town when they visit San Diego. There is more shopping, San Diego history tours, and Mexican food. My favorite restaurants in Old Town are Cafe Coyote and Old Town Mexican Cafe so we’d go to one of those for dinner. Mexican food is a staple in San Diego, and whenever we have people from out of town that’s what they want to eat. Besides the Old Town restaurants, we usually hit up a taco shop like Filiberto’s one day, and then of course the fish taco truck that is always at the end of our street in North Park.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shoutout to my husband and my son. Without them I would not be where I am today! My husband, Stephen, has stood by my side during my business journey. He supported me when I made the decision to expand my business, he has been my sounding board for ideas and he is always there to talk through challenges. He has helped me with everything from picking out decor and filling up the water jugs to hanging mirrors and installing the water heater. My son, Zenden has stepped up to help me so much too. He comes to Firefly every day after school and helps out with whatever he can, from emptying the trash and cleaning to greeting clients and being the host for my events. And, when Stephen has had to be gone on work travel, Zenden is sure to be there for his mom. I love these guys more than anything, and I couldn’t have done any of this without them!