Maryann Tidwell does not shy away from hard work – or a challenge.
The Gilbert mother and business owner decided to become a massage therapist, juggling her full-time job and 2-year-old son during the day and attending massage school at night.
“It was a long year, and I didn’t get much sleep, but I felt so strongly that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do,” said Tidwell. “Massage therapy is so much more than a career for me – it’s a calling.”
During her 50-week training, Tidwell’s instructors advised against opening her own business – at least not until she had a few years’ experience under the belt.
“The more they discouraged me, the more motivated I became,” she said. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”
Tidwell also spent the year polishing her networking skills. And when she completed her program, she doubled down, going to naturopaths’ offices, medical clinics and even local markets to set up her chair and provide no-cost massages to passersby.
“At that point, it was about giving people a feel for what I could do,” she said.
Her hard work paid off. Six months after graduating from massage school in 2007, she circled back with the relationships she had made – including a contact who worked for a large corporation in Phoenix. That relationship led to her hire as the onsite massage therapist for the firm’s employees.
But she continued to build her personal clientele and opened her own business: Nurtured Touch Bodywork.
She also focused on expanding her knowledge and skillset. Shortly after receiving her massage therapy license, she jumped right back into student mode to earn certifications in prenatal, postpartum and infant massage.
When the recession pummeled companies nationwide in 2008, Tidwell’s business remained strong – despite the fact she did no advertising and had no online presence.
“I feel so incredibly lucky that my fledging business survived and thrived during such a difficult time,” she said. “I do believe the networking paid off, and as I began to see more and more clients, my business grew with referrals. As a small business owner, word of mouth truly is everything to me.”
But COVID-19 presented a whole new set of challenges. When the massage industry was shut down in spring 2020, she was forced to close her studio. It was four months before she started treating her clients again.
“The worst part was that I couldn’t help my chronic pain clients,” she said. “I worked hard to stay connected with clients during that time, providing them with tips and suggestions to keep up on their self-care and keep their bodies healthy. The response was overwhelming and affirming.”
She also used that time to prepare a new office at Crossroads Towne Center at Gilbert and Germann roads on the border of Chandler and Gilbert. Her schedule filled up immediately when she opened in 2020.
Then, Tidwell took a major step forward as a businesswoman and hired her first employee, massage therapist Sidney Campbell, who attended massage school with her.
“Sydney is so passionate,” Tidwell said. “She is so skilled in helping people feel better, both physically and mentally. She also has a lot extra training in a variety of modalities, so she can treat clients with a huge spectrum of needs.”
The two of them had more clients than they could handle, so Tidwell hired another therapist, Clara Brown, in August. She added a second massage studio, also located at Crossroads Towne Center.
“Clara is passionate about her work, especially in the areas of PTSD, pediatric, oncology, lymphatic and relaxation,” Tidwell said. “Her clients absolutely love her.”
“I am beyond blessed with amazing clients who not only partner with me in their wellness and entrust me with their bodywork, but refer me to their family and friends, too,” she said.
For her clients, it’s less about luck and more about Tidwell’s skill.
“She was such a good listener and so genuinely interested in making me feel better,” said Scott Springer. “In addition to giving me the best massage ever, she was very knowledgeable about the body. It was clear she really cared.”
Tidwell has completed hundreds of hours in additional training, including medically focused bodywork like ACE MediCupping and lymphatic massage. In recent years, she has seen a steady uptick in referrals for lymphatic massage – especially from healthcare providers.
“The lymphatic system is the most under-talked-about and under-prioritized system of the entire body, but that is starting to change,” she said. “This specialized massage is gaining a lot of interest among medical providers. For example, plastic surgeons now recommend lymphatic massage pre- and post-surgery to help the body bounce back.”
Her son, Austin, is a high school senior who is taking flying lessons and aspires to be an airline pilot. Twelve-year-old Lexi loves musical theater and spends all of her spare time on stage. Tidwell and her husband, Justin, juggle working parenthood together and also seek out opportunities to spend time as a couple.
Information: massagebook.com/NurturedTouchBodywork and Instagram,