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Business Rx: Approach just in need of a little massaging

Fanny Mandelberger, center, received her first contract to provide massage therapy to the cast of
Fanny Mandelberger, center, received her first contract to provide massage therapy to the cast of "Cats," leading her to realize there was a business opportunity to specialize in massage for the performing arts industry. (For The Washington Post)
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By Special to Capital Business
Monday, June 14, 2010

The Entrepreneur

Serendipity led licensed massage therapist Fanny Mandelberger to her career niche in 1985. She headed to New York to pursue a degree in occupational therapy, but started to explore more creative avenues. Mandelberger ended up in a massage therapy program at the Swedish Institute. One of her early clients happened to be a performer in the Broadway production of the musical "Cats," and that person offered to put in a word for her. That led to Mandelberger's first contract to provide massage therapy to the cast of "Cats" and her light-bulb moment -- that there was a business opportunity to specialize in massage for the performing arts industry.

"I always loved theater, and I've always been a huge supporter of the arts," Mandelberger said. "Somehow that opened up opportunities for me through word-of-mouth."

Her "Cats" contract was followed by gigs with "Starlight Express," "Miss Saigon" and the nationwide and Canadian tours of "Riverdance." She handled the contracts herself, and when other shows expressed interested, she hired independent contractors that she trained to work with singers, dancers and musicians.

Mandelberger originally called her company Massage on Broadway but changed the name to Massage Off Broadway when she relocated to Florida in 1996 and later moved to Washington.

The pitch

Mandelberger

"Massage Off Broadway has been servicing the performing arts industry nationwide for more than 25 years. We pioneered the idea of providing preventative care during a show's entire run. Injury prevention and enhancing performances while being cost-effective is our specialty. We serve more than just theater productions -- we work with the entire performing arts industry, including film, music, dance, theater and arts communities.

"We are a team of independent contractors highly trained in the needs of the performing arts industry, from the artists to the crew to the administrative and development staff. Doing business with Massage Off Broadway is effortless as there is one contact person who customizes the contract with the client, whether it be an individual performer or the whole cast and crew. We do all the billing, scheduling and all correspondence. We are nationwide, so when a show tours, they make one phone call and a client gets serviced in our conveniently located offices nationwide, on site at the hotel or at the venue.

"I'd love to have every production nationwide have Massage Off Broadway as their premier massage therapy provider. The main challenge is convincing a show's producer to include this service to their cast and employees as part of the overall production budget. We'd love to explore additional marketing strategies and figure out which ones work best for us."

The Advice

Asher Epstein, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business


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