I had the pleasure of meeting Amber Felice last weekend at the OC Ultimate Women’s Expo. From the moment she introduced herself to me, it was apparent how big her heart was. Amber is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Irvine and even with the budget of a college student, she has still found a way to make a difference in her community.
Amber offers free hydromassages to locals in South Central, Los Angeles. She even hosts events for and opens her doors to the homeless. Please read more about Amber and her mission to help others below:
What is your passion/story behind your business?
Often self-care routines are associated with luxury when they should be viewed as a necessity. Self-care facilities such as spas and gyms are largely absent from the unincorporated area of South Los Angeles, where I am a native. I was inspired by my own experiences of outsourcing wellness services in other counties, where most people take modern conveniences for granted, to start my wellness program. I can no longer wait for self-care amenities to come to my neighborhood, so I must create these services for myself and my community. It’s time to change the way we think about wellness services and how we implement new ways of stress management into our lives.
Hydromassage is a great alternative to traditional massage therapy because there is no touching, no disrobing, and the client stays dry during the treatment. Some of my clients prefer not to be touched by another person during a traditional massage treatment because they may have past trauma, which may cause triggers from being touched by a stranger. Additionally, traditional massages hold an increased risk for injury, even at a reputable massage facility. I have been injured by the hands of a masseuse, during a traditional massage, and so have some of my clients.
Why don’t you charge?
As part of an honors research project I developed, I wanted to use an instrument of health and wellness that would reduce the risk of injury, eliminate the need of hiring a wellness professional, and keep costs low. I approached Joe Holland, CEO at Sidmar, a hydromassage bed manufacturing company in Minnesota, and told him that I wanted to create a wellness project and stress study through UC Irvine. In exchange for a free hydromassage, the women would fill out surveys measuring self-perceived stress and resilience. Mr. Holland has been very supportive of my project and graciously donated the HydroMassage bed to me for my wellness project. The bed arrived all the way from Minnesota to South L.A. on Valentine’s Day. To pay the blessings forward, I will keep my services free for the people of the South L.A. community.
My services are free because I do not want to create any more barriers to wellness. Too many South LA residents are low income, have various ailments, and/or have poor access to healthcare and wellness services. As an homage to the community I have lived in the last 20 years of my life, I wanted to do something special that would bring awareness to the importance of self-care and urban stress management. Hydromassage is the safest and most efficient method of delivering a stress management program, free-of-charge.
What made you feel there was a need for your services?
Urban stress is aggravated by inner city living with a higher influx of external factors, such as violence, crime, over-policing, poor access to healthcare, high unemployment, overcrowding, higher prevalence to mental health disorders, pollution, and other factors. Acute and chronic stress creates wear and tear on the body, eventually leading to poor quality of life and the onset of disease. Creating the free hydromassage program helps to remedy and alleviate some of the physical symptoms of living in a stressful environment, which also creates awareness on healthy coping when dealing with urban stress in my community.
Why is your target demographic homeless people?
My services are for all people who live and/or work in South Los Angeles. Majority of my clients are women of various ages and backgrounds who reside in South Los Angeles. I recently worked with a homeless population of women through the non-profit Los Angeles Community Action Network at a pop-up women’s wellness retreat on skid row and it was very rewarding! One middle-aged woman told me she had never had a massage in her life and I was so touched by her enthusiasm to receive a hydromassage treatment.
What are you in school for?
I am an Honors undergraduate student and researcher studying Public Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine. While providing hydromassage services at the Paul Robeson Community Center in South L.A. for 9 weeks, I collected scientific data on the effectiveness of stress reduction and self-reported stress and resilience levels using various surveys. I have recently concluded my research study and will be showcasing my work at a symposium at UC Irvine’s School of Public Health in late May. The participants of the study enjoyed my wellness program so much that I have decided to keep it running at a new location beginning mid-late May.
What is your goal for your business?
My short-term goal is to continue the hydromassage program in South Los Angeles at no to low cost. I recently attained a new location in South Los Angeles at the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. which was founded by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator and philanthropist.
I also would like to file as a non-profit status 503c. Within the next few years, I would like to expand my holistic and wellness services and have my own wellness studio. Since I began the hydromassage program, a lot of my clients have been requesting mobile services, so I am considering purchasing a 15-foot mobile cargo trailer with the help of crowdfunding.
What is your call to action?
My call to action is to continue to receive blessings and pay them forward to the people of my community. Like so many people in South L.A., I face many barriers which could be seen as obstacles, however, I see them as opportunities to learn. After the senseless murder of South L.A. native and philanthropist Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom, I feel even more obligated to continue his legacy by giving back to the community he invested in and loved so much. “The Marathon Continues” with me.
What support do you need in order to keep your services going?
Since I started the free hydromassage project, I have spent most of my own money to carry the program. Some of my clients have made donations, and I have received a small grant of less than $500 to start the research component of the data collection on my study for stress and resilience. Since I will be moving into a new location where I have to pay rent, I may have to start charging for hydromassages with a suggested donation of $10, but no one will be turned away for lack of ability to pay. I would like to file as a 503C to receive grants to pay for my new commercial space. For now, I am open to donations. More information about donating to my program can be found on my website at www.amberfelice.org/contact
Any other info you would like to share?
Using UC Irvine as a platform to conduct my very first research project, being blessed by Joe Holland at Sidmar with his gracious donation of the HydroMassage bed, and having a residency for 9 weeks at the Paul Robeson Community Center has truly been a dream come true. I can’t wait to continue to expand the program, and welcome everyone to receive a free hydromassage for my grand opening mid-May 2019. To book an appointment now, go to amberfelice.org/book.
How does your service benefit one’s health?
While you lie down on the dry hydromassage table, the surface beneath the table uses high power water jets to propel warm water, which promotes relaxation. Hydromassage works by combating muscle fatigue with minimal strain on joints. The heated table expands blood vessels, increases blood and lymphatic circulation, detoxification, and metabolism. Hydromassage also releases endorphins and neurochemicals to relieve pain while a sedative effect increases mental clarity. Customized hydromassages are adjusted for temperature, length of treatment, and intensity. A typical hydromassage is about 15 minutes in length.
South Central Wellness Co.
Soft opening Thursdays and Fridays beginning late May 2019