Deborah Ramsey went to work straight out of high school in the 1970s, working her way through the now-familiar rounds of layoffs, promotions and job changes at a series of banking, insurance and consulting companies in Philadelphia, her hometown. “I did my bit,” she recalls.
In 2005, she was working as an administrator for a technology consulting firm that was undergoing restructuring. “A lot of people were being laid off or leaving. I had been through two big layoffs before, I knew what they smelled like.” Ramsey decided to leave voluntarily, spurred by the changing work environment and caregiving responsibilities at home, where she looks after a mentally disabled daughter, an aging mother and mother-in-law, and her husband, a disabled veteran.
At age 52, she was ready for a change. Over the years, she had developed a strong interest in herbal remedies and massage therapy to help her daughter, who also suffers from asthma.
“I figured I had 20 good years left of life. I knew I couldn't keep doing what I was doing, and I needed to do something for myself. And I had been getting massages myself and really enjoyed it. It seemed to me women my age needed to start relaxing and enjoying life more, so I started Googling massage schools and wound up going back to school to get trained as a professional massage therapist.”
While she trained, Ramsey remodeled her basement and installed a massage table; and her first “clients” were friends who agreed to let Ramsey practice her new skills on them. Her practice flourished, and she moved out of the basement in 2009 to open her own inner city storefront natural wellness and spa, with help of the Women's Opportunity Resource Center, a nonprofit that helped Ramsey with training and a $35,000 loan.