We had the good fortune of connecting with Russ Mitchell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Russ, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I work with a form of sensory-motor education called the Feldenkrais Method, which isn’t very well known to the public at large. It’s mostly (and avidly!) used in the fine arts community, and in elite sports. It’s a very powerful way of “creating talent” while minimizing repetitive strains, etcetera. The executive-summary version is “I can’t fix you, but I can help you get very comfortable moving, while helping you learn how to stop breaking yourself in the first place.”
As a lifelong martial artist and fencer with an appalling list of injuries, I’ve already put the Method to use on a private basis for years now with my students. But my wife works for a big-name logistics company where stress and strain is a big deal, and I had the thought, “gee, there are a lot of businesses out there that have really high turnover because what they do is just plain hard on the body. If I could help them reduce turnover that way, I’d be reaching and helping a LOT more people.”
But to do that, you can’t just walk up and say “hey I have skills, give me access to your employees.” You have to get professional. So that’s what I did.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I offer lessons, not “sessions.”
At the end of the day, I teach people how to move better, and how to get better at sensing how they’re doing it. Sometimes it’s in a structured environment (I teach historical fencing, for example), but often it’s in response to people coming to me and saying “I need help.” They have issues which are often described as structural problems or else muscular imbalances, such as flat feet or sciatic pain, which have them going back week after week for band-aids that make them feel better but don’t solve the underlying problem, which is that they’re “driving with the parking brake on” by moving in ways which cause wear and tear, and eventually, pain. For example, I have a 100% success rate helping people who think they’re condemned to having flat feet learn how to have perfectly good arches they can maintain themselves. Once they understand how to use their feet and legs better, they don’t HAVE to come back to me week after week, unless they just get bitten by the self-improvement bug and want to see how far they can go.
There are only a handful of people doing what I do in Texas, so this isn’t well known, and thus the challenge has been to let people know “this is real, and it can help you.” That has meant the absolutely classic “build word of mouth and social proof that you can GIVE. VALUE.”
My initial approach, and one I’d recommend for anybody starting off on a similar position, is “demonstrate value.” For me, that meant initially building word of mouth in the fencing and martial arts community where I’m active, where people could literally see me help somebody radically improve their technique in just a few minutes (I’m still waiting for a frustrated golfer, but you start with people you know). They didn’t necessarily understand what I was doing, but what they did understand was “he gets results.”
While I’m very much still in the “paying my dues phrase,” there is no question but that word-of-mouth endorsements were the only thing that carried me through Covid, when I went from a small number of clients, to literally zero. Because there were people who knew I could bring them value, I was able to keep afloat giving lessons online, when otherwise the business would surely have failed. And now I’m slowly buildling the practice and increasing the number of people I can help. So give value, and when people describe that value positively, don’t be afraid to ask them for referrals.
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?
Okay. I’m a fencing and martial arts nerd, so I already hang out where I’d take them — Warlord Combat Academy, where people train to do medieval-style sports in heavy armor. Full disclosure, I teach fencing there, but this isn’t self-serving — I don’t teach armored tourney combat, I *shamelessly fanboy on it* and watch as many events as I can get. It’s an amazingly friendly (and family-friendly!) and inclusive community. If you’re my kind of nerd, watching Pro Fights is a Friday night very, very well spent.
For food and drink, well, I’m an Irving boy. DFW has great eats, but I’ll always give shout-outs for all our really awesome little hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving really amazing, and really amazingly diverse cuisine. I’m a big fan of Cafe Mandu on Beltline (really good Momos and Nepalese food), and of the Argentina Bakery (empanadas, espressos, and a fabulous bakery case). I could easily burn through four paragraphs listing all the REALLY GOOD small restaurants we have just off Beltline and 183, and hardly scratch the surface of what’s available.
Las Colinas is a major venue for shows and Cons. As a quieter type, I tend to be a “hit the park” (or dog park even) guy, for good conversation, though I do have to shout-out outside of Irving, for the Beckles Dance Company in Oak Cliff. Loris Beckles is a gem, and he and his dancers deserve to be known far and wide.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Charlie Brumfield of Artisan Dice makes, among other things, high-end gaming dice for collectors. While I’d pitched people in companies that I knew and with whom I had good relationships on my concept, I hadn’t made any traction (and then of course Covid made that much worse). Charlie’s was the first company willing to … Roll The Dice…. (sorry, couldn’t refuse) on hiring me to work with his employees in order to reduce the amount of painkillers they were having to consume engaged in repetitive tasks in a fabrication and assembly setting.
Artisan Dice was my first consultation where I was able to determine as proven fact, rather than just conjecture, that what I do doesn’t have to be a one-off “boutique” learning experience, but has direct real-world application in light industry and other job environments to help people get through their shifts without pain.
I am very, very happy for the opportunity to give Charlie this shout-out.
(b/w Photo Credit – Troy Medinis)