Friday, August 14, 2009
David & Janice Weitzer: A passion to live a healthy life makes them a healthy living.
Listen to the audio interview at www.voicesoflivingcreatively.com
“We could see that the suburban development was marching toward us like a tidal wave,” said David Weitzer, about the need for privacy that grew into the bamboo nursery he and his wife, Janice, now operate. “We realized that the wonderful farmland feel was not going to last. So the initial bamboo hedge started with about 40 plants. It really turned into a business because people saw the bamboo and started driving up the driveway.”
Bamboo Oasis, now the main income producer for the Weitzers, is a suburban bamboo farm growing 35 hardy varieties of bamboo plants for residential users. Together, David and Janice also operate a massage therapy practice, a private yoga school and traditional Thai Massage classes. The couple met in a restaurant on a blind date when they were 19 years old. Three years later, they were married and had the first of their three children, Josh.
As young parents, the couple decided to find a new way to balance earning a living and raising a family. “Our family is very important to us,” said Janice. “By getting married young, we actually grew up together in every aspect of our lives.” Over the years, they’ve done a wide variety of creative jobs: David has worked building specialty wooden parts for classic cars, wood working and cabinetry in his father’s furniture factory, assembling office cubicle walls and a variety of custom carpentry jobs. Janice has studied natural herbs, organic gardening, worked sewing custom clothing, had a booth at Saturday Market and helped with the office cubicle business as well.
Their creativity, flexibility and commitment to make their interests into paying work developed into the range of home-based businesses they operate now. An interest in yoga that started in their teens led the couple from taking classes to teaching them. What started out as working for a large yoga school has evolved into a small, private yoga school which they operate out of their yurt just a few steps from their home.
“Our approach to yoga has shifted,” David explained. “We used to teach very large, structured classes. We’re teaching really small groups, now, that really allows us to make everything we do individualized.”
Janice became interested in massage therapy during her herbal studies at the Naturopathic College. After getting their massage license in 1988, the couple discovered Thai massage in 1989. This led them to further study in Thailand in 1992. They still go back there every year bringing others to study with their teacher. In addition to practicing the healing art of Thai massage, David teaches weekend massage retreats at The Oregon School of Massage throughout the year.
“The massage practice is the main source of income for me,” said Janice. She is also a Master Gardener through the Oregon State University program. “It’s all about community for me,” she explained, “doing the massage work, the garden work and some of the bamboo work.”
“If you look at the world, we’re all growing together,” she continued. “Now, it’s time for us to grow together again, as a community.”
As they’ve grown together as a couple and raised three healthy children, their businesses have also continued to thrive. It’s always been their passion for a healthy lifestyle that has fueled their interests and their businesses. And it’s been a model for their now grown children as well. Their youngest works at the farm and inspires visitors with his passion for bamboo. Their two oldest are now in their thirties and living in Spain.
“Both are independent teachers, and do translation work,” said Janice. “They love it and they’ve made it a business. They could see it can be done because we taught our children that being independent is important.”
With children grown, the western model of working would lead to retirement, but David and Janice don’t see that working for them. “Passions we hold we’ll never grow out of,” said David. “I could be teaching Thai massage till I’m 95 and still love it. The healthiest elders you will ever meet are the ones who stay active, have a hobby or passion they love.” Janice added, “Most people I know who are real entrepreneurs, they never retire. They’re always doing something they’re passionate about.”
Through the years, income has flowed in and out through a variety of different jobs, but they’ve been able to sustain their life by making conscious choices.
“In general we’ve always selected less debt and worked towards something that we wanted or needed and that has helped us stay more on the path. We’ve always had cycles of income,” David explained. “Some of the things we tried didn’t work for us because they were more financially oriented than happiness oriented.”
As they continue to grow together personally and professionally, they have some words of wisdom for others looking to make their passions evolve into a healthy life. First and foremost, they suggest taking some business classes in accounting and marketing. But it’s networking that really makes their business work.
“You build up a network when you are your own boss,” said Janice. “People recommend me, that’s how I get my business.”
“I think if you get good at what you’re doing, people will seek you out,” agreed David. “Remember that it’s not the product, it’s the communication that goes on, listening to the person and knowing what their needs are.”
Some might worry that networking might lead to less business and more competition, but David sees it a different way. “I do not see myself as a competitor with anyone in any of my business,” he explained. “If you love something, keep studying it, there’s always more to learn. It keeps you inspired and happy. So, don’t wait, start some small cottage business, something you like doing, you work when you want to. When you’re your own boss, you can’t get fired.”
For David and Janice Weitzer, their life, work and family are their passion. “Developing your lifestyle as an art form, it puts an element of fun and style into living your life,” David said. “For us the internal goals of being happy and healthy and having a good family life has been our primary drivers.” It’s their way to not only a healthy life but a healthy living as well.
Bamboo Oasis website: www.bamboooasis.com
Thai massage website: www.traditionalthaimassage.org