Necessity Drives Massage Therapist's Invention – By Mira Reverente
Calabasas Patch – January 13, 2011
The device that launched Heather Karr’s Calabasas-based business makes it easier to give massages using golf balls. That’s right, golf balls.
Massage therapist Heather Karr had never invented anything in her life.
But the former graphic designer was good at visualization. So when she needed an alternative massage tool, she got an idea.
A few years ago, a client had suggested using a golf ball to get an even deeper-tissue massage. Karr give it a try. It worked for the client, but she found that applying pressure with the golf ball hurt her thumbs.
Fearing long-term injury, Karr spent months researching more suitable and “thumb-friendly” alternatives, and hit upon something she thought might work. “I also consulted with an orthopedic hand surgeon who gave my prototype a thumbs up,” she quipped.
The result is the SPAball Kaddy, a 2-inch-by-3-inch polymer plastic holder for the golf ball. Its ergonomic design allows massage therapists such as Karr to give effective massages without injuring themselves.
But why use a golf ball in the first place? Karr explained that the golf ball has the perfect size, shape and texture to relieve muscle tension caused by stress and overactivity.
Before discovering the golf ball, the hot stone was one of Karr’s preferred massage tools in her three years as a massage therapist.
“It’s also good for deep tissue but I can’t use it too much, as it’s hard on the wrist,” she explained.
Karr found herself on the CBS show The Doctors last November in time for the launch of the SPAball Kaddy, which is operated out of a Calabasas office. Sales went through the roof that day.
“We sold over $2,500 worth of products on that first day,” she said proudly.
Aside from the SPAball Kaddy, Karr also developed the KaddyBACK, which enables people to use the golf ball to masssage themselves. Made of corduroy, the KaddyBACK holds a golf ball in the upper back area and stays in place on the shoulder while one pushes it against a wall or a chair.
“It’s for everyone, athletes and non-athletes alike,” she said. On her Web site is an instructional video for potential customers to view that explains the technique. Karr also keeps connected on Facebook and Twitter and attends spa trade shows to monitor industry trends.
“I also want people to consider the products as gifts and promotional tools” for their own businesses, she said. Several massage therapists have approached her asking if their names or logos can be imprinted on the golf balls or embroidered on the KaddyBack.
Hospice volunteer work
Beyond deep-tissue and sports massages, Karr, who lives in Newbury Park, specializes in therapeutic touch. She practices the technique at Buena Vista Hospice Care and Assisted Home Hospice, where she has been a volunteer since 2008.
Volunteer hospice work is near and dear to Karr, who lost her sister to breast cancer in 2002. As a symbolic gesture, Karr’s lawyer filed the patent for the SPAball Kaddy on her sister’s birthday. “I wanted a unique way of honoring her,” she said.
Karr has pledged to donate a portion of her products’ proceeds to Our House of Hope, an end-of-life care home that is slated to open its doors in the Conejo Valley sometime in 2011.