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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

The Florida Academy: Making a Difference in Massage and Skincare

Aug 30, 2013 09:40AM ● By Linda Sechrist

When L. J. Zielke graduated first in his class from the University of Louisville School of Law and was awarded a scholarship to work with barristers in London, England, it never crossed his mind that someday he would be the co-owner of the Florida Academy, in Ft. Myers. It wasn’t until several years later while he was working with a client at one of Louisville’s top 10 law firms that the opportunity presented itself. “My client, who eventually became my friend, was involved in the spa industry and also owned hotels and assisted living centers throughout the Southeast. He valued my knowledge and expertise in education law and suggested that we establish a partnership,” says Zielke.

Today Zielke, who is licensed in Florida as well as in Kentucky, not only lends his legal counsel to the academy for massage, skincare and nails, he also teaches the required 10-hour class in Florida law that students need to obtain their license to practice. “I love teaching the class because I’m an ardent supporter of our students and I’m as passionate about our industry as I am about the law. I have several objectives for students in my class: to understand the law and ethics in a way that will pertain to them in the real world as well as in testing for their license; to understand the legal concepts of being an employee in an employee/employer relationship or owning their own business; and to make it clear how they can benefit from becoming civic minded,” says Zielke.

“We educate everyone from the perspective that they could be the owner of their own spa or the owner of the next Massage Envy franchise. For instance, Charlotte Harbor Massage, owned by academy graduates who employ one esthetician and four massage therapists [also graduates], won ‘Best Spa’ in Harbor Style magazine’s Harbor’s Hottest 2013 contest. This is a great testimonial to the academy and the kind of distinguished achievement that we love to celebrate.”

Zielke and his partner invested a significant amount of time researching schools before purchasing the Florida Academy in 2009. “We did our due diligence for schools from east to west and settled on this one for three reasons—since 1992, when it first opened, the school maintained a stellar performance record, was totally free of any Better Business Bureau or attorney general complaints, and was located in an area flourishing with large spas and day spas where students could be gainfully employed after graduation. Additionally, there is a significant faction of the community that prefers a holistic approach to health care,” clarifies Zielke, who notes that Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties are where a majority of the academy’s students reside and work.

The trend that Zielke’s partner saw occurring in his spa businesses was the impetus for the two men to invest in more massage and skin care schools. “He observed that graduates of schools who were coming to work in his spas were without clinical experience and had largely never worked on individuals who were older than 60. Since students learn by practicing on one another, and the average age of students is between 25 and 35, spas have concerns regarding their older clients. We knew for sure that this was our chance to solve this problem and allay concerns about graduates from our schools,” advises Zielke.

Reflecting on his decision to leave his litigation practice in education law to teach Florida and Kentucky law to academy students and influence the future of massage schools, Zielke notes that he prefers to work with academy students. “In litigation, if a client does win a case, they rarely walk away completely happy, because the process is a burden and there are always large legal fees to pay. Students, on the other hand, come in a little hesitant and worried because they haven’t been in school for a while, but leave as confident professionals with a new sense of life and perspective on the world. It is such a far more rewarding way to spend my time,” he says.

Location: Colonial Center, 4387 Colonial Blvd., Ft. Myers. For more information, call 239-489-2282 or visit

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