Ordinary-extraordinary women (Part 1)

Leonie Benigno: From Saddle Club to Supermum

Every month on a Sunday afternoon, my husband and I make the hour-long journey to leafy Oakville to seek relief for our aching office-worker muscles. Leonie Benigno, founder of Spot On Remedial Massage, is something of a local legend, delivering a reliable combination of effective treatment and friendly conversation from her in-home clinic.

An experienced massage recipient, I was initially sceptical about my father’s rave reviews. However, I quickly discovered that her business name was, well, spot on! Leonie’s intuitive, precise technique relieves, resolves and prevents all manner of muscle pain, owing to her commitment to lifelong learning, her pragmatic approach to natural therapies and her passion for helping people.

An experienced massage recipient, I was initially sceptical about my father’s rave reviews. However, I quickly discovered that her business name was, well, spot on! Leonie’s intuitive, precise technique relieves, resolves and prevents all manner of muscle pain, owing to her commitment to lifelong learning, her pragmatic approach to natural therapies and her passion for helping people.

Leonie’s surname and dark brown curls suggest a Spanish or Italian heritage, but she was born and bred in the sprawling north-western outer suburbs of Sydney, her exotic looks springing from her father’s Norfolk Island origins. Benigno is Leonie’s married name, shared with her Filipino husband of nearly ten years.

 

The first of four children, Leonie strikes me as a typical eldest: dependable and conscientious. She is also a born people-person, and has business in her blood. Starting her first enterprise at only 21 years of age, Leonie proved the naysayers wrong by recruiting a bustling clientele and making a steady income within just over a year. Not surprising, given that she was following in the entrepreneurial footsteps of Mum, Dad, Grandpa and various uncles.

Today, Leonie balances three small businesses and two young children with humour, grace and a sizeable dollop of spontaneity. Leonie’s day-to-day, as she describes it, frequently involves “flying by the seat of my pants.” While she is privileged to earn an income pursuing her passion for health and wellness, Leonie didn’t always want to massage people for a living. She initially wanted to massage horses for a living. Yes, you read that correctly.

Like many other young girls, Leonie was horse-obsessed. Spurred on by the Saddle Club television series as a child, Leonie dreamed of a career in the industry. Her parents were supportive, purchasing a horse bedspread and driving her to horse-y events every other weekend. Unsure how exactly she wanted to work with horses, Leonie did a performance course through TAFE, where she encountered an inspiring teacher who worked as a horse massage therapist. It was a lightbulb moment for Leonie.

The teacher’s insights into horse behaviour and her ability to improve horses’ wellbeing, enhance their performance and address behavioural issues awoke in Leonie a passion to diagnose and correct muscular issues in the elegant creatures that she loved. Unfortunately for Leonie, the doors to a career in horse massage “kept slamming in [her] face.” It was at this point that her mum suggested Leonie consider combining her interest in massage with her evident people skills, and pursue a career in natural therapy.

Ten years later, Leonie is a qualified, practising massage therapist and naturopath, and also manages a massage clinic with a business partner that operates alongside other sports medicine practitioners. She is continually seeking to develop skills and knowledge and is passionate about helping people thrive and pursuing excellence in her field. And how does she feel about the transition from horses to humans? Well, in her own words, “you can ask a human where the pain is; you don’t have to risk a kick in the head!”

In addition to starting her own business at 21, another of Leonie’s proudest achievements is surviving the accidental home birth of her second child late last year. Bub came so fast they didn’t even make it to the hospital, so, without any pain medication, the family staged a home delivery. Three months later, already sorely missed by her clients and needing to step in as breadwinner after her husband lost his job, Leonie was back at work.

Life is busy, and Leonie is always on the go, but that’s how she likes it. Leonie’s friends and relatives know well that she is not one to sit still. Her supportive husband, Marlon, and parents, with whom they live, help make it work, always encouraging her professional pursuits. Leonie’s life motto is, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. The last few months have been challenging, but Leonie considers herself a more confident wife, mother and professional as a result.

In ten years’ time, Leonie would like business to be thriving and to have childbearing done and dusted. She and Marlon would like three kids, maybe four; and their long term goal is a home of their own. For now, her priority is to enjoy not being pregnant for a while, and to focus on enjoying quality time with her two little ones and investing energy in growing her businesses.

While Leonie’s interest in horses has taken a backseat to her family and career, she is keen to instil horse-madness in the next generation. When she isn’t doing business admin or practising natural therapy, she can often be found introducing her two children to the horses on surrounding properties.

Thank you, Leonie, for agreeing to let me grill you, and for being a great example of how to enjoy both business and family with the help of a supportive partner!

***

If you enjoyed this ordinary-extraordinary women profile, read Part 2: Angie Dinh, the ultimate foodie

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