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Spa Owner Finds Successful Niche

By: Nicole Urbanowicz
Posted: October 31, 2012, from the November 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
E. McDowell

E. McDowell

Erica McDowell has reached the sweet spot of success by not being a jill-of-all-trades. “You cannot be an expert at everything. You need to focus on and market what you’re good at,” says McDowell, who is an esthetician and owner of SKYN Lounge in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 36-year-old self-proclaimed risk-taker decided not to try to do it all. Instead, she defined her originality by creating a concept spa based on her specialty: highly-focused 30-minute skin care treatments that target issues such as brown spots, acne, fine lines and wrinkles.

“I saw that there are a lot of women in the workforce,” says McDowell, who was raised in Louisville. “That’s why I created these 30-minute services that treat these skin concerns that everybody’s telling me about. They don’t cause downtime; you can go back to work.”

The spa, which opened in May 2011, already has a roster of approximately 1,000 clients, including 20% men, who use her services, which include peels, exfoliating, dermafiling, dermaplaning and other clinical skin care treatments. “You have to be very niche and very selective with a business,” says McDowell. “I don’t mind if my clients go somewhere else to get their hair or nails done. That’s fine, because at least I know that they’re going to come back to me to get their skin care treatments.”

However, her success didn’t happen overnight. McDowell built up her experience in the beauty and skin care industry for more than 16 years. She made her first foray into the industry as a part-time makeup artist at the cosmetic counter at Lazarus department store when she was pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of Kentucky. After graduating, she moved to San Francisco to work as a makeup artist for a photographer, and later worked as an account representative for the Tony & Tina makeup line. She loved the beauty industry and decided to go back to school to get her esthetics license, which she received in 2006. “At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to do makeup and skin care,” she says. One thing led to the next and soon, she was working for a plastic surgeon performing chemical peels and laser treatments.

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