I’ve been in this industry for more than 28 years, and honestly, I don’t really remember why I got into it,” laughs Maria Tillberry, owner of Expectations Salon, Spa, & Boutique in Monument, Colorado. “But I still love it. I love learning things about it and getting into it. I think the right word to describe it really would be passion. I’m passionate about it.”
A native of Minorca, Spain, a tropical tourist destination off the country’s eastern coast on the Mediterranean Sea, Tillberry received her initial training there, earning her license in 1975. She spent the next few years working in a health and wellness spa in Minorca, building her esthetic skills and developing a love for the clients. Tillberry then moved on to her first ownership venture, creating her own business on the island.
“Meeting the people and listening to what they have to say is really the best part for me,” she says. “You learn so much, and they really appreciate having someone they can just talk to.”
After meeting her American husband who was in the military, and eventually getting married, Tillberry moved across the Atlantic to the United States, arriving in California in 1980. For the next few years, she was removed from the spa scene, using the time to work on her language skills, as well as to learn the American culture. However, after relocating to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1984, she found herself in the spa environment again.
“I worked in a big name spa in Colorado Springs starting in 1985,” says Tillberry. “It offered a lot of treatments, but I wasn’t friends with my clients. We were friendly, but there wasn’t really a relationship.”
Looking to escape those impersonal aspects of city life, it was with the next move to the small mountain town of Monument, Colorado, that the relationship dynamic began to change for her. Situated between the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs, Monument is a town of approximately 2,000 people, and, at the time, contained only a handful of beauty salons, with none devoted to skin care. “I thought that I should start one up before anyone else thought of the idea,” Tillberry says, and Expectations Salon, Spa, & Boutique was born in 1998.
In the nine years following its inception, Tillberry’s focus on esthetics, her European training and style, and her desire to have a client connection has made Expectations a town success, attracting not only vacationers, but also a loyal local clientele. The small practice has six employees—many of whom have been with the spa for years—and fosters the kind of friendly, personal atmosphere Tillberry was previously lacking.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” she explains. “Clients can get a service that is the quality of a bigger spa, and still have a relationship—even friendship—with the person who is working on them.” Tillberry also keeps her services affordable, knowing that the repeat business of one loyal client who appreciates a high-quality, regularly scheduled service can far outweigh the one-time experience of a big spender.
Creating a space where the esthetician and client are friends also has improved her desire to ensure client satisfaction, and is one of the main reasons people keep coming back for more. “I will make the clients happy one way or another, and I will make sure to give them the best facial possible,” says Tillberry. “Whatever needs to be done, that’s what I’ll do.”
She stays dedicated to her craft by being innovative with her treatments and techniques as well, knowing the importance of staying fresh. Following industry trends and learning as much as possible about news and events, Tillberry frequently seeks out continuing education opportunities for her team members and herself, saying “I have a whole wall filled with diplomas.”
She also has discovered her friendly spirit and go-getter attitude work well within her community. She has become active in several local organizations, working with fund-raising and other causes, and is involved in industry associations such as the American Association for Esthetic Education (AAEE). This type of involvement has gone a long way toward cultivating those relationships that are so important to Tillberry. “I know my clients on a first-name basis and some of them are coming here once a month, so we always have something to talk about,” she says.
Constantly looking to improve these relationships and help her clients, Tillberry’s plans for the future of her business involve adding to its Internet presence in order to make browsing and purchasing products available online. Tillberry also continues to improve the quality of her treatments and takes an annual trip back to her homeland of Spain to seek inspiration and ideas.
However, despite where and how her inspiration comes about, it’s pretty clear that Tillberry and Expectations Salon, Spa, & Boutique have truly found a home in Monument.