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Community Service: Get Involved

Erin Zaleski October 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

These days, a successful spa business no longer is just about helping clients to feel better. It’s also about doing good. Building relationships is a tenet of any flourishing spa—both with clients and with the surrounding community. By getting involved, spa team members can take pride in making a difference, while creating camaraderie with other staff and increasing the facility’s visibility.

“We are in the business of health and wellness. The spa industry has an obligation to give back,” says Hannelore R. Leavy, executive director of The Day Spa Association (DSA). “Doing so creates a buzz in the community, which drives business back through your door.” Participating in community service projects has become so fundamental that each time a potential DSA member applies for accreditation, the organization “looks very closely at community service involvement,” according to Leavy. Here is how a few spas throughout the country are getting involved, and how you can become more active in giving back.

Becoming inspired

Janie Patton’s inspiration to do more came from her 97-year-old mother. The owner of The Fountain Skin Care Centre in Kingwood, Texas, and a longtime member of the National Charity League, Patton has donated services and products to annual auctions that benefit nonprofits, such as the National Woman’s Club, for many years. But it was a visit with her mother, who resides in an assisted living facility, that presented yet another way to make a difference.

During her visits, Patton would pamper her mom with minispa services. “One day she told me that the other residents always talked about how lucky she was to have a daughter care for her in this way,” Patton says. “I realized that a lot of those ladies didn’t have family who visited and that they were in need of some attention.”

Since then, Patton and her team began making monthly trips to local nursing homes and assisted living facilities where they offer residents services such as manicures, brow waxing and arm massages. “They love us and appreciate what we do so much,” she notes. “We do it because our hearts are in the right place, and I truly believe that you reap what you sow.”

Choosing a cause

Many spa owners have incorporated community service and fundraising into their business philosophies, often with impressive results. Bonnie Hagen, co-owner of Enhance Face & Body Spa in Hartsdale, New York, was moved to feature menu items targeted to cancer patients after watching her own mother battle lymphoma for six years. “Mom described the difficult experience of going through cancer treatment,” Hagen says. “My sister and business partner, Sherrie Eskow, and I conducted research that found that there weren’t many spa treatments available to cancer patients.”

In addition to hosting an annual fundraising spa party to benefit nonprofit organizations, such as the American Cancer Society and the Advanced Research Foundation, Enhance Face & Body Spa also offers services tailored specially to cancer patients and caregivers at a reduced price. Hagen notes that the response has been wonderful. Today, this clientele regularly is referred to the facility.

With so many charities from which to choose, the options can seem a bit dizzying at first. However, as promoters of health and well-being—particularly among women—many spas opt to get behind organizations that target female health issues, such as breast cancer and domestic violence. Another important cause for the skin care industry is melanoma, where working with organizations such as the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) can be another way to show support. Sometimes the best approach is to take a look at the surrounding area and determine where your help may be needed most or, similar to Hagen, to seek a cause that is close to your heart.

Whether you choose to support cancer research, a woman’s shelter or a local school, getting involved should become a core component of your business model. “Setting yourself apart is not just about advertising and providing great services,” explains Laurie Helmick, owner of Luxe Salon in Denver. “It is based on awareness. Philanthropy is a part of what we do to be visible.”

Starting small

Each year, Helmick hosts an anniversary party to raise money for charities such as SafeHouse Denver—a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing family violence. Last year, after weeks of planning and preparation, Luxe Salon hosted what she calls “a world-class event,” complete with live entertainment, food from one of Denver’s hottest restaurants and door prizes. The spa also held a silent auction for the first time, during which attendees placed bids for in-demand items, such as tickets to a Denver Nuggets basketball game, weekend getaways and jewelry. Helmick’s goal was to raise $4,000 for SafeHouse Denver, and she wasn’t disappointed. “We raised $8,000!” she exclaims, a total she attributes to the success of the silent auction. “We had approximately 150 people attend.”

Although not every spa has the resources to produce a party of this magnitude, there are many other cost-efficient ways to make a difference. Donating products or your time may not seem like grand gestures, but both go a long way toward helping others, as well as in establishing a presence for your business in the community. Although Helmick “spares no expense” for her annual soiree, when she was building her spa, she started small. “Take your team members to shelters and other events. Offering treatments or donating gift certificates are great ways to begin,” Helmick suggests. “We donated a year of free haircuts and styling to five different organizations throughout the Denver area for their silent auctions. We also have partnered with recreation centers that bus their seniors in for a day of beauty.”

Getting team support

When interviewing potential team members, Helmick is very direct about her salon’s commitment to service. “Three-quarters of the applicants don’t return for a second interview,” Helmick says. “But those who do are fascinated. They pound our door down to work here. We want those people who are committed to a bigger picture.”

Finding the right people will contribute tremendously to your efforts and increase morale. “I am lucky that my entire team wants to be involved,” Patton says. “We work as a team, and I don’t expect them to do anything that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.”

Not that Patton has to ask. “Each team member steps forward and volunteers,” she says. “In the past, there have been individuals who made it clear that they wouldn’t do this sort of work without being paid, but they are no longer with us.”

A dedicated team also can make things more fun. “We always have a great time,” says Angela Cortright, owner of Spa Gregorie’s in Newport Beach, California, about her facility’s involvement in The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Orange County Race for the Cure. “When we hire people, we let them know that this is a big part of what we do, and they all get it. It is infectious!”

Spreading the word

Once you have decided on the “hows” and “wheres” of getting involved, the next step involves marketing and publicity. “I like to see spas use 3–5% of their gross marketing budget of 20% of the spa’s total budget on community service-related material,” says Cortright, who also has attended numerous spa conferences on marketing.

Spreading the word about your spa’s involvement can be accomplished by including listings in local publications, placing announcements in your spa’s newsletter, putting notices on your Web site or posting fliers around the facility. In addition, marketing your charitable participation doesn’t have to be expensive, Cortright notes. “Everyone thinks you have to spend a fortune on marketing and publicity, but the great thing about community work is that it doesn’t have to be the case,” she says. “Look at the areas where your target audience frequents. Adding your name to coffee cup sleeves will cost 7 cents apiece, and who purchases $3 lattes every day? People who visit spas.”

Clients themselves often are eager to lend a hand with fundraising events, and they can become one of your best sources of publicity. Hagen points out that word of mouth made her work well known throughout the neighborhood. “It was a matter of one client telling another until people became aware of what we were doing,” she says.

Along with spreading the word, clients also can keep you clued in about key issues and organizations that are the most in need of help. “When becoming involved, you really get to know the people in your area,” Patton says. “All of our clients are aware of what we do, and it has become very personal because you may know someone who has a child who is dying of cancer.”

Making a difference

Last June, Hagen and Eskow’s innovative work officially was recognized when The Day Spa Association presented the two sisters with the Distinguished Day Spa Award 2005. Hagen says that, since the acknowledgment, interest in her work has increased even more. Also, Cortright’s spa was named Best Day Spa by The Orange County Register’s 2005 Reader’s Poll. Such public response can serve as a reminder as to just how essential community service has become in setting a business apart from its competition.

However, as much as Cortright is pleased with her achievements, she insists that the motivation to donate goes far beyond business success. “We are in the trade of healing and giving, and we have such an obligation to contribute that to fail to do so is a malfeasance of power as an industry,” she asserts. “If you have the good fortune to have business success with a healthy team and wonderful clients, I think it is your duty to give back.”

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