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Eat, Sleep, Breathe Business: 5 Tips to Consider When Starting a Spa

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So you’ve always had a dream to one day open your own spa. And you've decided that you are ready to take the first steps in making this dream come true. But where do you start? How do you even begin? Well, the first thing you should do is prepare yourself.

“Be prepared to be married to your business,” said Stacey Grondahl, owner of WeDoMen spa. “You have to eat, sleep and breathe your business. You have to believe in everything that you are doing. You have to believe in every product you use.”

"If you have a client base, ask yourself, ‘Do I have enough to pay for rent, insurance, taxes, products on the shelf, office supplies. Do I have enough to make it on my own?’" —Lisa Stewart, owner of Solia Spa

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Here are five tips that might not have thought about to help you begin down the path of being a spa owner.

1. Live Lean for the Dream

Consult with a financial planner to discuss your spa dreams. He or she will help you build your financial plan so you know how much you will need to save and maybe how much you need for in a loan.

Dedicate a year to living lean and start stocking away as much money as you can. Cut the Starbucks, the unnecessary online shopping and eating out. If you are serious about owning a business, you need to make sure that every dollar is going back into it.

“You don’t know what is going to go wrong in the build out phase. You never know how much construction, orders and products that you will need starting out,” said Lisa Stewart, owner of Solia Spa.

2. Build Your Knowledge Base

Most likely upon earning your license, you won't have the capital you need to start your own business. In the meantime, the best thing to do is get experience from people who have been there before. While planning your break into spa ownership, find a position that can teach you valuable on-the-job skills.

“To be in this field, you have to have a client base. If you are right out of school, that is going to be hard to have a running business,” said Stewart. “If you have a client base, ask yourself, ‘Do I have enough to pay for rent, insurance, taxes, products on the shelf, office supplies. Do I have enough to make it on my own?’ If it is a yes, get started.”

While you are working at a spa, seek out the experience and information that you will need to operate your own business. Owning a spa isn’t all about being a boss. You need to know how to market, sell and protect your brand.

Get involved in marketing activities. Learn the ins-and-outs of social media marketing and traditional marketing techniques. Additionally, learn the details that go into maintaining a business, such as how do you hire, what do you do in case of an emergency and how to come up with a business plan.

"If you are trying to do everything on the planet, one you aren’t going to be original. Two, it is going to be very costly. You need to find what you are amazing at and stick with that." —Stacey Grondahl

If you have gained all the experience you think you will need and have saved enough, plan your exit strategy with your current spa. Be open and honest with your employer. Don't burn any bridges and make clear you won't poach their customers.

“When I first graduated beauty school, I told the owner that I was working with said that someday I'm going to own my place. I would never poach her client. She was the one paying the rent, taking on that financial and legal responsibility. Those are her clients,” said Stewart.

3. Find Your Niche, Forget Your Competition

Chances are you are entering into an area that already has spas with established clientele. You might want to offer all kinds of treatments to attract as many clients as possible. This would be a mistake.

“If you are trying to do everything on the planet, one you aren’t going to be original. Two, it is going to be very costly. You need to find what you are amazing at and stick with that,” said Grondahl.

By finding your niche, you show clients why you are vital to their skin care or beauty needs. By researching and studying a specific segment of the business, you become an expert in it.

“Find what you are good at. Hone in on that. You don’t have to be everything to everybody. Don’t worry about the competition is doing. It is none of your business,” said Stewart. “They have a different clientele. Focus on what you are good and what your spa’s doing.”

4. Location, Location, Location

After you have saved money, built your skills and client base, and found your niche, the next step would be to educate yourself on everything possible about the nitty gritty of owning a business. Learn about local zoning laws, signage, requirements and ordinance. Talk to your city manager or building department directory, and they will tell you what you can do and not.

One of the best ways to address this is by hiring a spa consultant. They will walk you through the layout and suggest where treatment rooms should go. They will help you out through all the phases of starting up a spa.

“Hire a spa consultant. They will help you out with the layout and the flow. They will tell you where to put your retail, your relaxation room and treatment room,” said Stewart.

5. A Passion and Drive

Though planning, hiring a spa consultant and saving money are essential to starting a business, there is one quality that any would-be spa owner needs to possess in order to be successful.

Without drive and determination, your spa will not succeed. You must eat, breathe and sleep your business and make your business your number one priority.

“Passion leads to determination, which leads you to your success. Please, don't ever give up on your passion, it's your purpose in life,” recommends Stewart. 

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