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Stories of Success… With Philippe Hennessy

Contact Author Katie Anderson

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Philippe Hennessy

Succeeding in the beauty industry can be difficult, particularly in the spa industry where competition is high, the hours are long, and the only thing constant is change. The path to success can be rocky, but skin care efficacy should be shouted from the rooftops. Philippe Hennessy knows this challenge well—25 years ago he took his vision of spa skin care door-to-door during the industry’s infancy to introduce estheticians to a brand that he believed in. He and his wife Sylvie believed in their concept so intensely, they wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but they needed to get estheticians to believe in it first. Little did they know that those estheticians would do the shouting for them later as their biggest champions. Skin Inc. sat down exclusively with Philippe Hennessy to find our how he and his wife Sylvie brought Pevonia through two and a half decades to be what it is today.

Skin Inc. (SI): What fueled you to start your own brand in 1991?


Philippe Hennessy (PH): There was a considerable need for effective, spa-quality skin care products and an exclusive selection of in-spa treatments to specifically empower spa professionals. The word “spa” comes from the Latin, “Salus per aquam,” meaning, “health through water.” Drawing water from the sea for Thalasso-style treatments in the ancient style of the spa is not possible in many places, and the U.S. is a big country. Pevonia was created to support the needs of a skin care specialist to create a “city spa” with products and treatments for all skin types with natural ingredients formulated in exciting new ways.

SI: What were your first steps to start the brand?

PH: We had been working as a distributor for another skin care line that was not interested in [our concept]. We believed in what Sylvie had created so much that we gave up our distributorship, and I began marketing and selling Pevonia.

SI: How did you initially market the brand?

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PH: I would go door-to-door [in New York City] every day to skin care institutes, salons and the few existing spas, explaining why Pevonia was the best skin care line for estheticians. It worked! We stocked our first inventory in a room in our apartment and then rented an apartment for the business. Our business was beginning to grow, and the cost of doing business in New York City was high. During our summer vacations, we would come to Florida. One year, Sylvie and I decided, “We love this place, so why not build Pevonia here?” Conducting business in Florida substantially reduced our costs, freeing us to invest even more in developing the company and the brand.

SI: What was the spa market like in 1991, and how has that changed to today?

PH: There really was not a true spa market as it exists today. In the early ’90s, the majority of the business revolved around skin care institutes, elite salons offering skin care and elite hotels offering basic spa facilities with very few of them actually offering a comprehensive spa service menu. U.S. consumers did not know or connect to the word “spa” aside from thinking we were referencing a hot tub or Jacuzzi. Aside from Europeans, international consumers did not either, and the slight connection was tied to massages. Licensing, certifications and post-graduate training was a rarity, and the brands that committed to education were the go-to source. Since the love for education flows through Sylvie’s veins, education has always been the foundation upon which our success was founded. Today, there are spas around the world, industry professionals are in high demand and greatly respected, and the spa industry is recognized as one of the fastest growing while being perfectly aligned with the wellness trend…one we believe will become as much a staple as exercise, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

SI: What has remained the same in the spa market?

PH: The love, passion and commitment industry professionals exude has stayed the same. This industry is comprised of true caregivers who want to make a difference. They want to share their knowledge for the betterment of all, and they truly believe in wellness.

SI: How have you adapted your business strategies to accommodate this change?


PH: We specialize in anticipating change because we started with the relentless goal of revolutionizing the spa industry.

SI: How have your products changed to accommodate this shift?

PH: Our expert product development team is constantly scouring the world for the latest scientific discoveries in natural skin care to promote healthy, radiant and youthful-looking skin in non-invasive ways to maintain the skin’s integrity. Our delivery systems and high tech manufacturing must constantly evolve to ensure we stay at the forefront at all times without ever compromising quality or results.

SI: What future changes or new technology is in store for the brand?

PH: Pevonia launches multiple treatments and products yearly to stay on top of trends. This is our investment and commitment to our beloved industry and its admirable professionals.

SI: How do you help estheticians/spa owners use your brand effectively?

PH: [Our] partner support benefits start with education, on-site and regional training, skin care science and proper treatments application. To use our brand and succeed, we offer total support, including all aspects of education, marketing, sales, business and retail.

SI: What in your entire career, if anything, would you do differently?

PH: Although there were some positive takeaways from our time with an equity partner, overall, I believe we could have moved forward without that experience. Pevonia wasn’t as vibrant and thriving in this period. We did not feel the same level of trust and security. The strategy and direction of Pevonia was not up to par with our passion and vision for the brand. This was less than favorable for our valued distributors and loyal spa partners. Now [we] are back as we have always loved this industry and know our business better than anyone else, and we believe in it wholeheartedly.

SI:. What one piece of advice would you offer to a new spa owner?

PH: Sylvie and I always believed in focus and uncompromising knowledge and quality. Commit to your goal, and concentrate all of your strength and efforts on it day and night. When I have seen failure in this industry, I usually find a lack of commitment, such as a distributor or customer carrying too many lines, or not fully identifying and lining up all resources behind a clearly defined goal. Concentration is key.

SI: What do you think is on the horizon in the spa industry?

PH: The industry is evolving at an incredible pace and is positioned for growth within the wellness sector. There is an evident shift in the consumer mindset pertaining to spas from pampering luxury to a wellness lifestyle. The spa business model will continue to evolve into more of a wellness and medical hybrid in order to truly meet the needs of clients/guests. A strategically developed and well integrated wellness model will fuel longevity and success.

SI: What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t running the business?

PH: Sylvie and I are blessed with a wonderful family, and now we are grandparents. I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than spending time with our two darling little granddaughters. It does not matter what we do—every moment is precious.