Indulge Yourself

Entrepreneur manages a successful boutique spa while keeping her day job

For Tonya Edmonds, launching Skin Savvy Spa Express started as a means to protect herself from a possible layoff and as an investment that would provide her with another source of income. Now, her day spa serves as a haven for clients longing to relax, be pampered, and indulge in soothing ambiance.

Edmonds has a solid background in the information technology industry. But in 2001, the dot-com bubble burst and she braced for the worst. The following year, she opened Skin Savvy in Washington, D.C., in 2002.

“I always enjoyed going to spas,” Edmonds says. “I also discovered that Washington, D.C., seemed to be behind the times as far as a good day spa was concerned. I wanted to offer trendy services and results-oriented skin care at a higher level not offered in D.C.”

As it turns out, Edmonds was not sacked from her IT job. In fact, she is still in the IT business even as she experiences success in the spa trade. Skin Savvy generated revenues of $250,000 in 2004 and is expected to pull in earnings of $270,000 in 2005.

Skin Savvy is a day spa that offers a variety of services, such as facials, manicures and pedicures, massages, and hair removal for men and women. Edmonds estimates that 85% of her clientele are women between the ages of 25 and 50 while 15% are men between the ages of 30 and 50.

According to Edmonds, estimated startup costs of about $170,000 were very low, compared to most day spas. Employee costs were not factored in the startup expenses since Edmonds does not receive a salary from the spa, and her employees are paid commission for the services they perform. She also financed the venture with a $90,000 SBA-backed loan. Major expenses included leaseholder improvements on the property, buying equipment, Website creation and maintenance, and purchasing supplies and products sold at the spa.

Trying to open a spa while working full time was difficult for Edmonds since she was learning about the spa business and becoming a business owner at the same time. “The beauty industry is very different from the corporate IT world, so I had to adjust my management style,” says Edmonds. “In the IT world, communication can be accomplished via e-mails and memos. This is a challenge for an absentee owner in the beauty industry because your business requires verbal, face-to-face communication.”

Edmonds recalls how quickly she used up cash to manage the spa during the startup phase. “I needed to generate more money to cover the front desk and administrative salaries,” says Edmonds. “I had to think outside the physical space of the spa to make money.” Her solution was to expand the list of services. In January 2005, she responded to the requests of her guests by offering mobile spa services. Now, her mobile spa technicians travel to the local hotels in the Washington, D.C., area to perform on-site massages, facials, body treatments, and nail services for individual clients or small groups.

The fact that Edmonds didn’t give up

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