The Great Escape

nice when you’re not dealing with a budget, but you can get a $2,000 bed that can serve all purposes and then spend double on linens to decorate the bed.”

Sanders learned firsthand how difficult it would be to open her doors. She used her personal savings and approached friends and family for startup capital. All told, she amassed $10,000. Knowing that wasn’t enough, she took out an $18,000 loan from the East Harlem Business Capital Corp., a nonprofit community development and financial organization. With nearly $30,000, she launched her business, figuring it would be enough to get her started. She was wrong.

Because of the lack of funds, Sanders knew she’d have to start small, offering only a few services, and do some serious bargain hunting. So she attended the International Beauty Show (www.ibsnewyork.com), a convention for the spa industry. She met vendors and negotiated to purchase their floor models at cut-rate prices. All told, she purchased two facial beds, a massage bed, and four chairs and estimates she saved more than 50% than had she bought retail. “You have to try to negotiate with the vendors on the selling floor,” Sanders advises. “Some of them have traveled a distance and they want to off-load their samples, so it’s the best place to strike deals.”

As Sanders learned, capital is king when it comes to breaking into the spa biz. However, there are other things potential spa owners should keep in mind:

Focus on customer service. Customers enter day spas to get away from it all and if a spa doesn’t deliver, they will go elsewhere. Although consumers aren’t experts in the day spa business, they are keenly aware that it must have the basic allure: “They know it’s a relaxing place to get away; they want it to smell
good; they want it to sound good, and they want to be greeted by a smiling face,” explains West-Harrison.

Keep it clean. This may sound obvious, but spa sanitation is the prevalent concern among both spa professionals and spa goers. Nail care tools, hair bowls, waxing pots, linen, flooring, rugs, and carpeting can all be home to germs and bacteria. There’s usually a stack of regulations to ensure you’re in compliance before you open. Each state board of cosmetology will be able to direct spa owners to more information.

Have the right décor. Since colors and atmosphere affect a person’s mood, it’s important to use soothing hues and lighting to facilitate relaxation. “We don’t want anything loud,” says Makisha Boothe, who owns Ya Ya Spa L.L.C. in Denver. “So you don’t want colors, lighting, or music that is loud. Everything should be soft and warm.”

Boothe, 29, opened her spa three years ago after learning about the industry while working her way through college. While a student at the University of Colorado at Denver, she worked at several salons, learning the business side and gaining valuable experience. With only $5,000 on credit cards and a business plan, Boothe had an idea to provide a trendy, holistic

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