When cousins Jataon Whitley and Teychenne Whitley collaborated to co-own Milk & Cookies Kids Spa and Salon, located in New York City’s Upper East Side, running a kid-focused business probably seemed exciting and achievable in 2015. Walk-ins were not legally problematic, nor were mask requirements, or social distancing anywhere in sight. But when the pandemic popped up, the challenge of keeping a thriving destination for kids afloat became challenging.
According to its website, the spa is a destination “where fun, beauty and delicious meet.” The spa offers the ultimate experience for kids to get pampered, enjoy a delicious complimentary treat with each service, in an 1100 square-foot space that features four hair stations, four manicure stations, two pedicure stations, places for facials, and even a “Cool Dudes” section specially designed to suit young boys. Thus, the business has been all about providing in-person services. Instead of giving up because of the pandemic, survival mode kicked in for Jataon and Teychenne.
According to Essence, the cousins developed innovative solutions, such as a new gaming app, and an expansion of their “Splat” collection of non-toxic kids nail polish. The pair also introduced socially distanced birthday parties for kids, to stay afloat despite COVID-19’s curveballs. Essence reports that the pivot has been successful.
“We’ve always had the vision to expand our kids spa concept globally and digitally. When COVID-19 hit, it prompted us to move forward with one of our big dreams for the brand, which was to go digital and create an app. With everything becoming virtual, we said, why not, and we developed Fun, Beauty & Sweets, the beauty salon-themed answer to Candy Crush, a match 3 game which encourages kids to solve spatial puzzle problems,” Teychenne reportedly said to Essence. “This app is also a way for our brand to creatively engage our existing clients that might not yet be coming into the spa, and potentially find new ones. In fact, clients can now earn loyalty points, aka ‘Cookie Points,’ digitally. For each destination they complete in the game, they can earn 50 points that they can redeem for free services in-spa. Cookie Points were previously only accumulated by in-store spend.”
Additionally, Essence said that Teychenne shared that for anyone committed and skilled enough to complete all of the destinations, through achieving the topmost level of the game, Milk & Cookies allows them to select the next official color in our Splat nail polish collection. Plus, successful players can even name it in their honor, with a limit to 3 total color introductions.
In the interview, Jataon remarked that by-appointment-only, and COVID safety protocols, will be with them for a while. She believes that their technicians and stylists will be wearing masks for the foreseeable future.
“However, we are starting to see last year’s birthday parties re-book, albeit much smaller parties,” Teychenne added, during the Essence interview.
While providing a few tips to fellow business owners, Jataon dropped a few golden jewels of understanding, in the interview.
“Now is also the time to get really involved in your business on the front lines. I know for us, COVID has brought with it, understandably, a high stress situation,” Jataon said. “You have to be mindful of where people are, be empathetic to what they’re going through, maybe they have a different background than you. We have had to instill a greater sense of calm, empathy and sensitivity at our business, while still standing firm on safety protocols.”