BRINGING A SILICON VALLEY MINDSET TO SPA
by Nelson Lane
Pain points are an everyday thing. Awkward interactions with others, clunky software in the office and general inconveniences are so common that they become part of our reality, and more often than not, we accept them for what they are. Sometimes, however, there are those who come along and refuse to put up with these pain points.The spa industry is full of people whose specialty is relieving pain, no matter what shape it takes. This month, Pulse spoke with four spa disruptors who are bringing a Silicon Valley mindset to spa in an attempt to eliminate pain points and drive this evolving industry forward in innovative ways.
Mattison Avenue Salon Spa Suites
According to Modern Salon’s Rental Realities, 50 percent of the salon industry workforce will be self-employed by 2020. With this statistic in mind, paired with the increasing interest in community-based businesses such as WeWork, Leon Capital Group started Mattison Avenue Salon Spa Suites in December 2016 with a small acquisition of five salon suites and spas in the Dallas area. This seasoned group of real estate experts and investors had detected multiple factors that were driving professionals to be their own boss without the high cost and overhead of locating and operating a building.“
The Mattison Avenue business model was created to provide a place where a professional can own their own business and have the freedom necessary to create their own workplace,” said former ISPA Board member and Mattison Avenue COO Sharilyn Abbajay. “The industry still really needs the development ground of traditional spas, but the American dream is to get out on your own and have your unique personal brand. This business model is for established therapists who can leverage their personal brand and clientele to take their following to new and independent heights.”
Detailed research is done by in-house real estate experts to determine the best locations with maximum visibility and highest traffic for their tenants. Mattison Avenue facilities are operated remotely and have on average 44 suites that range between 8,000 and 11,000 square feet. “We separate ourselves from our competition in our willingness to invest in beautiful, state-of-the-art furniture and fixtures to give our members a solid foundation of equipment.
“We are known for our extreme responsiveness and our close relationship with our tenants. Everything we do is about the people. We are here to shepherd our tenants. We have a vision of expansion across core U.S. markets as we continue to grow at an unbelievable pace. This growth is proof of magic happening behind the scenes.”
After having just turned 40, Samer Hamadeh and his wife Alison were both starting to feel the aches and pains that come with getting older. Alison had just gone through two pregnancies and was pursuing natural means of recovery and wellness. This led the couple to launch Zeel, an online marketplace for beauty, wellness and health services.
“We wanted to connect consumers with the right providers and quickly recognized an unmet need in the wellness space,” recalled Hamadeh. “Customers wanted same-day, in-home massages, but the massage industry couldn’t deliver that service. We made a pivot to massage on Demand when we noticed that a majority of appointment requests were for massages within a very short period of time. That shift is now reshaping an entire industry.”
Zeel offers on-demand, at-home massages in as little as an hour, 365 days a year. They also offer an on-demand staffing solution for spas, in-room massage bookings for hotel guests and onsite treatments for corporations. customers love the convenience of Zeel’s consumer app, while hotel groups and corporate clients enjoy navigating the back-end software and staffing solutions Zeel provides on very short notice. One location that is able to use Zeel to supplement their staff during rare situations is the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe. Spa Director Erica Korpi explains that “Lake Tahoe, with its seasonality, presents unique opportunities where it is difficult to employ high numbers of full-time service providers. Working with a company like Zeel allows us to avoid turning away business during group buy-outs or holiday weekends when our staff is already completely scheduled.”
“I am so proud of the thousands of massage therapists who are paying their rent and feeding their families on their extra income from Zeel,” said Hamadeh. “We are working state by state to properly build a new way for people to work, in their own way and on their own time. We hope that soon, the regulatory environment will catch up to the new realities of work.
“Wellness is a revolution, not just an industry, and we are proud and excited to be part of a trend that is helping people live longer, feel better and focus on the things that really matter. Stay tuned, as 2019 is an exciting time for us.”
Soothe, launched in 2014, is an app-based massage provider that was also born from the pains of a loved one.
Growing up, Soothe founder Merlin Kauffman gained a unique perspective from watching the incredible work his mother did in the health and wellness industry as a home-based provider. As he grew older, he began to realize that she was underpaid and underutilized, oftentimes waiting around for a client who may or may not show up. Mixed with his passion for travel and frustration at not being able to get a massage at any time of the day or night after a long flight, he decided to start Soothe, which allows consumers greater convenience in obtaining a spa-quality massage when and where they want.
Jeff Bishop, VP of operations at Soothe, says, “Soothe offers Swedish, Sports, Deep Tissue and Pre-natal massage in the privacy of one’s home, office or hotel. These offerings vary from slow, gentle, relaxing strokes to targeted deep tissue muscle therapy. Soothe also offers assisted stretching during sports massage sessions.” Bishop says the company plans to launch in Germany in mid-2019 and that they’re particularly excited about growing Soothe at Work, which is a corporate chair massage and assisted stretching program that helps lower stress levels, increases focus and boosts morale and productivity in employees.
“We really want the customer’s experience with Soothe to be phenomenal, which is why we have such a rigorous on-boarding process. The vast majority of our therapists have been hand-vetted by a massage expert and must demonstrate professionalism and an excellent intake before being accepted onto our network. We grew from eight to over 70 markets in 36 months, and the Soothe team accomplished this with great with enthusiasm.”
“We’re all avid massage goers and view the landscape as having two limited options,” said Squeeze CEO/co-founder Brittney Driscoll. “On one end, discount chains offer affordable pricing, but a subpar customer experience while high-end hotels and spas offer an amazing, but financially unattainable experience for a regular monthly or weekly massage. There just wasn’t anything out there that delivered on the experience we were looking for.”
Squeeze was created out of personal necessity and is the brainchild of Michael Landau & Alli Webb, co-founders of Drybar. This new spa concept eliminates cumbersome transactions electronically, giving guests the ability to come in, receive their treatment and leave without any interruptions.“Many of the key aspects of the concept solve for the clunkiness that exists across the industry—having to call individual locations for appointments, waiting in long checkout lines or dealing with clunky transactional processes and awkward in-person exchanges. We created a completely stress-free experience by allowing guests to book, pay, tip, rate and review through our app at their leisure so when you’re in the shop, you have a truly relaxing time. We’ve also incorporated the ability to adjust lighting, temperature and music in our suites as well as a ‘ready’ button on the table to maximize guest comfortability and privacy. We really tried to think of all of the little moments in the experience that could be improved and implemented things we felt people would really appreciate and enjoy.”
Brittney hopes to build and scale their brand nationally through franchising, believing that there is great opportunity for Squeeze to be in hundreds of cities across the country.
“Starting a business from scratch is full of daily ups and downs,” said Brittney. “I think the key to working through challenges is a positive mindset, creative problem solving, and surrounding yourself with people you trust to help you along the way. Everything works out the way it should in the end. I’m a big believer in that.”
New Solutions to Old Problems
The longevity of any industry depends largely on the innovations that are made to push it forward. The traditional spa is, and will always be, the solid foundation at the root of this industry. These disruptors are among the first to say so. however, fostering a culture of innovation is one way to ensure that the benefits of spa reach as many people as possible. As our world becomes more and more innovative and technological, more disruptors will be seen and perhaps misunderstood. We must remember that we share the same goals, regardless of the methods used to achieve them. The world is in increasing need of wellness practices that hold fast to their roots, and yet are more aligned with the times. With this in mind, we should not fear innovations, but dare to continue searching for new solutions to old problems.