Local Partners, Big Benefits
by Jamison Stoike

LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS can come in many forms, from working with local artisans to collaborating with medical providers. To grow their menus, expand their businesses and reach new kinds of customers, more ISPA members than ever are turning to their local business communities for partnerships that give their spas a unique edge in a crowded marketplace.

Miniature Med-Spas
Consumers’ desire for medical esthetics has grown over the past two years, and ISPA members have increasingly looked towards partnerships with local medical providers as a way to add med-spa services to their menus.

“People have wanted this for a long time, but I do think that being on a lot of Zoom meetings has made people more aware!” says Dinara Lewis, director of spa & wellness for Cliff House Maine. It makes sense: when you spend all day looking at yourself on a screen, you’re more likely to become invested in how you look. Lewis continues: “Jokes aside, everyone wants to look and feel better because COVID has made everyone think more about themselves and their wellness and how they want to look and feel.” To meet the demand of their customers, Cliff House Maine has increasingly reached out to local wellness providers. “We partnered with an esthetician who uses a machine—the Collagenizer NEO—that allows us to tap into more med-spa services,” Lewis adds. This esthetician offers her services at Cliff House Maine one weekend each month.

In the greater Salt Lake City area, Alisa Draper has seen similar demand for med-spa services. To meet it, Draper—the spa director at Sego Lily Spa, which operates three locations in the metroplex—specifically sought out a local M.D. to provide medical esthetics. “Our laser company helped us find a partnership. Then, we interviewed them to see who fit our structure and if it would be mutually beneficial,” Draper says. After piloting the partnership at the spa’s Midvale location, medical esthetics services have since been added to a second location in Bountiful, Utah. Logistically, the physician offers online consultations for services that, though they can be performed by the spa’s own estheticians, require a doctor’s sign-off. For these consultations, the physician receives a flat fee per consultation and a small upfront monthly fee. The physician still travels to Sego Lily’s Midvale location once a week to provide more invasive medica esthetics services, however.

The Ocean Reef Club Spa & Salon in Key Largo has similarly partnered with Jill Waibel, an internationally-known dermatologist based out of Miami, to provide results-driven med-spa services. Jill Barron, who is the director of the private residential community’s spa, has a long familiarity with medical esthetics and reached out Dr. Waibel based on prior knowledge. In contrast to Sego Lily’s arrangement, Ocean Reef’s dermatologist partner keeps all revenue from the treatments performed; instead, she pays Ocean Reef a monthly rental fee for use of the space, thereby providing Ocean Reef with a dependable revenue stream.

This increased collaboration with businesses in the medical field is a spa-industry-wide phenomenon, according to Mia Kyricos of Kyricos & Associates. “I’ve seen a greater willingness to collaborate between the wellness and medical communities. They don’t necessarily need to integrate, but they do need to be aware the other exists in the local community and be willing to share guests back and forth,” Kyricos says. She encourages spas to put themselves out there by “beating down the doors” of local healthcare providers and actively pursuing partnerships. Adds Kyricos, “I’d like to see spas set up shop in a dermatology or chiropractic office during shoulder periods or low-peak periods. Why not? If a dermatologist or an acupuncturist is coming into the spa, why can’t spa providers go into the doctor’s offices?”

Collaborating with Local Artisans
While many spas partner with local product manufacturers, it’s important to consider other kinds of local businesses whose products can bring value to your business, too. Cliff House Maine works with a variety of local artisans to enhance the atmosphere of the spa and the uniqueness of the spa-goer’s experience. A local potter provides trays in treatment rooms to hold guests’ jewelry and keys; a local florist provides fresh Maine wildflowers; a local apiary provides honey for a cupping service. Cliff House Maine has also partnered with other businesses to provide in-spa activities, such as a candle-making workshop, for its guests. Says Lewis, “Partnering with local businesses like these allows us to expand our programs while also bringing a little bit of locality to our guests.” This locality extends to the spa’s retail area, which offers the local products for sale to spa-goers. Although Cliff House Maine doesn’t market these local products much on social media or in its advertising, the local presence is still easily noticeable by those who would be interested. “We actively speak about these local products to customers across the property. It’s also in the language of the menu,” Lewis notes.

Ocean Reef Club partners with local businesses to offer “sixty to seventy trunk shows” to its guests throughout its high season, says Barron. “I learned that I need to partner with a variety of different vendors and to find local vendors like seamstresses and designers who can design custom items for our members,” Barron adds. Because Ocean Reef Club is a gated community on relatively-remote Key Largo, its members rely on the spa’s trunk shows for much of their shopping. By collaborating with local vendors, Barron is able to increase the value offered to the Club’s members.

To integrate local partnership deep within your spa’s DNA, consider working with a local product maker for your back bar. Sego Lily Spa partners with Ojavan, a Utah company that uses Great Salt Lake salts in a variety of its products, including bath bombs and mineral soaks. It makes a variety of products (including CBD products) for Sego Lily’s services. Now, the product maker has become Sego Lily’s biggest partner. The relationship is highly collaborative: Ojavan creates local products unique to Sego Lily in order to meet the spa’s needs. “We can go to them and say, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about doing XYZ,” says Draper. “And they’ll say, ‘Okay, give us two months and we’ll find a way to make that for you.’ It’s really fun for both of us and it’s a partnership with benefits for both of us.”

Making It Work
As Draper alludes to above, an effective partnership has to benefit both partners, and the best thing you can do in any partnership is to make it as easy as possible on the other person, according to Draper. “Think about the other person, because if you can make it about them, they’ll reciprocate and they’ll make it about you,” Draper adds. “Sometimes we get so caught up in our own agenda that we forget that other people are involved—that there’s another human on the other side.”

Beyond that, the biggest risk to a successful partnership is, simply put, the failure of the partner’s business. New local businesses can be unstable, so it’s wise not to put too many eggs in one basket. “The biggest threat is just that your partner might go under,” comments Lewis. “Other than one partner that decided to no longer run the business, we’ve been pretty successful and consistent with our partners.”

Impactful Collaborations
We asked each source featured about a partnership they’ve seen that they found particularly impactful, inspiring or intriguing—in essence, a partnership they’d like to implement at their own spas.

“I would love to offer a food menu by somebody local and fresh. I would like to be able to provide a wholesome food option for the people who come and spend three, four or five hours here in a day.”
— Alisa Draper, Sego Lily Spa

“I always get so impressed when spas offer food and beverage that I know is healthy and good. I get so excited when I see little bento boxes to take home or a smoothie to have before or after a treatment. I think third-party partnerships that can plug into guests’ desire for something that’s nurturing them inside and out are an untapped opportunity.”
— Mia Kyricos, Kyricos & Associates

“Working with a local bike shop that can supply us and our guests. It ties into wellness. It’s something that’s been on my mind for some time, but we don’t necessarily have the space to keep the bikes or the ability to manage their upkeep.”
— Dinara Lewis, Cliff House Maine

“New kinds of recycling—recycling the waste you use with foils, the containers you use for facials. I was really inspired by that because we don’t get a second chance with our planet. It made me want to think about how to better dispose of or recycle all that we use.”
— Jill Barron, Ocean Reef Club

Quick Questions With Mia Kyricos
Pulse asked Mia Kyricos, the president of Kyricos & Associates and former global head of wellbeing for Hyatt, for her input on the most and least effective kinds of partnerships, plus her top tip on how to exit from a partnership with grace.

Pulse: What are the most effective partnerships, generally?
Mia Kyricos: The ones that are the timeliest. Right now, I think about schools and educators. I think of healthcare workers. I think of police departments. It would be pioneering for a local community spa to go into those places or even have curated products for them based on the nature of their jobs—reaching out to the underserved communities that feel spa is not for them. The other one that comes to mind are residential communities, condos, et cetera. Spa should be the bridge to these groups and communities that don’t feel seen or supported.

P: On the flip side of that, what often doesn’t work out the way one might hope it would?
K: Technology-based partnerships. I think it’s great from an operational standpoint, but I’ve often seen that spas go too far. Even something that’s as little as putting an iPad out in the reception area, or having customers access an app or digital fitness service, can feel out of place in a spa. People are so thirsty for the power of touch, and spa is a chance to disconnect from devices. It’s not that there’s not a place for technology, particularly in urban spas or those that cater to business travelers. But I do recommend considering partnerships that place technology in the spa carefully, because there is a time and a place—and I don’t think we’ve always picked the right time and place.

P:What should spas keep in mind when ending a partnership?
K: Always part ways with love. It sounds ridiculously cheesy, but the reality is that too many times those partnerships break up in a negative way, and that shines negatively on everybody. At the end of the day, both partners have a business to run, and a partnership that made great sense at the start might make less sense five years later. So, find a way to part with love.