Putting Her Best Face Forward
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For a business going on 30 years, FACES DaySpa looks pretty fresh, which is what you’d expect of an award-winning beauty and wellness spa.
Patricia Owen opened FACES DaySpa in the tourist-heavy beach town of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, in 1983. “My husband, Jay, and I were driving through on vacation and noticed that there were no Estee Lauder stores, no cosmetic stores. If people wanted cosmetics that weren’t from the drug store, they had to drive an hour to Savannah.”
Owen, who started her career with Estee Lauder cosmetics in St. Louis, Missouri, always knew that she wanted to start her own business. So after five years of saving, Owen opened her Hilton Head Island boutique offering Estee Lauder cosmetics. “It was pretty scary knowing that we could have great success—or great failure.” With virtually no competitors, her business took off immediately. “It rolled so fast; we were almost scared. We weren’t prepared for anything. We didn’t have a business plan. We didn’t have financing arranged. We just took our life savings and bought stuff.”
Soon, however, a large shopping mall opened nearby with a department store selling cosmetics. The competition forced Owen to look at her business and take another leap into the unknown—expanding into the professional skin care arena.
With the help of a Small Business Administration loan, Owen purchased and renovated a recently closed jewelry store adjacent to her original space. Today, with 25 employees, FACES is one of the largest day spas in the Southeast, grossing more than $1.5 million in annual revenues. Its 3,000-square-foot property includes retail space, six soundproof spa treatment rooms, a wet room with a hydrotherapy tub, a steam room and locker room with a sauna, a relaxation lounge, and a chemical-free nail studio.
Owen rode out the last recession by planning ahead when things started to slow down in 2007. “We could exist on tourists and first timers, but we knew that we needed to focus on the core clients. They’re the ones who return again and again and refer us. If you focus on them, they’ll keep you in business.” She began offering them a 10% discount if they booked their next appointment as they checked out and sent birthday cards with a $10 gift certificate enclosed.
Owen also reduced her operational expenses, rethought her inventory, and eliminated waste. She looked at the spa’s most productive hours and shifted staff accordingly. Instead of opening at 8 a.m. for a handful of appointments, she opened at 9 a.m.
“In the end, our business over those four to five years dropped only 15%, which is not that much,” Owen says. “This year, we’ve already increased by 13% over last year.”