two women getting a massage at spa

5 Things You Should Know Before Opening Your Spa

By Lisa Starr

Any new business has its challenges, but spas and salons bring a whole new level of complexity to the undertaking. Success is easier if your expectations are realistic.

If you are considering opening a salon or spa business, you’re reading this at the right time! If you have recently opened your business, you’re probably getting pretty good at juggling various tasks at once. After all of the planning for the business, from creating financial projections to ordering equipment and inventory, to writing the menu and hiring the staff, you might have thought that operating the business would be the easy part. However, that’s just setting the stage for the real show, the show that you put on every day when you open your doors.

In my 15 years of consulting on start-up spa and salon businesses, here are the top 5 things that surprise most new owners.

1. Financial matters 

When I am asked for the single biggest reason for the failure of the majority of new spa businesses, it has to do with money, or lack thereof. Spas are all over the news today, and clients have expectations, that are higher than ever, about the facilities. In order to create a lasting business, you’ll need the funding for a quality build-out and design.

In addition, there are numerous workflow and ergonomic issues that need to be taken into account to create a facility that supports the level of business you hope to create. Work with qualified architects and designers, and expect to spend a minimum of $200 per square foot to build and equip your spa or salon business. It doesn’t matter if you are inheriting a space that used to be a similar business, or your cousin Joe is a plumber; it’s rarely done for less than this.

The second financial matter is having enough cash left over to fund your operations for the first six to nine months until the cash flow of the business is at a level to support itself. So when you’re planning your funding, don’t forget to include this crucial element.

2. The realities of leadership 

Technicians and beauty therapists are a unique set of engaging people. They love their work, want to do the best for the clients, and pour themselves into each and every treatment in an 8 or 9-hour day.

At the end of the day, their vessel is empty, and they rely on their leader to fill them back up. These employees require more nurturing and praise than the average office worker. If you’re not the nurturing type, be sure to hire a manager who is.

3. Physical wear and tear 

Beauty businesses play host to clients for much longer than they would spend in the average mall store. Guests can be in your facility, depending on your service mix, for 3-4 hours.

In a busy facility, the constant opening and closing of doors, wearing paths in carpets, day-to-day equipment usage, flushing of toilets, etc. means that objects break down, and break, at a faster rate than you might have thought possible. Be sure to have a handyman handy!

4. Keys to client retention 

Plenty of clients will respond to your marketing and come to see the new spa in town, but getting them to return a second time is an important key to long-term success.

Just having a nice facility doesn’t do it; a well-trained staff who anticipates their needs, effective treatments, wonderful ambiance, and a true participation in the community you serve are the ways to earn their loyalty.

5. Bring your passion

Months of negotiating with builders and licensing authorities, hiring and training the staff, and setting up your marketing plan can wear anybody out. However, at the end of the day, your original passion and vision of what you set out to create has to be what keeps you going. Make sure you’re clear on what that vision is; share it with your staff, re-visit it at staff meetings, and communicate it to your clients. You will find your own passion being fed by those around you. The will to succeed is a group effort.

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About the author:

Lisa Starr Headshot

Lisa Starr


Wynne Business Consulting

Lisa is the Principal of Wynne Business Consulting & Education, which specializes in spa, wellness and salon businesses. Starr has over 35 years of experience in the beauty and wellness industry, spending the last 18 years as a consultant and educator helping wellness businesses optimize their operations while providing exceptional experiences for their guests. Starr is the Task Force Chair for the Global Wellness Institute’s Consulting Initiative, a Contributing Editor at Dayspa Magazine, a regular contributor to global trade publications, and a highly rated speaker at industry conferences. She also offers live spa management courses both online and around the globe.

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