Industry News

Tips for Spa Success

September 28, 2012 | 6:44 AM

When Kim Thumel and Saphonia Gee, co-owners of In Your Own Skin in Virginia Beach, Virginia, opened three years ago, they had a very specific idea of what they were going to be. While they wanted to give clients a place to come decompress and relax, they also wanted to focus on caring for pre- and post-op skin without being a medical spa or a day spa. It is a delicate line to walk–but they’ve been successful. So successful, in fact, that they were chosen as the winner of Repechage’s Spa de Beaute of the Year award last summer. Here, Thumel opens up about their secrets to success.

- Practice grassroots marketing.

One problem Thumel and Gee have encountered has been telling the story of their spa. So, they have found that the best way to get new clients is through referrals and word of mouth. Thumel (who handles the business side of things) has taken to using grassroots marketing, which means getting out into the community and putting herself in positions where people ask her what she does. For instance, she recently attended a Norfolk Society of the Arts event, and she and Gee regularly work with non-profits in the community.

- Make every client feel like a VIP.

The operations manager for the spa takes great pains to stagger the bookings by 15 minutes, so that clients truly feel like they are the only one there. “It’s very unusual for someone to see another patient in the hallway or in the quiet room,” says Thumel. They also bought a building in a medical area, not in a strip mall, or heavily-traveled area, which also lends itself to the sense of peace and privacy.

- Be the expert.

One of the biggest challenges that In Your Own Skin faces is one that many in the spa industry are starting to encounter – consumers that think they know what they need. “People are bombarded with new treatments and products,” says Thumel. “So they read about microdermabrasion and decide that’s what they want and call someplace and book it.” IYOS only allows clients to book for a consultation or certain length of time. Then when the client comes in, the esthetician assesses their skin and lifestyle, and together, they decide on the course of treatment to pursue. “People need to be comfortable with the fact that they can’t be good at everything,” she says. “He or she may be an excellent lawyer, but we know how to take care of skin.”

- Enter your spa in contests that honor industry leaders!

“It’s great to be a part of this kind of event, because it gives you industry recognition and establishes you,” says Thumel. “We’re very excited about the position we’ve taken in the industry – we’ve been very involved in licensing in Virginia–and this gives us a platform we can use.” It’s also good for morale–for both you and your employees. “It’s kind of like a report card for the staff,” says Thumel. “We’re human and everyone likes to know they are doing a good job.”



This year’s Spa de Beauté of the Year award will be presented at the beginning of August, during Repechage’s 10th International Congress in Secaucus, New Jersey. While the contest is open to Repechage Spa de Beaute salons and spas, anyone in the industry can attend Congress to learn from industry experts and network with spa leaders. For more information and to sign-up, visit and click on “Professionals Only.”

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