I have a bit of an uncharted path when it comes to my business experience. I have two university degrees in History of Art and Education. They aren't, at first blush, what you may think of as "business skills," but both led me to my path of entrepreneurship.
History of Art was about passion – I loved it. The desire to learn drove me to achieve an Honours Degree and also receive an invitation to participate in Master's level classes as an undergraduate student. My Education degree, from my perspective, was actually a degree in communication, empathy and training. All three elements have been fundamental in creating not only a strong company from a consumer standpoint, but also in creating systems which support the franchise opportunity we have created.
Developing my entrepreneurial spirit
The day I turned 15 – when I was legally able to work in Canada – I was hired at the hottest fashion boutique, despite the fact I was too small to fit the clothing. But I loved it – I loved helping people, creating the understanding of a product and I loved that things happened right away, in real time.
Retail was my passion.
It was that same fire inside me that made my past jobs at companies like Buffalo, Dish, Silver and lululemon push me to create something that was truly meaningful to me, which could be used as a tool to make people feel great. I wanted a concept that would allow people to be customers, but also employees and now franchisees.
This was, in part, what pushed my husband, Chris, and I to get skoah off the ground. We wanted to create a place where we could make people feel great by having them understand their skin, what products could help them and why regular facials are an important part of self-care.
Skoah began from seeing a big opportunity in the market to focus on the urban working professional who didn't have enough hours in the day to visit a full-service spa, where the total treatment time lasted several hours. We also wanted to create an experience that was affordable and recurring.
We had not been to a spa before, so we went to a few local establishments to better understand the business. From the moment Chris and I walked through the doors, we felt uncomfortable and intimidated. The oversized robes pooled around my feet. The common area we waited in was outdated and full of cherubs and whale music. Everyone in the spa whispered, and we were left waiting for what felt like an eternity. When it was my turn for a facial, the esthetician immediately began extracting, causing unexpected pain. There was no discussion, no tips, no advice. Just an individual going through the motions. Chris had a similar experience.
It was at that moment that the light turned on for us. We knew there had to be another way to go about business operation within the spa industry. We had a vision to create a concept that would be less time-consuming and more affordable on a recurring basis. Most importantly the concept would encourage conversation in a cool, down-tempo, modern atmosphere. We envisioned a spa that was not intimidating.
From business owner to franchisor
Our first location opened in 2001 in Vancouver, B.C. That store is now 15 years old and still growing. Soon after launching, we noticed fragmentation in the industry in some of the bigger, role model cities like Los Angeles, London and Hong Kong. Consumers were looking for single service providers so they could experience a greater level of expertise. Massage-only studios were popping up and upscale nail, blow dry and eye lash bars were the norm. There was no one we knew of offering facials only and an additional revenue stream of a proprietary product line.
A few years into the business, when we had three locations open in Vancouver and Calgary, we received an email from a lawyer in Boston who fell in love with the concept and wanted to open to open one of his own in Boston. Within 10 minutes of our initial conversation with him, I realized people could care as much about skoah and "Personal Training for Your Skin" as me. He soon after became the first independent skoah facial shop owner.
We were excited to grow via the franchise model for a few reasons. First, we believed we created something special and wanted to see it grow. In many parts of the world, weekly facials are normal, but North America hasn't caught on yet. Our business model is a membership-based model and about 50 percent of the revenue come from product sales – staggering in our industry.
From a personal standpoint, I love to teach, mentor, develop and support people. That is really what my job is as a business owner. I am able to elevate people who join our system and give them the opportunity to become entrepreneurs.
About the author: Andrea Scott is the co-founder of skoah, a facial-only spa with 17 locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Seattle and Boston. The company's mission is to bring its uniquely personalized skin care training into new communities across North America, one face at a time.
Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pitch.