Great Escape

Services & Equipment

Also early in the planning process, you'll have to decide exactly which services to offer. Treatments typically offered in day spas include massages; facials and makeup application; electrolysis; spa manicures and pedicures; body treatments like exfoliation, wraps and packs; aromatherapy; and hair services like cutting, styling and coloring. Hydrotherapies include hydromassage, mineral and seaweed baths, dry and moist heat, and shower massage. Many spas also offer healing therapies such as Reiki (a form of "energy healing") and acupressure, which must be performed by a licensed practitioner, depending on which state you're in. Services are usually combined in complementary spa packages that guests enjoy for four to eight hours, but à la carte services and pricing should also be available, both for clients who wish to mix and match their treatments, and for clients who would like to try something new.

The range of services you plan to offer will have a major bearing on the kind of facility you choose. Because spa equipment (like massage tables) tends to be large, you'll need enough room to spread out and create a relaxing atmosphere. Your best options are a free-standing building, a storefront property or a strip mall store. Mall locations usually aren't optimal since people go to malls to shop, not to enjoy a salt glow treatment, and the rent is often very high.

To attract an upper-end clientele, you'll need a well-appointed facility in a good neighborhood. It should be located near other retail businesses for good visibility, and it must have sufficient parking. Don't underestimate the importance of parking. Spa services are not necessities, not even for baby boomers bent on preserving their youth. So if it's difficult to visit your spa for any reason, they won't come-or they'll go somewhere else.

Day spas require a lot of equipment to emulate the level of service found in resort spas. These capital expenditures will drive your start-up costs up fast, so you're likely to need financial backing to get the show on the road. If you find that your grand plans exceed what the bank will offer you and what your personal savings can float, control costs by buying quality used equipment or scaling back the number of services you offer.

The equipment typically needed for a day spa includes massage tables, manicure and pedicure stations, and reclining facial chairs. Hydrotherapy equipment may include a Scotch hose, a hydrotherapy tub, a sauna, a Swiss shower, a Vichy shower, a Jacuzzi/whirlpool tub and a steam cabinet. Be prepared for sticker shock: High-quality spa equipment can run from $4,000 to $25,000 per item or even higher. So be sure to buy wisely. It's easy to get caught up in equipping your spa with the best of everything-then never using it.

"We spent $5,000 on a pedicure bed that we're using to do $8 eyebrow waxes," says Daryl Jenkins, 38. "Think about how many services you'll have to do to pay for the [item] before you buy it." His company, HairXtreme Salon and Spa in Chester, Virginia, projects 2004 sales of $625,000.

Retail Therapy
In addition to all the typical office equipment, such as a copier and office supplies, you'll need to buy the following:

Basic Spa Equipment

Stool for aestheticians: $125
Reception desk stool: $150
Pedicure ottoman: $200
Magnifying lamp: $300
Hot towel cabinet: $350
Pedicure cart with footbath massager: $350
Facial steamer: $400
Facial vacuum/spray machine: $400
Manicure table and light: $400
Reception-area furniture: $400 each
Rotary brush machine: $400
Retail product display unit/shelves: $600
Massage table: $800
Reception desk: $1,300
Facial chair: $3,500

Optional Equipment

Steam cabinet: $2,000
Vichy shower: $3,500
Scotch hose: $3,800
Jacuzzi/whirlpool tub: $4,000
Swiss shower: $7,000
Hydrotherapy tub: $15,000

Miscellaneous Supplies

Manicure/pedicure supplies (polish, buffers and so on)
Massage and essential oils
Massage creams and lotions
Towels and spa garments
Retail inventory (candles, oils, spa garments, healing stones and the like)

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This article was originally published in the December 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Great Escape.

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