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Putting People First in Your Business

When Alissa Bayer first opened Milk + Honey in downtown Austin, TX, she set out to prove that you can take great care of your employees and still be a profitable, successful company.

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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small  Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.

A business is more than just and a few products. It’s the offspring of the business owner, and as an owner, you want customers to experience the very best you have to offer. Setting—and realizing—expectations for that experience, as soon as the walks through your door, can be one of the things that keeps them coming back. 

Milk + Honey

That’s why Milk + Honey owner Alissa designed her space to create a relaxing, luxurious atmosphere that instantly calms and relaxes clients from the second they enter. 

“Our main goal and mission at Milk + Honey is to make people feel good. The vibe of Milk + Honey, the mood there, as soon as you walk through the doors, we do place a lot of attention on architecture and really utilizing architecture to enhance that experience. As you continue to go further and deeper into the spa, it's darker, quieter, just more relaxed.”

That unique vibe was exactly what hooked Yelp reviewer Melissa M., who was trying out different spas throughout the Houston area. When she landed on Milk + Honey, she knew it was the one.

“I love, love, love Milk + Honey. When we found Milk + Honey, there was no need to go anywhere else. I love everything about this place. Free parking in a convenient location is great. The staff is professional yet friendly. The interior is clean and well kept. The locker room is just big enough, and I've never had to wait for a shower.

They have all the amenities you'd want—from a hairdryer, showers, little items you might've forgotten, etc. The massages I've had, especially by Nia, have been amazing. I'm absolutely in love with Nia and her ability to know how to do a . She's a master.”

Owner Alissa agreed: “We are not in the business of providing massages and facials. We are in the business of making people feel good and giving them even just a two-hour respite from their life and reality. All of those little details of that experience are just so important because they're not coming in for a massage. It really is that whole decompression process.” 

But no one can create such a special atmosphere if they’re not surrounded by their own support system. For Alissa, who is a busy mother of three in addition to owning a successful business, that means creating a great team of employees and treating them well. She knows that one secret to hiring good people is to treat them as you would your customers. 

The support her staff receives, from paid vacation days to 401k matching, creates a happy and supportive environment that shows in the care and attention to detail taken by everyone at Milk + Honey. Her employees are invested in the success of her company. 

“Even when the reception people would walk you into the locker room and show you all the different amenities, they made an effort to tidy things. They didn't just stay in their lane. They were picking up items or making sure that the interior of the locker room was as clean and as tidy as possible, which I really appreciated because when I go to a spa. I'm not just paying for the massage. I'm also paying for the full experience,” said Melissa. 

Alissa had succeeded at creating the ultimate in-person spa experience, but she didn’t stop here. Developing more passive revenue streams would also help diversify her offerings and boost her bottom line.

“I'd been wanting to create products for a long time. Creating them allowed me to flex some different muscles and do something new without having to leave Milk + Honey, which I love—it's my first baby in all of the ways.”

Alissa also created a membership model, which she said runs somewhat in the background of her business, without needing much support from employees or herself. While it doesn’t have the biggest financial impact, it is a consistent source of revenue and gives rewards to clients like Melissa by offering discounts on services. 

“Once we found Milk + Honey, I really was like, this is the place I'm going to come consistently. And when they mentioned to me that they have this subscription model where you get a discount if you sign up for a monthly subscription, I was like, this is great because I want to come here anyway. I want to come to Nia anyway, and getting a discount is kind of like icing on the cake.” 

Exceptional customer service and a relaxing experience have made Milk + Honey a successful, not-so-small business with six locations in Texas and one in Los Angeles. Alissa used these tips to help her business flourish: 

  • Use your physical space to create an atmosphere. That brick and mortar can start your customer’s journey on the right foot with the right look and feel.
  • Make your employees feel as valuable as the customers. A team that feels valued and respected will pass that on to your customers, and play an active part in growing your business. 
  • Test out passive revenue streams. They can help increase revenue and keep businesses afloat during downturns. 
  • When things go wrong, what matters most is your reaction. That's what separates truly exceptional customer service from the average.

Listen to the episode below to hear from Alissa and Melissa, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Emily Washcovick

Written By

As Yelp’s Senior Field Marketing Manager and Small Business Expert, Emily is responsible for building a thriving network of local business owners, operators and marketers through education and networking events (now, exclusively virtual). She hosts events and webinars to provide business owners with resources that help them succeed and grow in the world of online reviews. Emily’s expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management and all things digital marketing. Her knowledge encompasses countless industries and through thought leadership and speaking engagements, she’s able to share insights that business owners of all kinds can leverage for the future of their business.


Emily is also host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media that features conversations with business owners and reviewers about their experiences—whether positive or negative —giving listeners behind-the-scenes insights and real life learnings.