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Massage Today
January, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 01

Building a Successful Spa: Step One - Conception

By John Fanuzzi

As I write for Massage Today, whose primary readership is massage therapists, I am honored to share some of my experiences with many friends in the industry. Looking through the eyes of a massage therapist and through the eyes of a hotel chain are completely different, so I will write as if I was a massage therapist considering opening a spa.

"Spa" seems to be the wildcard word that incorporates not just massage, but a potential multitude of treatments, including other alternative therapies; body scrubs; skin care; steam; sauna; hydrotherapy; yoga; fitness; diet; meditation; and cleansing.

It is the universal and much more socially accepted word, and it has hit its stride only in the past six or seven years. With that window now open, many massage therapists are upgrading their practices to day spas, which can be quite profitable if properly planned and managed.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark When inspired with a new idea, such as opening a spa, a process starts that will test you, to see if you have what it takes to fulfill that vision. Many people get sidetracked when someone, perhaps their closest friend or most respected lawyer, banker or accountant, questions them about the practicality of their dream. Will your passion or your fears win when you hit that obstacle? My experience tells me that with any good idea, there are always hurdles to overcome. The real beginning is when you say, "I will." From that point of commitment, the fun begins. I have labeled this Conception -- the first step of a 12-step process to building a successful spa. Sharing your vision with your close circle of partners or staff, who also have a positive vision, will multiply the ideas and keep the creative juices flowing. It is also a time to start to think about what type of corporate structure you might need, and who the principals will be. Your positive attitude will bring the birth of a beautiful business; it must be nurtured, just like a baby in the womb.

I have personally built two spas, and one thing I can say is that what your final product may be quite different than your conceptual plan. When you do get into the design stage, you want to be as close to the final desired result as possible or it will delay construction and cost more for changes.

Now that you have decided to move forward, it is time to ask yourself some basic questions, such as: Do I want or need partners? Should I incorporate? How much will it cost? How big of a space do I need? Should I lease, buy or build? What types of treatments should I offer? Do I want to be more clinical? Do I want to include a hair salon? Should I start small? Should I hire a consultant? (For the sake of readers who may not have any knowledge of the spa industry, I am starting our discussion at an elementary level.)

This early creative stage is perhaps the most important - it is the thrust to get you through the next 11 steps. Each idea is a very important part of the process, and could be worth thousands of dollars. It is time to open your eyes wide, ask questions, visit as many spas as you can, attend trade shows, and read as much as possible from trade magazines such as Spa Management, Day Spa and American Spa.

Next month, we'll take the second step toward opening a spa by addressing Spa Theme and Personality.

Click here for previous articles by John Fanuzzi.


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