We caught up with Marti Morenings, the founder of Universal Companies—a company that not only distributes spa products, supplies, and equipment, but also helps spas and esthetic service companies grow—to get an in-depth look at current trends in the health, wellness and hospitality industry, and what they mean for start-ups. In addition, Marti was more than willing to share some pivotal advice as to how start-ups can work towards success and mitigate some of the obstacles that spa and esthetic businesses may encounter. And in light of the holiday season, Marti also provided some great recommendations on the best stocking stuffers for this year!
What inspires you most about the industry of health, wellness, and hospitality in providing a service not only to customers
but retail owners as well?
Marti: I recently attended the Global Spa & Wellness Summit in India, where industry leaders and economists discussed the growing shift toward more proactive ways of taking care of ourselves, largely due to older populations, greater numbers of unhealthy people, and the failing medical system. Conservative estimates show that this shift, which is feeding the growth of the wellness industry, represents a market of nearly $2 trillion dollars globally. What inspires me is the knowledge that spas are already providing wellness in as much as they are providing a place for healing, renewal, relaxation, and an overall sense of feeling ’well.’ In my mind, this positions the spa and hospitality industry to take advantage of, and even help lead, the modern wellness movement. I think that’s very exciting.
How would you advise that Start-Up businesses in the spa industry make the greatest impact in the online community?
Marti: I think that it is very important for start-up companies to establish a presence in the online community. I also think that encouraging start-ups to participate in online communities is essential. At Universal Companies, we have found participating in online communities enables us to connect with customers on a more personal level than normal business communication allows. We draw readers in by sharing more educational and entertaining content, rather than price details. We also use humorous content as it relates to spa services, links to inspirational articles about the growth of the industry, and questions posed about customer opinions. I believe online interaction is crucial because customers are out there asking questions. But, unfortunately, many business owners pass up the chance to interact with their customers. Overall, getting involved in the online community is a great way for a start-up to establish itself.
What pitfalls can new business owners avoid when getting started as a spa/esthetics service?
Marti: In my experience, it’s really easy to focus too much on only one area of the business. Many spa/esthetics owners are creative and service-oriented, so their main focus is on establishing wonderful treatments. But when you focus too much on one area, it’s easy to ignore the vital parts of the business that are necessary for success. Therefore, it’s important to keep a balance between sales and marketing, finance and administration, and, of course, operations. Another pitfall is thinking that the business idea will make the company. It’s really the people on your team who make the business successful. It’s important to focus on building a great company as much as you focus on creating product or service.
How essential are ‘one source spa solutions’ like Universal Companies to start-up businesses?
Marti: I think it’s essential because it takes a long time to do product development, and to figure out the equipment and supplies you need to run your business. This is something we do for our customers at Universal Companies. We have a product development team that actively search for the latest trends and evaluate manufacturers. In our relationship with Boca Terry, we found a partner whose reliability and product quality can be highly trusted. Vetting out quality and reliability is important for a business owner. Trusting single suppliers to have everything you want is a huge advantage for a start-up. With a once source supplier, business owners can save money with lower prices and no minimums, and with Universal Companies they can consolidate purchasing for a fast turnaround and support before, during and after the sale.
As a multidimensional resource for spa business supply and exposure, how great do you believe the potential reach of business growth through the use
of Universal Companies is?
Marti: Nothing inspires our team more than to create products and services that will help spa businesses grow, and having been a small business owner myself, it is something that I find personally inspiring, as well. The possibilities for growth in the spa industry are limitless. You can start as an independent practitioner and easily become a small spa owner, and then a small spa owner can conceivably grow their single business into a multi-facility franchise. We’ve watched this process over the years and have come to find out that, in order to grow, spas need more than just great products. That’s why we offer spas free education for staff development, retail training and merchandising tools, and brand support and instruction, just to name a few of the resources customers can find at Universal Companies.
What often is the greatest misconception that businesses in the spa industry make when planning their route to success?
Marti: I think many of them forget about some of the important functions of business itself, otherwise known as having a good business plan, a roadmap for building the business, and of course, milestones for measuring success. But at the same time, a business must anticipate and be flexible enough to adapt to change. A lot of spas don’t understand their competition. They don’t do market research and may not understand where and how their business will fit in and thrive within that competitive market. Then, of course, they need sound financial information to make sure they have the capital and the cash flow that they’ll need to actually run and build their business. It’s also important to keep in mind that it usually does take awhile for a business to consistently generate a profit.
What items, practices serve as the best/most impressive gesture/s when servicing a spa?
Marti: At Universal Companies, intangibles make all the difference in the world. In addition to being their trusted single source supplier, spas can count on us to provide more free education, more customer services, and programs tailored to their needs. We offer a customer brand reward program and online account management. We also have no minimums and an easy return policy, which is very important. We have a free skin care hotline, and we’re also known for developing spa menus and protocols. Services like these impress and help our customers succeed.
Any items in particular that you would promote as great stocking stuffers or quality stock in general for companies to have?
Marti: I think everyone appreciates a comfortable, lush robe for Christmas. The plush Boca Terry robes always make a great gift. Anything that can help guests take a spa experience home is a wonderful way for spas to position themselves for gift giving. We also have a new brand, Sposh, featuring microfiber sheets that are very comfortable. They’re the same sheets spas use on massage beds and a great example of extending the spa experience to home. For stocking stuffers, we have jewelry items, nails lacquers, skin care sets—they’re all retail bestsellers. We also sell Aroma Rollies, fun roll-on aromatherapy scents, and The Balm, a Shea butter and essential oil blend that is ideal for dry hair, lips, cuticles and more.
How can start-up spa and esthetics services establish the kind of culture that cultivates treatments customers can enjoy and spa owners can also benefit from?
Marti: Well, I usually advise spas to differentiate themselves by customizing their treatments and offering signature services. It’s simple and affordable, and just like creating your own recipe at home for a nice dinner, a spa operator or technician can combine natural ingredients from our Spa Pantry line to create own unique treatment menus. Spa Pantry has all the bulk ingredients needed to create unique protocols. For instance, we have butters, herbs, active ingredients, exfoliants, clays, and muds, along with sample recipes to help you create unique service menus. We also have an aromatherapy line, ESS Aromatherapy, with which business owners can customize with signature scents. From an owner and profitability standpoint, we offer best-selling products like Intensive lash and brow tint, which is a permanent dye for the eyebrows and eyelashes. Lash and brow tinting is the single best-selling add-on service in spas and salons today. It’s fast, easy, and effective. And mixing different tint colors makes for a wide variety of shade options, which offers yet another way to give clients customized services.
Anything else you want to add?
Marti: We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Edward and Bruce Cohen at Boca Terry. Consistent high quality product and reliability have made Boca Terry one of our most top vendors over the years. Moreover, they are collaborative and forward thinking with a keen focus on the customer, which makes them a true pleasure to work with. We really appreciate our relationship with them.
For more information about Universal Companies and their services, please visit www.universalcompanies.com or call 1-800-558-5571.