Traveling Spa Operator The Buzz


Traveling spa operators go the distance for beauty. They travel to their clients to offer hair, skin care, nail, massage or other spa services. They succeed by finding niche markets. Their clients are willing to pay for the convenience of relaxing on home turf.

The spa industry has changed its own image. Before, spas had the image of pampering. But after the industry completed its own makeover, our busy, stressed population sees spa treatments as a necessity.

Pampering is a new necessity

Surveys show that spa consumers are getting smarter and more demanding. Consumers are looking for an overall experience that is really worth the money. Traveling spa operators answer that demand by bringing their services on the road.

Hollie Merchant started Blue Valley Massage and Traveling Spa with one friend. Now she has 13 employees and a successful business.

Merchant operates in a tourist area of Ohio. It's popular for the natural beauty of waterfalls and caves. Many people vacation in the area and rent cabins. Merchant works with the cabin owners to help promote her services to the renters.

She started out just offering massage. Her business now offers manicures, pedicures, facials, hair up-dos and makeup.

"Brides love it. It's a 15- to 20-mile drive to the nearest salon," she says. Having these services come to them makes their big day easier and saves them time.

Merchant has seen skin care and spa services take off. It's a popular way for groups of women to bond. She sees women who want non-surgical options to look their best.

Find a niche market

There are some notable trends in the spa world. Family spas that allow couples or parents and their kids to share the experience are gaining popularity. More teens and men are visiting spas.

Merchant says that 80 percent of the men she massages are first-timers. They are often more comfortable staying in a familiar location.

She says the couple's massage she offers is really popular. The couple lays side-by-side and two massage therapists work on the pair at the same time.

She has a lot of repeat customers. She sees them year after year when they're on vacation. Ohio's Blue Valley is a peaceful getaway. Getting a massage in the comfort of the cabin adds to the experience.

Spas that are good for the environment are popular. There's been a rise in eco-friendly spas that incorporate the outdoors. Using natural products and organics, hydrotherapy and ancient therapies is trendy.

Today's busy spa-goers keep one eye on their watch. They want the spa experience to be a quick and convenient experience.

Amy Lee started a traveling spa business that caters to the elderly.

"There are many people who can't leave their homes for whatever reason and they too want to have services done," says Lee.

Her services are often arranged by family members for an older relative. They want to do something nice for the older person who has trouble leaving home.

Lee also travels to pamper birthday party guests and bridal parties. "I do believe a lot of clients are wanting the whole spa experience including the tranquil and relaxing environment," she says. That's why more and more clients are choosing destination spas.

Keep things clean

Think about what types of services you'd like to offer. Then look into local laws and regulations. There are some sanitation concerns for traveling spas. The tools used for any esthetic procedures must be sanitized. When you travel to a location for the first time, you will not know how clean it is. Certain procedures require a sanitary area.

Health concerns are important to keep in mind. The cosmetology industry is regulated differently from state to state. Traveling spa operators must know what regulations apply to the business.

Merchant says that she is able to manage safety concerns because she knows the cabins she visits. She does not offer any facial extractions or any medical cosmetic procedures.

"There's nothing where we're breaking the skin," she says. A managing cosmetologist works with her business to make sure they meet all state regulations.

Tips for starting out

Merchant advises people interested in starting their own traveling spa to start small. It's important to build a relationship with the people you work with.

"Face-to-face meetings are free marketing," she says. "You've got to be a people person."

Merchant says to make it as your own boss you must schedule your time well. You must be reliable for your clients.

"Some people require a more supervised environment to feel comfortable or to do well in their job," she warns.

Lee is rewarded by the appreciation of her clients when she comes to them. But she has to work hard to manage her business and build her client base. And the work can be tiring, as you are always on the go.

"Traveling spas are popular, but you must make sure there is a demand for such a business in your community before starting," says Lee.

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