How To Open Your Own Spa

The word “spa” has Latin origin meaning health through water thereby making the core of your spa business water treatments otherwise rather focus on opening or starting a skin and body salon.  So whilst water treatments or hydro therapy are the starting point in terms of treatment offering for spas there are a wide variety of services that the spa business can offer.

The Spa business is still a GROWING INDUSTRY so make sure that when you embark on this exciting journey of starting a spa business that you ensure you are positioning yourself where the consumer needs are currently and take into account any industry trends that are emerging.

Two factors that determine the success of your business are:  Cash flow and planning.  Having set up many spas in and around South Africa, our experience is that you should double the budget from the start.  This does not mean spend more on the actual development of the spa but it means have access to double the cash to run the business for a full 12 months without relying on turnover to break even.  When it comes to planning, my suggestion here is to allow an additional 2 – 3 months just to plan and make changes and research etc. You get ONE chance to set this business up so take your time.

Below is a simple step by step process to starting your own Spa

  1. Funding requirements.  Start by knowing where your funding is coming from and how promptly you will have access to the money.  Only once your funding is in place and you have access to the cash then move on with the project.  It is absolutely pointless to do all the work and research that follows if you don’t have guaranteed access to cash.
  2.  Location.  This is probably one of your biggest challenges so I would get this sorted as quickly as possible.  Once again I don’t recommend going to the next steps of the project if you don’t have a secured location.  When looking for a location take into consideration a few very important factors:  easy to find when giving directions, i.e., not tricky to find.  Easy access from main roads and main highways, signage opportunities, proximity to businesses where you can draw clientele, parking space (ensure plenty as this is always an afterthought and could affect your business negatively if not sufficient safe parking).  Then of course once you have a secure location you need to have a clear understanding of the costs that come with the location i.e., rent, lease period, escalation, parking, etc
  3. Spa Consultant.  A must in your journey of developing your spa!  An experienced and efficient spa consultant can save you money and time in the process.
  4. Concept.  A unique selling point is really what you are after here.  Since there are so many spas now this is more of a challenge but still very possible and once again don’t even go down the path of spending money until you have a solid concept that is unique.
  5. Research competition.  This means know exactly how many spas and salons are in a 10km radius and also visit them and have treatments and get to know exactly what their point of difference is.  Take note of what you did not like during your treatment and ensure to make a point of improving on that in your project.  Take special note of the things that blew you away and develop that further in your spa
  6. Business plan.  Once you have researched the competition thoroughly and are still convinced that your concept is sound and will be unique, then begin a business plan.  Whether you have funding available that does not require a business plan or not, I highly recommend that you still draw up a precise and detailed business plan so you have an outline by which to run your business.  I recommend that spas re-do their business plan every second year as the industry is changing and evolving so much that in order to keep current you need to re look at your plan and strategy.
  7. Determine services to be offered.  Since is it spa that you are opening, at least 2 to 3 water treatments should be offered in your business to be a true spa otherwise rather call  yourself a beauty salon or skincare centre.  With these water services, make sure that they will be used on a daily basis and don’t just have them there for the sake of being able to say that you have water treatments.  For example, don’t build a Vichy shower if you are not going to be able to book guests on it every single day.  So be clever in your plan and choice of water treatments as they can be such a powerful tool in your business.  Decide and be clear on what additional services you will offer and please don’t try and be all things to everyone as this will be a costly mistake.
  8. Choosing a name.  Your choice of name must be easy to repeat, easy to read, clear and concise.  Research the meaning of your name of choice and be comfortable to convey this meaning in your marketing efforts.
  9. Registering the business.  You will need to register the name of your business and set up a company in which to run this business.  Now is also a good time to choose an accountant and attorney to walk the road with you on your venture.
  10. Interior Design.  See 2 or 3 different designers and let them pitch for the business.  Have a look at any previous work they have done and ask to speak to one or two clients.  Give them a clear and precise interior budget so there are no surprises later.
  11. Equipment requirements.  An equipment schedule per room and space in your spa should be drawn up and together with your spa consultant research and get different quotes.
  12. Product requirements. Be open to hearing about all products and set up product house presentations with your spa consultant so that you are able to see at least 10 or 12 suppliers and only after you have seen them begin to narrow your decision on which product houses to partner with.  Make sure that you research all different aspects of the product such as delivery lead times, training policy, will you have a sales representative call on you, promotions, profitability and so many others to consider.

The above 12 points are really just a starting point.  Welcome to the most amazing industry in the world, an Industry where you get to make people feel and look better.

The above article was compiled by The Spa Consultants on behalf of the South African Spa Association.

The Rituals of Spa

Be inspired by the rituals of the spa! Why do we use the word ritual, which evokes religion, even a sect – to be brief, notions far removed from our intention? Quite simply because spa treatments are organised according to definite protocols, every act leading steadily and smoothly to another. Step by step, mind and body thus learn to adapt to a rhythm different from that of the outside world.

And human beings need rituals. In days gone by, life was punctuated by a multitude of small rituals that regulated daily living. Nowadays, the only rituals that remain are those concerned with birth, marriage and death. Not much to support one through a whole life. With the loss of rituals a certain sense of the sacred has also vanished. Modern society expects individuals to find the meaning of life in themselves.

Yet never has the demand for perfection been so insistent. We are expected to fill simultaneously various roles on different levels – professional, social and parental. Is it surprising therefore that our existence is regulated by the logic of fragmentation? Fragmentation of one’s personality, but also of time.

The merits of spas is the way they have reintroduced an approach that views the individual as a whole, enabling us to rediscover the centre of our being, bringing together our disparate parts.

In an exceptional setting, one can at last become whole again, in tune with oneself. For one, two or three hours, one concentrates exclusively on one’s own well-being. The succession of treatments and actions prepares one in an almost hypnotic fashion to be touched, to be caressed in the best sense of the word, without any sexual connotation. In short, faced with individual anguish and solitude, one is allowed to “let go” without fearing the judgement of others.

And in this way the ritual of the spa brings about a gradual and progressive calming effect.


This must always be peaceful and personal. In a spa, you are not just another number. You are escorted to the place where you will change, where you will leave your “fragmented” personality. When you put on the garment (gown, kimono or sarong) you clothe yourself symbolically in the habit of a novice undertaking a spiritual quest.


This is an optional step, but it has many advantages. Sweating is an indispensable physical function to eliminate toxins. Moreover, by pouring water on hot stones, large quantities of negative ions are released into the air, which combat fatigue and tension.


This involves the exfoliation of the skin to get rid of dead cells. But the body scrub is much more than this. By rubbing the skin with various substances, from Guerande sea salt to apricot kernels, via unrefined brown sugar, honey, cinnamon or spices, one also gets rid of all the nervous tensions that have accumulated. It constitutes an ideal transition between the outside world and the start of the massage.


As an alternative or supplement to the body scrub, the application of mud reconnects us intensely to the earth. Organic compounds of plants and various minerals, muds are of diverse origin. Muds from the Dead Sea are among the most sought-after. Similarly, a seaweed pack reconnects the individual to the ocean of all origins. The action of muds is similar to that of hydrotherapy: exchange of minerals, penetration of amino acids, proteins and steroidal lipids.


Set free, relaxed after the preceding steps, the body is now ready to receive a massage. The choice of massage technique is thus not insignificant. Besides the attitude regarding nudity, which differs from one continent to another, you must be able to go along with the massage, welcoming it without becoming tense.


In the West this is usually scheduled before the massage. In Asia the opposite is true. Both philosophies have merit. In the first instance, one gets to the massage relaxed, at peace, almost drowsy. On the other hand, to soak in a bath of sweet-smelling flowers, after the impressive ritual of an Asian spa, constitutes an ecstatic experience.


This is a step that ought never to be omitted. After a spa ritual lasting an hour and a half, one should ideally lie down and rest for half an hour and even fall asleep. This is why an urban spa without a rest room is a heresy. The spa being, by definition, a place where time stands still, nobody must ever hurry you to the door.

In a classic salon, it is not always easy to respect all the steps of this ritual. Nevertheless, respect the order of the steps, leaving out only those that the facility does not cater for and you will very quickly notice the benefits.

This article was contributed by Dr Nadine de Freitas – Managing Editor Les Nouvelles Esthetiques & Spa, South Africa.

Les Nouvelles Esthétiques, now published on 26 countries, with head office in Paris, France, has been an international leader in providing up-to-date beauty and spa information for the past 68 years through their international network of magazines, conference and exhibitions. The South African magazine edition of Les Nouvelles Esthetiques Spa Magazine launched in October 2002 and the Les Nouvelles Esthetiques Spa Conference and Spa Award in 2005 and has grown from strength to strength, as we focus on providing the industry with important information on new trends and up to date knowledge in the world of spas, encompassing all aspects of professional skincare, bodycare and spa therapies, spa design, spa management and spa lifestyle. They can be followed on Facebook & Twitter.

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