The Great Escape - Black Enterprise

The Great Escape

Day spas serve as a respite from the often overwhelming stress and hectic pace that accompanies modern-day living. From the moment you enter this perfect retreat, you’ll be embraced by the tranquil atmosphere. Trained practitioners will massage aching muscles and revive tired heels by providing treatments designed to nourish, tone, and relax the skin. Meanwhile, skin and nail care specialists will complete the experience by offering services to refresh and rejuvenate you so that you can face tomorrow’s challenges.

This environment clearly has broad appeal. According to the International Spa Association (ISA), there were approximately 136 million spa visits made in the U.S. in 2003 (the most current statistics available), with treatments costing an average of $75. That’s why opening a day spa seemed like a great opportunity for New York City resident Dawn Sanders. So she did just that, and Eyespa was born.

It made sense for Sanders to take the plunge. Harlem had long since enjoyed a renaissance. Businesses, and money, were heading back to the historic neighborhood, and with the fast-paced lifestyle that’s the norm in the Big Apple, a haven from the day’s stresses seemed like a no-brainer. “I actually realized that there wasn’t anything like this at home and I thought that it was time to have something like that in the neighborhood,” she says.

Sanders, a graduate of Yale University with a degree in sociology, negotiated a deal with her landlord in which she’d a pay lower rent initially and ramp up payments gradually over time. “I paid about $1,000 less per month when I first opened,” she recalls. Her attorney also negotiated a “good guy clause” which states that if the business failed and she needed to terminate the lease early, the landlord would not enforce the personal guaranty as long as Sanders vacated the premises and paid all rent up to the date of termination.

The location seemed perfect. There was a lot of foot traffic and many area businesses were thriving. But there were complications. “I didn’t know this at the beginning, but you have to find a space with proper ventilation, especially if you’re opening a day spa,” she says. “Temperature control [is important] because unlike convenience stores where people are in and out, people are going to be in various stages of being disrobed and they’re going to have to have a comfortable environment.” Since the location lacked those amenities, she would have to foot the bill to add them. Construction alone ran $18,000 and she still needed, among other things, equipment, advance rent, and supplies. Sanders estimated that furniture could run her up to $30,000 if she purchased it retail.

These days, Eyespa is generating more than $100,000 a year in business and offering such services as eyebrow threading, nail treatments, massages, waxing, skincare and makeup services, as well as retail beauty and wellness products. Sanders represents one of thousands of entrepreneurs who are cashing in on the needs of overworked, overstressed Americans who take time to pamper themselves with a temporary