My Life's Passion ... Now What?
Hi. I'm Nancy, Vanities' founder and loving Mother.
I've been working in "the beauty biz" since I was 17. I'm now 55 - (yes, really!) ;D
As much as I still ADORE Vanities and the spa world, I am beginning to think of that day when I do my last facial.
Jokes aside, it's tough.
Frankly, I don't know HOW to close this business.
It's been my life's passion.
I started beauty school when I was still in high school! Graduated and did my apprenticeship as a hairdresser and literally hit the road to Hollywood the month I obtained my Masters in Cosmetology.
I lived out my teenage dreams of becoming a Hollywood makeup artist - and even saw PRINCE on his motorbike just as I was leaving the exam room where I got my California Cosmetology License! I thought that was a good sign.
I've witnessed the skin care boom, from the days when doctors & derms wouldn't give us the time of day, to now when you can't find ANYONE who isn't selling a skin care line!
I've seen the "Day Spa" boom go from the days when your facial happened in the former broom closet of your local hair salon, to the huge brick and mortar day spas that had every conceivable beauty and wellness offering available under one roof.
I was on the front lines of a product birth (and death) known as dermalogica. dermalogica began as an extension of the "highfalutin" sounding International Dermal Institute which was Jane Martin's "post-graduate" training facility for people like me - those licensed to do skin care. As she was teaching classes on advanced European techniques, she saw an opportunity to create a product line for her students to use in their salons, and thus the line was born. A very modest beginning grew - thanks to her hard work, but also thanks to us - the unpaid therapists who hawked her products for her - to worldwide proportions and a massive 'over 200 million dollar' worth before being (sadly for us - great for her) sold to UNILEVER! Yes, the lady who spent her life trying to get Americans to stop putting soap on their face and bodies sold her company to a soap company!
My breakup with "little d." as I called it, was heartbreaking. We began our affair before I ever had my own brick and mortar ... this was in Vanities' infancy when I was working out of someone else's salon. I watched as d. grew - and Grew - and GREW - and actually LOVED every minute of my "partnership" with them. Mind you it was a partnership of minds and not of MONEY! I just really believed in what Jane was doing - and what she was teaching. I LOVED traveling far and wide to attend IDI classes on every topic imaginable. I learned hot stone massage - known as La Stone Therapy - from the Originator of the technique, Mary Nelson, while in a week-long IDI class in Chicago. [And NOT from a video like so many others.] (PS - The Master/Student method of learning is vastly superior to attempting to specialize in a technique you've seen on a video. And, frankly, it's very insulting to those of us who actually care about our craft and want to perform it correctly before putting it on a menu and "practicing" on clients.).
A story I love to tell, because it exemplifies exactly how I am different than most every other salon or spa professional I've ever met: In the early years of the IDI and dermalogica, they only had two centers - one in their corporate base of L.A. and one near Washington DC - their "east coast" branch. This center is an 11-hour drive from where I live (and don't forget, 11-hours BACK!). But I was so excited to take all the classes I could, and learn as much as possible, I happily submitted myself to the trip. No, I don't get paid for 'travel expenses'. And there is no 'reimbursement' when you are self-employed. Think about that for a minute. So I arrive and get situated in my hotel and noticed that there was a d. salon right across the street from the IDI center. I decided to see if they had any facial appointments available. I forgot to mention that I was currently the only salon in all of my region that sold dermalogica - and I can proudly say that I was the FIRST salon - the FIRST person - to use it and sell it in my state! So getting a dermalogica facial by someone like me was a rare opportunity. She did have an opening and I laid back and enjoyed the experience. Me and the other esthetician began to talk and I shared with her my reason for visiting --- to take the weekend class. I then said, "I bet you've taken ALL of the classes!" (since she is next door to them). What she said astounded me. "No. I DON'T HAVE THE TIME." I don't know if she saw my eyes roll, but they did. I lay there thinking, "DON'T HAVE THE TIME??? "I'm driving over 22-hours to attend this one class, plus make zero dollars while I'm away from work, and have to pay my own hotel expenses, and dining, and gas ..... AND YOU DON'T "HAVE THE TIME" TO WALK ACROSS THE STREET TO TAKE AN EXPLETIVE CLASS?????!!!!!".
Yep. THAT'S the difference.
Then one day we woke up and THE INTERNET was here. dermalogica was washed away (one could say both figuratively AND literally, since it could be said that Unilever waters down the product (allegedly, of course!).
Consumers had now heard of this "Professionals Only" product line and would seek me out for information and free advice about which products to use, and then, literally - in front of my face - after I had worked for 40-minutes FOR FREE explaining how marvelous d. was and why she needed it - would ask "Can I get this ONLINE?".
There was no reason to lie to her because I knew what she was going to do - do what everybody is doing - go online and look for it at a cheaper price. And sadly she would find it. See folks (gosh I hate that word), what the internet did to people like me was horrible. As a small business - a solopreneur - I could only stock so much product, and d. had their minimums, so I HAD to purchase at least 6 of any one item I wanted to retail. But if you were running a nameless, faceless, CONTACT-less internet business, for some strange reason, oh, yeah, I know - PROFITS - dermalogica would give you huge discounts because you were able to sell more than little ole me in my brick and mortar. So yes, a website called "Uncle Ralph's REDNECK Emporium" could sell the "professionals only" dermalogica at prices that were slightly above my wholesale price! BTW - you are supposed to double what you buy it for, at least. So if I competed with the internet I would be losing money - and how.
BUT, on the bright side, this gave me an opportunity to go back to my original plan which was to sell MY OWN LINE of skin care products. I didn't have the confidence in 1990, but I did now. And, I did learn a ton thanks to little d. Just wish they hadn't stabbed all of their "tribe" members in the back along their climb to get to the top. But that's commerce, isn't it?
Gosh, this is a LONG story.
But it would be. From age 17 - 55 ... 38-years and counting ... still. (?)
It has been a long journey. And I'm so thankful for every piece of it. (Well, maybe get that knife out of my back "little d.". And some of the clients along the way I could have skipped meeting - oh THOSE stories ... that will have to come later! Bwahahahahahaha).
But I will say how deeply touching it has been getting to know each and every person who has made their way into my plush spa bed. I never would have had an opportunity to meet such an impressive group of ladies (and some gentlemen --- and some "not so gentlemen" --- and the reason I only work with females now!)
The clients who kept me going - not just kept my business afloat for well beyond my original "20-years and then we'll see what happens", but were there for me to lean on in times of personal strife - and some seriously tough strife it has been. I've certainly gotten more out of this than all of my lovely clients combined.
Lovely Ladies, I've leaned on you as if you were my sisters - my spa sisters! (Hey, that's pretty clever ... "Spa Sisters" [trademark, copyright]!)
Where else would I have had the opportunity to spend nearly 20-years with one of the first women in our state to become partner in a law firm? Or met such interesting people as the brilliant doctor who became "Queen of the Doctors" as she served as President of the American Medical Society? Or delved into many deep discussion on how we are going to fix all the world's problems with the beautiful blonde lady from South Africa --- the only client I ever had that phrased her request like this: "Nancy, may I please have a facial Thursday?". Just lovely.
I feel like I'm at the Spa Oscars trying my best to thank EVERYBODY who has contributed to my journey. But it's impossible to mention them all by name. [But I'll try!]
Gayla, Anita, Terrell, Linda, Cindy, Terri, Angela, Susan, Ginny, Dan, Doug, Ashley, Carolyn, Erin, Eric, Glenda, Vickie and Vicki and Vicky, Janet, Jennifer, Judith, Jessica, Kim, Kimberly, Liz, Mary Ann, Marianne, Rachel, Rhonda, Sonja, ... and so many more ... and of course, my very first customer, my Very BEST customer, My Mommie who bought everything I ever sold!
And to someone who gave me my first leg up - that first spark of having my own place one day - Pat. (If you ever read this, Pat, please contact me, I have a present for you!).
Gosh, thinking back from the beginning to now, it is impossible. So many faces to thank.
My life's passion.
I'm not quitting just yet ... just realizing that even perfect things don't last forever. There will be a day when I move on to something different. I don't know when that day is.
Might as well say "Thank YOU" now.
Feb 24, 2020
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