Toronto Star

Tween preen

Spas fo­cus on con­fi­dence as well as beauty,

- ASHANTE IN­FANTRY BUSI­NESS RE­PORTER

Not long af­ter launch­ing the first Glama Gal Tween Spa, sis­ters Laura and Josie Can­none had a Mean Girls awak­en­ing that led them to de­velop the busi­ness’s mantra: Be Con­fi­dent! Be Pos­i­tive! Be You!

One Satur­day, an 8-year-old showed up near clos­ing time for a birth­day party that had taken place four hours ear­lier. The Can­nones saw that the in­cor­rect time had been hand­writ­ten on her in­vi­ta­tion.

“We called the mother of the birth­day girl,” Laura re­called. “She said ‘I knew it: My daugh­ter didn’t want to in­vite her to be­gin with, so she prob­a­bly did that on pur­pose.’ ”

But to the as­ton­ish­ment of the sis­ters, who didn’t yet have chil­dren of their own, the woman didn’t seem con­cerned about the jilted child. “She said ‘Just leave the gift at your store and I’ll come pick it up. Do you ex­pect me to pay for ser­vices for (the late at­tendee)?’ We were floored,” re­called Josie.

The sis­ters com­forted the dis­traught girl, kept the spa open and treated her to all their ser­vices.

“The whole time we were talk­ing to her and giv­ing her tips for deal­ing with those girls when she went back to school on Monday,” said Laura. “And we re­al­ized that we needed to have more sub­stance to Glama Gal if girls are do­ing this.”

In­te­grat­ing an ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent to ad­dress bul­ly­ing or gos­sip along­side man­i­cures and fa­cials wasn’t a stretch since, along with the req­ui­site es­theti­cians, Glama Gal’s mostly fe­male staff has al­ways in­cluded stu­dent teach­ers, nurses and day­care work­ers. Af­firm­ing phrases adorn the walls of the hot pink, black and white spas, where the mu­sic of Tay­lor Swift and Iggy Aza­lea is on ro­ta­tion and mo­ti­va­tional work­shops em­pha­size pos­i­tive mes­sages around self-es­teem and friend­ship.

Billed as the first Cana­dian spa for chil­dren, and still the only chain of its kind, the busi­ness grew out of the spa-themed wed­ding shower the sis­ters planned for Laura in 2006.

That event, which fea­tured a mini-mani and a DIY lip gloss Glama Gal ta­ble to keep the younger at­ten­dees busy, was such a hit that rel­a­tives asked the sis­ters to or­ga­nize sim­i­lar par­ties for their kids. Within a year, they were host­ing nearly two dozen par­ties each week­end, tot­ing their gear to clients’ homes in plas­tic bins. With a $10,000 line of credit, they opened Glama Gal’s first lo­ca­tion in Vaughan in 2008. Another fol­lowed in Ajax in 2011. Franchisin­g be­gan with an Oakville spot in 2013.

Now, with more than $1 mil­lion in com­bined sales an­nu­ally, the chain just opened its ninth lo­ca­tion, in Blue Moun­tain Vil­lage, and is poised to branch out west to Van­cou­ver and Al­berta and south to the U.S., which is home to sim­i­lar chains such as Sweet and Sassy and Se­ri­ously Spoiled.

Glama Gal, which has just launched its own nail pol­ish line, is tap­ping into the “Kinder-Spa Kraze” SpaFin­der noted in its 2012 Spa Trend Report.

“If spas’ beauty and wellness menus (whether makeup ap­pli­ca­tion, fa­cials, yoga or mas­sage) used to tar­get the ‘sweet 16s,’ now they’re in­creas­ingly be­ing di­rected at the sin­gle-digit kid,” said the report. “And it’s not only a fe­male-phe­nom: Karma Re­sorts (In­done­sia), which has launched fam­ily, teen and kid spa of­fer­ings across all of its re­sorts, pro­motes its ‘fa­ther and son chill-out mas­sages.’ Kids are gob­bling up what were once grownup-only beauty treat­ments and wellness rit­u­als at in­cred­i­bly young ages, and their par­ents are all for it.”

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Spa As­so­ci­a­tion’s 2014 U.S. Spa In­dus­try Study, 25 per cent of the coun­try’s 20,000 spas of­fer ser­vices geared to chil­dren 13 and un­der; up from 14 per cent in 2010.

“Gen Z or iGen or tweens, they still want to be like their par­ents who are in­creas­ingly Gen X, and what they see their par­ents choos­ing are ex­pe­ri­ences over stuff,” said Texas-based Mil­len­ni­als re­searcher Ja­son Dorsey, chief strat­egy of­fi­cer at the Cen­ter For Gen­er­a­tional Ki­net­ics.

“Go­ing to the spa to get a mani-pedi when you’re 13 is a very doable, treat-your­self ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s exclusive, but it’s not out of reach. And tweens ac­tu­ally have a lot of money, they’re earn­ing any­where from $15 to $20 a week in al­lowance, some­times a lot more.”

Glama Gal, which caters to girls 4 to 13 (though boys are wel­come, too), op­er­ates just like an adult spa, with white robes, $50 mani-pedis and hair and makeup sta­tions.

But it also of­fers catered pizza or dessert crepes for par­ties, which start at $299 for up to six par­tic­i­pants; video karaoke booths; ed­i­ble choco­late fa­cials; non-toxic, wa­ter-based nail pol­ish; and sum­mer day camps fea­tur­ing yoga and crafts.

In the be­gin­ning, Laura and Josie posted ads on Ki­jiji and sold pack­ages on eBay; these days, they ad­ver­tise pri­mar­ily on so­cial me­dia. Their busiest times of year are March Break and the end of June, when sum­mer birth­days are cel­e­brated be­fore de­par­tures for camp and fam­ily va­ca­tions.

Laura, 34, over­sees mar­ket­ing and cre­ative, while Josie, 31, han­dles op­er­a­tions. They ex­ude Glama Gal’s pos­i­tive credo; even in dis­cussing com­peti­tors, in­clud­ing one that re­pro­duced ver­ba­tim Glama Gal’s sum­mer camp info in a blog post; and another that turned up at a spa open­ing in sun­glasses, us­ing an alias.

“I know who you are, you don’t have to use a fake name,” Laura re­called telling the lat­ter. “‘You’re wel­come here. You don’t have to be afraid, we’re women.’ It’s so child­ish. We hugged it out.

“I ap­plaud them, be­cause they’re en­trepreneur­s, but not when they copy the same ter­mi­nol­ogy and graph­ics. We of­fer to help, but it’s not been met with pos­i­tiv­ity. But that’s who we are. We men­tor each other based on what our (late fur­ni­ture plant man­ager) fa­ther has taught us: ‘No con­fronta­tion; there’s a way to han­dle things; you don’t fight with peo­ple.’ ”

 ??  ?? Glama Gal Tween Spa of­fers par­ties for young girls (and boys) who come in to get mani-pedis, fa­cials and makeup.
Glama Gal Tween Spa of­fers par­ties for young girls (and boys) who come in to get mani-pedis, fa­cials and makeup.

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