Spas focus on confidence as well as beauty,
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.’ ”