SPA REVIEWS: Pampered People

A Perfect Storm

In 2002, Cox and her husband bought a house in Los Angeles and she turned the second bedroom and bathroom into her spa space. Over the next two years, the couple converted the home’s separate garage into what is now the Pampered People Spa: a zen-like cottage with two treatment rooms, a retail area and a bathroom. (Cox still keeps her expenses down by not expanding any further.) A garden with a hammock and comfortable seating creates another peaceful space for clients to enjoy pre- and post-treatment. And the business’s official mascot, Cox’s Tibetan terrier “Pampy,” lovingly watches over the whole operation.

After 2004, business really began to boom. Booked solid with clients, Cox decided to hire an employee to handle the overflow—but as it turned out, that young esthetician was not a good fit for the spa. The naturally nurturing Cox was reluctant to fire her first employee, and put it off for as long as possible. When she finally did let her go, Cox discovered that her former staffer had taken all of the spa’s client records, including personal information, and was proceeding to poach as many of Cox’s clients as she could. To top it off, the esthetician posted bad reviews of Cox online in an attempt to to soil her reputation.

“That was a big learning curve for me,” Cox recalls. “I found out about the cost of doing business. And that you have to keep your head high.” A second employee hire fared better, but that esthetician developed relationships with Cox’s spillover clients so, when it was time for her to move on, she took several Pampered People clients with her.

Still, those weren’t the biggest blows Cox would have to absorb. In 2007, her husband left her. And just as she was reeling from that loss, the economic downturn of 2008 hit. Since then, Cox reports periods in which her business has been down by as much as 40%. “I know we’re taught to build on quality rather than quantity,” she says, “but when you have clients who were coming in once a month suddenly stretching it to every three or four months, that’s pretty drastic to your bottom line.”