Taking the Spa Industry from “Luxury” to “Necessity” | Woodhouse Day Spas - Cincinnati, OH

Taking the Spa Industry from “Luxury” to “Necessity”

| by E. Rene of Womenetics


In 2001, Victoria, Texas became home to the very first Woodhouse Day Spa. Little would the population of 60,000 people know that it would soon become the heart of a growing national franchise of over 25 spas in 14 states with a plan to expand to 125 domestic locations over the next five years (and more than 100 international locations within the next decade). Who is at the forefront of the only high-end day spa franchise in the U.S.?

Jeni Garrett, married mother of two, founded the Woodhouse Day Spa at age 21. She believes some people are born with an innate entrepreneurial drive and as a lifelong entrepreneur, has sold everything from flowers to cattle in her hometown of Victoria.

It takes a lot of prayer, explains Garrett, to manage a household of three and a multi-million dollar franchise all at once; but her hard work paid off and has not gone unnoticed. Her work ethic has been recognized with honors such as the “Rising Star Award” and “Best Spa Chain in America” by Day Spa magazine. Her business has also experienced growth in sales, an increase in guest retention rate and a rise in the total number of guest visits despite an unstable economy. The trick was transforming a spa visit into a necessity for personal growth and health, rather than the expected luxury treatment for guests. “I give all of the credit to our hard-working franchisees,” said Garrett. “They are the best in the world.”

Womenetics: You have been an entrepreneur from a very young age. As a girl, you personally handpicked flowers to sell at your own roadside flower stand. At 14, you were involved in trading cattle and sold clothes and accessories at local markets. Describe these experiences and how they prepared you for your biggest entrepreneurial pursuit and success in the spa business today?
Jeni Garrett: I have always had a strong entrepreneurial drive. I remember getting an idea and the excitement around preparing for my next adventure. What prepared me the most was taking initiative on these ideas and seeing them through to completion. I gained a ton of confidence by taking action.

Womenetics: Considering your interest in running your own business started at such a young age, do you believe some people are born with an innate desire and fit to be an entrepreneur?
Garrett: Absolutely. I believe some people are born with a natural entrepreneurial drive.

Womenetics: What was your career like in the healthcare industry prior to launching the Woodhouse Day Spa, and how has your previous experience in that field attributed and abetted your success in the spa business today?
Garrett: My healthcare experience has helped me tremendously in the spa world. I worked as director of information systems, business manager and cost accountant in different medical settings. This experience included a chain of ambulatory surgery centers where I learned the importance of consistency. I have also applied my cost accounting skills to our treatment protocols, so we know exactly how much each massage, facial, etc costs…down to the cotton ball!

Womenetics: How did you make your transition into the day spa business? What led you to take that risk – or as you put it “a leap of faith?”
Garrett: I have always loved spas, and I visited a day spa in Houston one weekend with a friend and decided during the visit that opening a day spa would be a perfect idea! I convinced my finance (at the time, now my husband), and we purchased the property three days later…The Woodhouse House - a historical landmark located in Victoria, Texas.

Womenetics: What was your experience like opening up the Woodhouse Day Spa at age 21? Did the events of 9/11 have a negative effect on beginning this new business venture?
Garrett: I was pretty naïve at that age and didn’t realize all of the mistakes I was making! I was nervous that the events of 9/11 would have an impact on our business…and it did – just in the opposite way that we expected. We found that guests needed our services for stress relief. Our business took off, and by that December I knew we had something special that we must duplicate.

Womenetics: Out of all of your entrepreneurial experiences, have you had any setbacks? If so, how did you manage to overcome such obstacles?
Garrett: I have had many experiences that have helped me grow as a leader. As a franchisor, I have learned to listen to my franchisee’s feedback and adjust our business model accordingly. This is the most important lesson I’ve learned in the past 10 years.

Womenetics: How have you positioned your brand in the market for day spas, setting you apart from others in the market?
Garrett: We position ourselves as an affordable luxury. We are your “destination spa in your backyard.” We incorporate our signature 99 Elements of The Woodhouse Experience into every guest visit so each experience is consistent and personalized. These consist of the small details such as the proprietary oil blend that is diffused, hand-written thank-you notes, incredibly soft linens, etc.

Womenetics: When you began the journey of expanding your brand into a franchise, how did you choose which markets would be receptive and successful for the spa business?
Garrett: When we first began franchising, we began offering franchises in almost every state. Our intent was to build a national brand with great franchisees, so we launched our marketing efforts at the International Franchise Expo in Washington, D.C. and met our first franchisees there.

Womenetics: How does a company go from being domestically based in the U.S. to negotiating a franchise agreement for the development of 100 locations over 10 years, the first of which will open in fall 2012?
Garrett: Business is all about relationships and that’s how our master franchise for India happened. I have known our master franchisee for many years, and she has a background of building hotels in the U.S. Her dream was to build The Woodhouse brand in India, so we worked together and made it happen. Her first location, a 15,000 square foot spa will open in Ludhiana, Punjab in the fall. She has four more properties already secured.

Womenetics: How do you manage to keep your clientele coming in a less than stable economy?
Garrett: Our mission from day one was to take spas from a perception of ‘luxury’ to ‘necessity’. We do this by educating the guest on the benefits of spa services (the data on this is stunning.) If a guest believes that they need a massage, they will continue to come in despite the economic conditions. If they view it as a luxury, they will not come in as often.

Womenetics: Do you feel that as a woman in business, you have faced any additional obstacles (not faced by men)?
Garrett: No, more advantages than obstacles.

Womenetics: Any advice for female entrepreneurs looking to get their first, big break?
Garrett: Get a great team of people around you to brainstorm your idea and be open to their advice.

Womenetics: What’s your typical workday like?
Garrett: During the summer I normally work from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. I start my week with a ‘brain dump’ where I gather all of my notes, outstanding emails, paper, etc. and compile a master list. I spend the week working through that list. I use the Getting Things Done (GTD) method for organizing my time. I have trained most of my team on this method as well. I normally have three to four scheduled 1-hour meetings a day to discuss anything from launching our new website, to a new spa opening to a new marketing program we are rolling out.

Womenetics: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Garrett: My husband told me I needed a new hobby so I’ll stop opening businesses, so I started designing jewelry. My new line ‘Elan Brady’ will be launching on Etsy soon.




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