Episode 128: Gabrielle Ophals, Co-Founder of Haven Spa

Gabrielle Ophals, Co-Founder of Haven Spa, doesn’t want to step on anyone’s dreams. As someone who took over a tiny spa on Bleecker Street in New York over 20 years ago and has been moving, tending and growing it ever since, she believes in reaching for the stars. She just thinks some aspiring entrepreneurs get caught up in “it would be cool to run my own business” thinking without really considering what’s involved.

She believes in following your bliss while keeping your eyes open and having a great team of professionals at the ready, from accountants to plumbers. Lots of wise stuff here. Be sure to listen!

Dan Hodgdon
Jodi KatzHey everybody. Welcome back to the show. I am pleased to be sitting next to Gabrielle Ophals. She is the co-founder of Haven Spa. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Gabrielle OphalsThank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Jodi KatzI'm so happy to have you, and we had a conversation before this show where I got to tell you that I was a Haven customer for a really, really, really long time, and I loved it there.
Gabrielle OphalsThank you so much. We really appreciate it. We need to see you again.
Jodi KatzI spent probably more money than I should have.
Gabrielle OphalsNo such thing.
Jodi KatzAt that time of my life, but I'd make the journey from wherever I was living, whether it was, at the time, I guess, Murray Hill, or upper east side, and I just love Mariola. She's an incredible esthetician. She's so talented.
Gabrielle OphalsI agree. She's still with us.
Jodi KatzThat's incredible. How long has she been there?
Gabrielle OphalsShe has been with us since, I think, 1996, from before we even opened Haven, so a really long time.
Jodi KatzSo it's super cool. When I saw your name in my calendar for the podcast, I'm like, "Wow, this feels so full circle." You were my place to go when I first moved to this city and for many years after that.
Gabrielle OphalsThat's great.
Jodi KatzSo, let's talk about what it takes to own a spa. And you've owned several now, at this point. And you have a co-founder, right? You have a partner?
Gabrielle OphalsI do, yes. Audra [inaudible 00:01:11].
Jodi KatzAudra?
Gabrielle OphalsMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzSo, I want to paint a picture for anyone who hasn't been to Haven. So the Haven I went to is a little bit different store front than the one you have now.
Gabrielle OphalsCorrect.
Jodi KatzAnd walk through the doors on Mercer Street, and walk down a few stairs, and it'd be really quiet and calm, and there'd be several people sitting at the front desk, all doing their work and doing their work quietly, and privately, and to give everyone a really nice experience who was the client.
Jodi KatzAnd now that I see your face, I'm like, "I totally saw your face at the front desk." It's just so cool. So tell us, why did you start in the spa business?
Gabrielle OphalsHonestly, it was really just something that happened. I'd gone to college, I got a degree in archeology, and didn't want to spend the rest of my life in school, and I didn't really know what I wanted to do. And I graduated in the height of the recession in 1991 and cut a part time job at a salon, Diana Salon on Bleaker Street, through my business partner, who was my best friend from high school.

She was working her way through college doing that. And about a year into it, she and I had already started talking about maybe opening our own place, because when you're a receptionist at a small salon, you're really doing everything. And we're like, "Oh, we could do this on our own."
Jodi KatzSo, let's press pause on that thought. Why? Why would you even want to? I'm sure you know how the business is running from the front desk, but why even want to own a business?
Gabrielle OphalsGood question. We really liked it. I think I was kind of always destined for some kind of retail business of some kind. My mother told me my favorite toy as a baby was a cash register. So I guess it was a little bit of foreshadowing. And I discovered that, while I had never even had a manicure prior to working at Diana, I really enjoyed the environment.

It was very ... It's convivial, there are diverse people who come in and with whom you work. And it's, for the most part, a lot of fun. There's a lot of stress, many times. But I think it's unlike most work environments. Well, I can say that, not really working anywhere else in a really long time.
Jodi KatzSo you're a year out of college, you've worked in a salon for a year, and you and your best friend from high school decide, "We can do this."
Gabrielle OphalsExactly. But then, the owners of the salon at which I worked said, "You know, we're going to move out of the country. Do you want to buy the salon from us?" And it was Kismet. And so they took a note. We were able to give them not the full amount of money. My parents took, they were refinancing their house, and they took out extra on the mortgage and said, "We'll lend you the money for it."

And so we spent the next number, I don't know how many years. We paid off our loans early, too, both the owners and my parents. So we were pretty excited about that, and we grew the business pretty quickly.
Jodi KatzThat's a lot of faith that your parents had in you.
Gabrielle OphalsI have very supportive parents. They've been, I think they defined unconditional love for me, and I was very lucky and very fortunate.
Jodi KatzDo you have children of your own now?
Gabrielle OphalsI do not. Audra has children. I don't. I have a dog.
Jodi KatzSo, would you write Audra's children a check for 50 grand or whatever they needed to start a business at the age of 23?
Gabrielle OphalsYou know, it's a good question. I think Audra would, for her own children. I don't know them as well as she does, obviously. But yeah, I think, if you have ... I mean, I guess some people have children who are not responsible, and we came across a lot of ageism. Because where first we wanted to get a loan, I mean, an actual loan from a bank, and people were very condescending.
Jodi KatzOh, so tell me about that process.
Gabrielle OphalsWell, we were very naive, and we'd go into a bank and ask for to speak to a loan officer, and kind of talk to them about, we didn't have a business plan. We didn't. You know, I was 23. And people would just, you know, kind of downplay it. Like, make it very clear it wasn't going to happen. I looked, probably, like a bohemian, wearing these long, flowing skirts, and it sounded like a 23 year old New York girl with my really thick New York accent, that somehow, I've lost, somewhat.

And it just wasn't a possibility. And we went to the small business, something around there, I don't even know what it's called anymore. And it was full of old men who were very condescending to young girls. And it was kind of ... We really didn't have any money, because we were 23. And we kind of lucked out. Audra's parents also gave some money, and so we just really were very fortunate that we had access to funds to put money down, because I don't think the owners would have allowed us to put the whole thing on note, you know, as a loan.
Jodi KatzWhat does it mean, on note?
Gabrielle OphalsYou know, promissory notes. So, you still owe us, you know, you borrowed, you know, let's say the cost of the salon is $100,000, you gave us 50, and then you signed the ... We signed these pieces of paper that said for each payment, we're going to ... And every time we gave them the payment, they would give us the piece of paper that said that we paid them that amount. So there was proof that we were paying off the loan.
Jodi KatzAnd you paid off your loans to them and your families quicker than you thought.
Gabrielle OphalsYes.
Jodi KatzAnd how did that happen?
Gabrielle OphalsWell, we grew the business, and Audra and I really prioritized no debt. We didn't want any debt. We didn't want to be, well, we had debt to people, who I think were supportive of us. We just, neither one of us wanted to be in that position for very long. And we both have a very, we have a very similar sense of, similar money sense, in terms of prioritizing, kind of, other things before ourselves.

We paid ourselves very little to start so that we could invest in the business, we could pay off our loans early, we could buy things for the salon that it didn't have, because it was really bare bones and make improvements. One of the first things we did was completely redecorate, because it was this really dated, I don't know if you remember from the early eighties. It was this really dated wallpaper that had green leaves and vines on it, and matching chintz, well, sort of matching chintz pillows, and, you know, seat cushions.

And it was heinous. And we also lucked out because Audra's boyfriend at the time was a professional decorative painter. So we got an incredible amount of painting done for next to nothing. And he did textured wall technique with, you know, a special painting. I don't even know what it's called, but it was quite a difference.

And we ourselves reupholstered all the furniture and just kind of gave it a whole new look. And I think that that sent a message to clients that, you know, this place wasn't some frumpy little west village hole in the wall, and it still was, a little bit. Definitely mom and pop. But we grew it slowly and surely, and with a lot of hard work and sweat and tears, and that sort of thing.
Jodi KatzAnd this idea of being so focused on being responsible spenders, and responsible loan payers, this is happening as your friends and your cohort are not spending responsibly, right? The friends around you, I'm sure, were not taking responsibility.
Gabrielle OphalsMany. Many. And I think there are people who are raised to be sensible with money, and there are people who are not. I know a lot of people, to this day, who are, you know, my age or older, who just can't seem to get it together. They live paycheck to paycheck even though they're making really nice money. And I think to myself, "You could really accomplish so much more personally, not just professionally, if you could just kind of scale back on the fancy bags, or the constant going out to dinner."

Not that you shouldn't enjoy those things. I think you kind of have to have a balance of, you know, I mean, you can't take it with you, right? So, but you also have to save for that rainy day. And that's definitely our philosophy.
Gabrielle Ophals
Jodi KatzSo how many years was it where you have just only the Diana salon?
Gabrielle OphalsSo, we had that just for a few years. We bought that in 1993, and within a few years, we had, we were really building our clientele. And we had, we were all the way in the far west village on Bleaker and West 11th. We had a lot of clients say to us, "Oh, I really wish you guys had something on the east side." And after a few years of that, we started looking. Everywhere from, probably, I guess, because we wound up in Soho, probably about from Soho all the way up to the the Upper East Side, like pretty much, if it was on the east side, we were looking.

And we came across the space at 150 Mercer, and that was not, I mean, it's east. It's not way far east, but it's definitely east of where we were, and the space really resonated with us. It was, it was way before, not way before, but it was, I guess, on the cusp of when Soho was really kind of coming to its height, or it's the beginning of its growth, let's say that.

And it was a charming space. It had been, I think, before we took over, it was like a hat factory, and it was this, where they were ... Factory sounds so industrial and giant. It wasn't that big. It was this big, long, open space that was what's called below grade. You go down these few stairs. It's not like you're going into a basement, per se. It's almost like a reverse mezzanine. And I don't remember how many square feet. It was about 3000-ish, and it was, you know, I mean, Diana was 700 or 800 square feet. It was quite the jump for us.

And day spas were also kind of on the verge of, or were just coming about. There was no Elle DiCaprio's place in Connecticut. She was like the godmother of spa. And I'm not even sure, maybe Bliss had just opened, or I don't know if it was still Let's Face It, that Marcia Kilgore had started, and so there really weren't ... It wasn't the buzz word yet, spa.

But we had been reading a lot about it, and we thought, you know, we want to do what we were doing, but add more services, like massage, and have more choices in facials. Because Diana was really tiny, and our facial room was tiny.
Gabrielle Ophals
Gabrielle Ophals
Gabrielle Ophals
Gabrielle Ophals
Jodi KatzSo, this is so interesting because you're running a business with nail technicians, hairstylists, estheticians, and neither of you are any of those skills.
Gabrielle OphalsThat is correct. Yes. We considered it for a while, but you know, Audra was better at it than I was, and I think it just ... But it wasn't really a particular talent of either of ours. We just found that our talent was being, you know, it was administrative. But also front facing. And I think that, when you work from what they call from behind the chair, it's much more difficult to manage the business end of things.

Because you're so occupied with your clients in your hands at the moment. And they're really important. And so I think by dividing that, we, I think, probably helped the business grow a little further, a little faster. And we were, and I think we continued to be, somewhat careful about who we hire. I mean, you don't always succeed in hiring the best, because you never really know.

But we learned a lot over the years. I feel like while physically, I couldn't do a facial, I know a lot about skincare, and that just comes with being really immersed in it.
Gabrielle Ophals
Gabrielle Ophals
Jodi KatzSo what was your dream for Haven when it opened?
Gabrielle OphalsI would say we wanted something that was similar to Eve, in that it was comfortable and personally accessible. That it didn't have that corporate feel that a lot of these larger places tend to have. You know, it wasn't owned by some giant corporation. We're just two girls from Queens that opened, or were, you know, we came from, basically, a nail salon.

And we wanted that feeling of being personal, personable and accessible, and not wildly expensive. But you know, a good value, and a place where you want to come and hang out. Like the way you still speak about Mariola. You really liked your connection with her. And that's really what our goal was.

And I think that, much of the time, we achieve that, still. It's a real priority for us to hire people who are personable, and make those connections with clients, because I think that that's what distinguishes us from many places. Maybe not at all. I can't speak about other places entirely, but we're not just some factory of beauty care.
Gabrielle Ophals
Gabrielle Ophals
Jodi KatzAnd when you started out, because you mentioned retail and the cash register in the beginning, did brands, because you've always had really incredible curation of products for sale, in the beginning, was it hard to get the brands that you love to take you seriously as a retail location for them?
Gabrielle OphalsI wouldn't say that. No. It was, first of all, the landscape was very different 20 years ago. 20, 25 years ago. There, definitely, cosmeceutical wasn't a word yet. There weren't that many skincare lines like there are now. I mean, it's inconceivable. It's infinite right at this point.

But we looked at a lot. At that point, you had the spa magazines, or the beauty magazines, and a couple of trade shows in New York City, and we didn't really travel for trade shows yet. And it was whoever you met there. Our first big line ... That's not true.

Our first line of any note, I would say, was a line called Oja, and it was spelled O-J-A, and it was an Ayurvedic line. And it was really interesting and very unique, and it was very different from, you know, the creamy or the gel cleanser and the toner, and the cleanser were these crushed herbs, and you mixed it with a little bit of water, and it's great. You know, washed your face with that.

And I don't remember even, maybe it was an oil instead of a cream moisturizer. It was very natural and Ayurvedic, and some people responded really well to it, not just physically, but they liked the idea of it. The difficulty behind it for us was, we're not really a holistic kind of place. And a lot of the clients that we tend to get aren't crunchy granola. Some are. But the ones that we had at the time were not. And so they would look at this little pile of powder and say, "What am I supposed to do with this?"

And so it didn't quite click for us, ultimately. So our first big line really was Yon-Ka, we wanted to open Haven with Yon-Ka. And so we took them on about a year earlier by taking them into Eve. And-
Jodi KatzSo Eve is Diane renamed.
Gabrielle OphalsExactly. Thank you. And what was great is that they had fantastic training. They still do, and their national headquarters are in New Jersey. And so they were very supportive to new accounts, and they were very helpful. There was no question. I don't think we've ever run into a company that thought we weren't good enough, or, you know, I think I just came across a company, and I can't remember the name, that said that they weren't expanding their portfolio of clients at the time.

And I don't know if that was code for something or if they really weren't. But you know, at this point, you know, finding products for us, always, since, what we liked about Yon-Ka that there was still a natural basis to it. It was based on essential oils. Had been around for a really long time, and the products are really great. And that's kind of what we use as our baseline, still, is that we want effective products. We want them to work, we want to respect and understand and like the philosophy of the product line. And you know, you want to like working with a company.
Jodi KatzI met SkinCeuticals through your retail. I met-
Gabrielle OphalsI think that was our first cosmeceutical line.
Jodi KatzOh, really? Yeah I loved ... There was a facial sunscreen. I don't remember what it was, but I would put it everywhere, because I just love the texture. I also met this California brand, [inaudible 00:18:06] green and clean at the time. I want to say it started with like an E, letter E or something.
Gabrielle OphalsEpicuren?
Jodi KatzYeah, Epicuren. Are they still around?
Gabrielle OphalsI think they're still around, but we no longer carry them. You know, clients, also, in terms of what determines what we carry, sometimes clients come to us. You know, they'll tell their facialist, "Oh, I'm using this new product from so-and-so, and you know, you guys should check it out." And we do. And then, if our staff likes it, because we always have our aesthetics team kind of take a look, because if they don't like it, there's no point in us carrying it.

And if they like it, then we'll entertain it. We'll check it out. And if clients lose interest, which they do, because there's so much coming out. Like I said, I mean, there's an infinite number of lines at this point. People kind of grow bored, and they want something new, and that's ... Our clients grow board, our staff, they become kind of less interested in a line, and then we know it's time to take on something new. And there's a finite amount of shelf space.
Jodi KatzRight. Well, beauty is very much like the candy business, right? If it's shiny and cute, I want it, and then I'll eat a lot of it, then I'll move on to something else.
Gabrielle OphalsI totally understand.
Jodi KatzSo, what's the biggest pain point in running a spa your size?
Gabrielle OphalsPeople management. People management. You know, it's staff. Staffing, probably. It's like any business. There's a culture to any business. And I think even if you're small, small, and even when you're giant, there's going to be a culture that develops over time. And especially if you're a business that has been around for over two decades, like we have, like ours is.

There's a culture that's developed, and not everybody fits in with that. And so you have some outliers, and people who aren't really team players and aren't committed to the way you want things to be done. And so that's the biggest challenge, I think. Or, you know, training. Some people get things really quickly and others don't. And so kind of learning how to pace, how to pace education for different learning styles and people.
Jodi KatzSo, for people who are not the team players and don't fit into the culture, are you very surgical about making those changes very quickly, or do you hem and haw about it? What do you feel inside when you see these things happening?
Gabrielle OphalsWe hem and haw. I think, sometimes, it's ... We've had people who just, they come there, they come to our place, they just want to work. They want the paycheck, they do a good job, they care about their clients, they care about their performance, they care about the business in that aspect. They understand the connection of their work and our business, that it's a we, that it's not an us and them.

And for them, sometimes, that's okay. Like I had a nail tech a few, a number of years ago, who just didn't want to be swept up into the culture of things. She just wanted to come there, and she was great. I loved her. She was great, and she wasn't hostile. There was no conflict, there was none of that. She just did her own thing.

And then we've had other people who are dramatic, and they just can't connect with their coworkers and the way we want to do things. They just can't get out of the space of, well, I want to do it this way, rather than the Haven way. And with those people, it takes time to A, find out that that's really what the problem is, and that we're not going to get past that, and B, I never like firing people or letting people go, ever. Even in the most egregious situations, a part of me still feels really bad about it.
Jodi KatzIs that your job on the team?
Gabrielle OphalsMost of the time. Actually, not so much anymore. It depends. If it's a big, if it's somebody who's been with us for more than five minutes, then I'm usually involved. Because I've also been involved in trying to acculturate them in some level. And so I like to be a part, not like, but I want to be a part of that separation, because I want to make sure that it's done well, and I want to make sure that it's understood why, why this is happening.

But many times, our managers or assistant managers, they're authorized to make that decision, because it's like, we recently had somebody that we let go, and it was an assistant manager who took care of that, because they received four complaints in two days.
Jodi KatzWow.
Gabrielle OphalsAnd it was somebody who had not been doing well with us, and we decided, you know, this is a lost cause, so let's just move forward.
Jodi KatzAnd your space has grown since I've been there.
Gabrielle OphalsYes.
Jodi KatzYou expanded and moved.
Gabrielle OphalsWe did. Yeah. We moved up to 250 Mercer, and to a slightly larger space. We were able to design it more wisely. When we first designed Haven, we really didn't know what we were doing. We had like the break room in the middle of the spa, so everybody was walking by it, and the laundry. It was cramped and tiny, and the rooms weren't really set up optimally for, you know, like, some of the rooms were way too big. Some of the rooms were way too small.

Let me rephrase that. The way we redesigned Haven was that so, for almost every single room, and you can perform almost any service in that room, whereas in the old space, you were really limited. You couldn't do a facial in this room, or you couldn't do a massage in that room. You couldn't do waxing in that room. So now, you could do anything, except you know, wet body service, where we're doing a body scrub and then we hose you down. You can only do that in the rooms that we have the shower in.
Jodi KatzRight. So that thoughtful design makes it easier to book and kind of evolve what's a big waxing day versus a big facial day. You don't have these jam ups.
Gabrielle OphalsExactly, exactly. And so, we'll decide in staffing, like for example, on our really busy massage days, I want to make sure that, we have 13 rooms, that I only have 13 people who are going to be using those rooms. So, do I want to have seven estheticians and six massage therapists, or, you know, seven and the other way around or whatever?

I just have to make sure that if more people want massage, that I have more massage therapists on, and vice versa. And then, you know, at the same time, I don't really have to worry that, do I have enough rooms that we can do massage in, or do I have enough rooms I can do facials in?
Jodi KatzSo you've moved into a space, you've obviously invested in the move and the redesign. Let's talk about marketing a spa. So part of me, because I run Bee's Beauty, and the podcast is my side hustle, but part of me looks at local businesses like yours and I dream of marketing a local business. Because it's very specific who your target is, right? It's not sort of like everyone in the world like we do for other clients. It's a very specific.

So I have this romantic notion of marketing local business that my guess is you're going to sweep away and say it's not that romantic. It's really hard. So, what does it take to market a business, continue to have it grow and prosper after 20 years in New York City?
Gabrielle OphalsIt takes a lot. I feel like it takes a lot more targeting, and a lot more ... I just tried this word. Specificity in terms of targeting that client base that we want. For us, we do get a lot of tourists because of the nature of the business. They come to New York, they want to go to the theater and they want to get a spa treatment. It seems to be kind of par for the course now.

And that's great. We love having tourists at our spa. But that's kind of mainly on the weekends. And we also really like local people, and so there are people who live in apartment buildings, but especially in Noho where we are now and, and in Soho, there are a lot of offices, or small businesses or retail shops.

And so, we've, in the last few years, we've reached out to a lot of those businesses that A, didn't know we were there, or B, maybe one person was coming to us or something like that, and just kind of saying, "Hey, here we are. Why don't you come on in and we can support each other, and we'll do various campaigns with each other?"

We just did something with Miss Disa, and we ... It was an eyeglass company, I don't remember the name of it, where we went in and gave eye treatments that we do to their clients if they bought X number of dollars a night in a prescription, then we would give them an eye treatment on the spot and that kind of thing.
Jodi KatzAnd do you see those types of activations making an impact?
Gabrielle OphalsWe do. We just did, we did something with WeWork, and Tompkins Studios, and you know, a lot of it is just getting the word out there. There are so many spas and salons out there, and we are about engagement. We are about being, personalization and being accessible and friendly. And we want people to know that we're not just any other place. That we want you to come in, because we want to work with you in terms of making your life more comfortable and prettier.
Jodi KatzSo how big a role does social media play for your awareness?
Gabrielle OphalsA lot more than it used to, obviously. We really don't do anything on Facebook. We have a Facebook page, and I can't remember now if the Instagram account links to it. I'll have to check on that, actually. But we do mainly Instagram, I would say. And we do trade with certain people when they come in for, you know, like bloggers will come in and they'll try a new service, and then they'll post a story, or just a general post and tag us. And that's always great.
Jodi KatzSo influencer marketing is a part of your strategy, or is that just sort of a by accident?
Gabrielle OphalsI'm sorry, what did you say?
Jodi KatzInfluencer marketing.
Gabrielle OphalsIt's part of our strategy. We work with a PR person, her name is Jeanette Sono, and she is, she facilitates a lot of that for us, because that would be a thing that's not really one of my specialties.
Jodi KatzRight. I'm getting the feeling that if Jeanette didn't do it, you wouldn't do it.
Gabrielle OphalsFor some things, it's true. It is collaborative. I know that with our neighborhood reach out, that was definitely something that we worked together with her on. I was, you know, I gave her a list of companies that I thought would be good and she would reach out. She does reach out to them, or she'll say, "Well, what about this company?" And I rarely said, I never really say no to that kind of stuff. So.

But she comes to us many times with ideas, and we also say, "Well, we want to do it." But anytime we introduce a new service, we kind of run it by her. Like, what do you think if we do something like this? And I don't know if she's ever said, "No, don't do that."
Jodi KatzI'm sure it's the PR that got me to your space originally so many years ago. I don't know how I would have heard about it otherwise.
Gabrielle OphalsIt's possible.
Jodi KatzWe didn't have social media back then.
Gabrielle OphalsNo. And we didn't do any advertisement. That's always been the way we did things, was working with a PR company. Our first company that we worked with was Siren, and it's just something, I mean, every once in a while, we would do some kind of print advertisement, and I can't remember the last time we did something like that. It seems antiquated at this point.
Jodi KatzIt does, doesn't it? So what's your goal for the next 10 years of Haven? What are you hoping that Haven does or creates?
Gabrielle OphalsI think staying current, in terms of not so much trendy, but maybe trending services that are effective, and continuing to innovate with services. Like, we've added a number of specialty massages that are entirely ours and not inspired by anything other than a conversation amongst the management team and massage therapists.

And I think continuing to build our clientele, since there's always people moving away or that kind of thing. And I don't really see us opening another location. It's something that I'm pretty comfortable with the way we're running things now. And I think, I don't want to say maintaining the status quo. I think that Haven has a lot of room for growth. I think that you mentioned our retail, it being curated. I feel like that's always a work in progress, and I'm always excited about adding new and exciting things to that and working on that.
Jodi KatzSo we have a lot of listeners who are entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial, so maybe they're in a job, or they don't love it, and they dream of doing something like what you've done with your partner. They fantasize about the opportunity to own their own place, whether it's a spa or a hair salon or nail technician salon. So, what would you say to that person who's dreaming about making this dream happen for themselves?
Gabrielle OphalsIt's a lot more work than you think it is. It's not just, I sometimes get the feeling when people, when I interview somebody and I ask them the same question, like, "Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?" And they're like, "Oh, I'm going to own my own place." I think to myself, "I don't think you understand what's involved." It's not just ... A lot of times, I think people think they're getting a much bigger piece of the pie by doing that. And I think that that's not the case when you go-
Jodi KatzYou mean financially.
Gabrielle OphalsYeah. And I think that it can be, and there's a lot of potential for that, but there's so much more. It's not just you get more clients, or you can charge what you want for your services, and use whatever products you want so your margin can be better or something like that. It's about marketing. It's about who you're front facing people, and client interaction and managing other people.

Are you going to be a single booth, so to speak? Are you just going to work for yourself out of another salon and just kind of do a booth rental, or are you going to open an actual standalone place, and what's involved in that? The contractors, you're going to have to hire the construction, the never ending water problems. There's always the heating ventilation systems, and you know, there's a million things to think of.

Cashflow, and what do you do during the slower months? What do you do with all that excess money during the busy months? Are you going to take it home and line your pockets, or are you going to actually save for that rainy day, or find a happy medium? And I think that it's not impossible. I think you should dream. I think you should try to achieve your dreams, but I think you have to take a really hard look at what's involved.

I don't want to sound like the way the people did when I first started, you know the ones who, in a very condescending manner were like, "You know you need an accountant. Right?" I understood the sentiment. There's just more to this than you think. But I definitely don't think you shouldn't try because it's difficult. It's just understand that it's difficult. You do need an accountant, you do have to pay your taxes, and the state is coming up with more and more regulations all the time, which isn't entirely bad.

I mean, you want to protect clients, you want to make sure that people understand the risks involved in performing certain services. There was that exposé a number of years ago on nail technicians in the city. And you know, fundamentally, my issue with that article specifically was the product they were referring to is illegal to begin with. So, if you're, the salon that you're running is using an illegal product, of course you're going to have problems.

And why would you want to expose yourself to that? I mean, we are very careful about the products that we use in our salon, because I don't want to breathe that stuff in. I don't want my staff to be injured. I don't want them to breathe it in. The client, she's not at a risk. You're in there for 30 minutes. But the staff is when you use some kind of noxious chemical on your nails, or it's really more of a risk as nail services.

But we've always used cornstarch in the treatment rooms for our waxing rather than regular baby powder, because cornstarch is better for you then talcum powder. And it's protection for the staff. I don't like using a lot of aromatherapy products in the treatment room for the massage therapist, because that means they're exposed to essential oils all day long. It's not really great for them, so we kind of mix it up.
Jodi KatzWell, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today. It's so great to walk down memory lane of my Haven experience and to hear what you've been up to.
Gabrielle OphalsThanks for having me.
Jodi KatzAnd for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this episode with Gabrielle. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @WhereBrainsMeetBeautyPodcast.

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