Episode 84: Kathy Van Ness, COO of Golden Door Properties

Kathy Van Ness, COO of Golden Door Properties, exudes the serene calm of someone who knows she can have it all—but she says, “not all at the same time.” With candid honesty, this seasoned exec recalls choosing work at the expense of missed PTA meetings and bake sales with a refreshing lack of mommy-guilt. “Whether you want to work or have to work, none of that has to do with love,” she concludes.

In this episode, hear the backstory behind this radically real attitude, from a first job in retail to the top ranks of fashion and finally, head of America’s most storied spa resort.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everyone, welcome back to our pod. This week's episode features Kathy Van Ness. She's the COO of Golden Door Properties. She's so soothing and calm and relaxing, so I'm sure this episode will put you in a really good mood. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Giorgos Tsetis. He's the co-founder of Nutrafol. I hope you enjoy the shows.

Hey everybody, welcome back to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®. I am sitting with Kathy Van Ness, she's the COO of Golden Door Properties. Welcome to the show.
Kathy Van NessThank you so much.
Jodi KatzI am so happy to be sitting with you today, and I want to tell our listeners why. You are so generous and kind over email with me, and I'm not even sure how I found your email address, but I did. And I sent an email to you, and you've been just ... The warmth that I feel from you over email is so incredible, so it's so wonderful to finally meet you face to face.
Kathy Van NessI'm very humbled and happy to be here.
Jodi KatzThank you for joining us.
Kathy Van NessWe're going to talk about some exciting things and it's going to be great.
Jodi KatzYes. Let's start with something easy, how will you be spending your day today?
Kathy Van NessOh my goodness. I'm in press all day today with my press team, which is always fun, because you get to talk about all the new things that's going on in the industry and what's going on new at Golden Door, and share with everybody. It's going to be a fun day. And I get to be here with you, which is the best part of the day.
Jodi KatzAre you someone who is ... Can you easily be on? Does talking all day come naturally to you?
Kathy Van NessYes. When you lead companies, you are always on, even when you're not on, because you don't know who would be watching you, or who would even be in a grocery store. I kid people all the time, people expect leaders to be ready and available and not sick, or tired, or grumpy. It would be terrible. Of course, you're always on. And you have to be able to flip on, in a good way.
Jodi KatzI feel like I would have a little bit of a resentment around that.
Kathy Van NessNo, no. I think a secret to that is you have to love what you do. I think too many times we fall into traps and we really don't love what we do. When you love what you do, it's not really work. It's really your life, and it becomes your life's work. And the things that come out, I think of my career, it's not the beginning of your career, or your hard work that you can look at, it's only when you've gone through all these different doors and all these different mirrors, that you get to look back and say, "Holy cow, I got to do this. I got to do the Olympics, I got to be the President, I got to make cookies, I got to start a broth. I get to talk about avocado trees and silk blouses." That's amazing.
Jodi KatzSo we'll talk through this, because in my emotional journey, I get challenged by being needed. So I'm needed at home, which I'm happy to be, but then sometimes I'm like, "Can you just go get the spoon yourself?" To my 11 year old, like, "Get a spoon. Need a spoon? Get out of the chair and go get it yourself." So when I'm tired or hungry or just had enough, when I'm needed so often, whether it's from my team or just externally, like you said, at the food store, I get a little resentment around it. How can I unravel this?
Kathy Van NessThat is one of the biggest questions that women have, which is so interesting, because what are you resenting? And I actually talk to women a lot about this in lectures, you can't have it all, all at the same time. No matter where you were in your life, you cannot have it all at the same time. And a man doesn't get to have it all. We have empowerment groups and women's leadership groups, and we have all these things to motivate women, but the reality first has to come that you have to really want this for your life.

I have two incredible children, was I there at PTA meetings? No. Was I making cupcakes on weekends? Probably not. Was a good mom? Yeah. Matter of fact, I'll give you one great story, which I think that your listeners would love. My daughter was in preschool, very young, and I was commuting from Princeton to New York, which is another two hours of your day both ways. I remember getting a phone call from another parent, who said what a terrible mom I was, I was never at the school. I didn't realize the school was a co-op school, I'd never even heard of it, I had no idea that it meant I should bring graham crackers and orange juice. I'm getting over to meet the president of Diane Von Furstenberg in New York city, I'm actually pregnant with another child.

And I'm sitting here, and I look at my daughter and I say, "How are you? How was school?" She says, "It was great mommy, but mommy, the other mommies say you're not a good mommy." I go, "Do they? How do you feel about that?" She says, "I don't know mommy, I think you're a good mommy." So I go over to the school, it's like February, I have my daughter, big glasses, she's a real scientist today. I take her to the school, I hold her little hand, I'm all dressed up in my work-mommy suit, and she's all dressed up in her little I'm-gonna-have-a-fun-day day. And I said to the school, to the principal, I said, "I'm taking her out of school today." She says, "You can't do that." I go, "Yes, I can. You know why? You're teaching my daughter prejudice."

Because I choose to work or I want to work, or I have to work, none of that has to do with love. I want to teach my daughter right now, this early lesson, to not ever listen to that. She's gonna come home for the rest of the year, and I'll find a new school next year. And she's sitting there with those big eyes, to this day she's been one of the biggest proponents of women's studies and women's groups, and helping women not feel guilt. Because going back to your question, which is a long answer, sorry, you should feel joy about the fact that you're now gonna live to 100. Not like yesterday, we lived at 30, it was over, you can do everything, it's just a matter of how you plan it out.

Because I choose to work or I want to work, or I have to work, none of that has to do with love. I want to teach my daughter right now, this early lesson, to not ever listen to that. She's gonna come home for the rest of the year, and I'll find a new school next year. And she's sitting there with those big eyes, to this day she's been one of the biggest proponents of women's studies and women's groups, and helping women not feel guilt. Because going back to your question, which is a long answer, sorry, you should feel joy about the fact that you're now gonna live to 100. Not like yesterday, we lived at 30, it was over, you can do everything, it's just a matter of how you plan it out.

And yeah, some times are gonna be tough, when the 11 year old wants something, and you just, "Gosh, not again." But that's just minor, that's minor.
Jodi KatzRight, yes. I think these things are harder when I'm tired, when I'm hungry, when I'm emotionally spent. I think a lot of it is also an imprint, there were so many years when I was doing it all at the same time, which exhausted me to no end. I think my body still thinks that's the starting place, and it's almost like every day I wake up, and my body still thinks I'm there. I unravel it during the day, but then I wake up again, and my body still thinks part of it is still in that space. When I was at mommy and baby gymnastics, trying to watch my kid do gymnastics with my phone buzzing in my pocket, and thinking that was normal. It wasn't. I just needed to learn that, I needed to find my life.
Kathy Van NessWe all have to learn that, and it's gonna be harder for you than it's gonna be for me. We all have to learn how to be able to separate, this is not a good time. And you were also, by the way, training people. If you're always available at 6:00 AM in the morning, and someone really wants you at 6:00 AM, this is a problem. If you have to let everybody know that 6:00 AM in the morning is my quiet time, then people will respect that, and you'll train them to get to what your preferences are. Everybody's preferences are different.

I don't care what time someone calls me, as long as there're some hours there where no one's calling me, if you know what I'm saying.
Jodi KatzRight. Let's talk about something that I just discovered about Golden Door. I've always known of it as a luxury spa and resort, maybe mysterious and exotic. I've never been there, so that's the impression that's left on me. But what I didn't know, is the spa's made a decision to donate 100% of its profits to charity.
Kathy Van NessYes.
Jodi KatzThis is a very big-
Kathy Van NessIt's very big, and very important.
Jodi KatzCan you tell me about this?
Kathy Van NessWhen I started almost six years ago, and I worked with the owners, you want to know what is the purpose of the business. Is it to be acquired, or to live on? And their goal was, they did not need the money. I said, "Why don't we do something really incredible, once we bring Golden Door back to what, it's incredible today, why don't we give all the money away?" He says, "What would you give it to?" I don't know, we don't know what we would do, let's just put that in our mind. And half-a-year later we got a letter, from a child abuse center in San Diego, saying the center was closing. It was at Christmas, and the letter was about, shame on us as a community. This was the only center like this in that area, in that region.

We thought we should, I'm gonna go look at this, so we did. That was our first check, we got matching funds from the county, and from the buildings, and they were endowed. We started to realize there's this sector of child abuse that really needs attention, I said, "We transform people's lives every day, this is the perfect mission." If we're going to have a mission for Golden Door, is these children needing to have their lives transformed. This is not the child abuse that you can't see, this is child abuse that's domestic, people you know, people around you. It's very challenging and very discouraging, we have to get rid of it in America, for sure.
Jodi KatzYou put this intention out there, and then months later it materialized. Do you support only one charity through Golden Door, multiples?
Kathy Van NessMany. And we're moving toward, as we move into 2-19 and 2-20, to actually creating a movement with the children, because it really will take a movement to change it.
Jodi KatzThere's only a handful of companies that operate this way.
Kathy Van NessA handful, we're business for profit, we're not a nonprofit. We pay taxes, and we want to do roads and schools, and all the stuff you're supposed to do. At the end of the day, whatever's left over, this is a private company, we just write out checks, and we make a difference with the charities having to do with children. That's the focus though, is children, and it's children's abuse specifically.
Jodi KatzYou've been the head of many companies, and I have a whole list here, we can go through some. Wait, I want to, this is really fun. I went way back in LinkedIn, Federated Department Stores, Diane Von Furstenberg, VF with Swim, and Warnaco focused on Swim, and Speedo, followed by more Swim.
Kathy Van NessI know everything you could ever want to know about a bathing suit.
Jodi KatzSeriously, I actually do want to know a few things about bathing suits. I'm a girl who needs a lot of support, so I need to know a lot about bathing suits.
Kathy Van NessWe all do.
Jodi KatzI would imagine that running Golden Door is very different than those leadership positions, at those other companies, because of this.
Kathy Van NessIn a good way, though. I'll tell you, people do not want to put square pegs into round holes, but why not? Here is, literally when the Conways made the decision to hire Kathy Van Ness, it was like, "Oh my gosh, she doesn't have hospitality experience." But fashion and consumer care and touch and feel and look and taste, are hospitality. The experience we create every day in the world of fashion and art, is the same. So actually not being hospitality, and only beds and heads driven, could look at it and say, "What's our experience, how are we changing the experience with the guest? How are we really making it like nothing else in the world?"
Jodi KatzBut even on an emotional level, knowing that after the hard work the whole team does at Golden Door, the payoff is actually going to be supporting this charity that's in your neighborhood, where you can actually see-
Kathy Van NessI think the payoff becomes a couple ways, the payoff becomes that you actually affect a lot of people's lives that come to the Golden Door. And the second payoff is you make a stab in the world of this child abuse, we just had our first child abuse summit, unbelievable information came out of that summit. If having Golden Door being part of the voice, because we can, to talk about child abuse, talk about the policy. What are the laws surrounding child abuse today, how do they compare against animal rights, what's going on with those rights? I think we can make a change there, that's where it feels really right.
Jodi KatzHow have you seen a difference in the staff, when this decision was made?
Kathy Van NessOh, yeah. They're quite proud, they see that we now have 600 acres and we're really a farmer in our part-time. We're making this difference with children, they are quite proud.
Jodi KatzI just get such a sense of serenity from you, even through email, which is so bizarre that I can. Is this who you were before Golden Door?
Kathy Van NessYeah, pretty much. I think today's leaderships can be chaotic, and fearful, and I think there are many ways to run companies that can be nurturing and be guiding, and be transformative. I think that's the future of companies tomorrow, no one's gonna accept that fear-type leadership.
Jodi KatzThere's a lot of that out there, I see it in my clients, they're scared, clients in the past. Have you ever trained C-Suite people on how to be happier C-Suite people?
Kathy Van NessYeah. I'm excited, because we're doing a project now with Bergdorf Goodman, and we're doing these interviews in their store. And one of my interviews coming up is on happiness, and I can't wait to have that interview to share, are you happy, what is that defined. There is actually now a definition out there, of your personal happiness, what does that mean and how can you get there. And why aren't you there, you should be there, this is your life. This is your planet, this is your world, it doesn't get better than this.
Jodi KatzWhat I've learned over the past few years as I've been trying to reach more wholeness, and be more true to whoever I am, and discover who that is, is that I think of my week days, my work days, I spend more than half the time working on myself. Thinking about why I feel, how I feel about certain things, what's motivating me in this moment. Unraveling a physical reaction to the situation. That's more than I spend on the pod or the agency, and I feel like it's the most important work that I do. But that doesn't feel like what I know of leadership in business, right?
Kathy Van NessWe have this little, one of the lessons we do when we're at Golden Door, to our guests, and that is that life is right here, life is right here at this moment. Many times people spend a lot of time thinking about life out there, where am I going, what am I doing, why am I not getting there fast enough, how am I gonna get through this. Then what's in front of you, is hard to see, because you can't unfold, because you're too busy thinking about the future. We try to tell people all the time, just focus on where you are, because when you do, magic happens. Absolute magic, it's something you never even expected.

We're sitting here, I'm interviewing in Bergdorf, I'm buying avocado trees on our spare time, and lemon tress, and learning about farming. When you open yourself up to the present, your mind will be happier, your soul will be happier. The opportunities are right in front of you.
Jodi KatzThere's this quote, I don't remember who it's attributed to, "The present is a gift," which I love the play on words so much.
Kathy Van NessAnd history is whatever, don't look back.
Jodi KatzLet's take a journey through your career, let's travel through the fashion C-Suite, because I'm curious to know what you picked up along the way that gave you the opportunity to do what you do at Golden Door. When I look back at Diane Von Furstenberg, I feel like you were probably there at the time when I started to know what the wrap dress was, it was the resurgence, renaissance. How did you fall into that opportunity?
Kathy Van NessI was recruited to be the president, so that's good, but then I think the interesting thing about Diane was, is her incredible ability to reinvent herself as the consumers aged out. And to come back and reinvent herself, reinvent herself again, and look at her, she's a fashion icon again and has shops and stores. I'm so proud of her, it's amazing what she's been able to do. Really amazing.
Jodi KatzAnd business was so different back then, we didn't have dot-com shopping.
Kathy Van NessSo different.
Jodi KatzWe didn't have social, we relied on the media to help us tell our stories.
Kathy Van NessWe did.
Jodi KatzWhat's the biggest lesson you have from those days?
Kathy Van NessNever forget about the product, never forget about the experience of the consumer. It's funny, I was talking to somebody today, this morning about that. It's so easy to be short-term, it's so easy to give up certain quality markers to push it through. But at the end of the day, you're gonna miss the point. The point is not about trying a way to get it faster, cheaper, pushing it through. The point is, is to have, especially status brands and brands who have stories to tell, which I think we have stories to tell, people depend on you to tell those stories. They depend on you to have done the research that your product is really good, they don't want you to take a shortcut.

I think there's a lot that's going on in the marketplace now with, are things over-valued or under-valued? I would say if I walked away with one thing, two things, one is, always be innovative. No matter how depressed life is, and the market is, you must keep in front two years, you've got to be innovating. And let your people innovate, give them the tools and the ability to innovate and bring innovative ideas. Let them do some of it, and you can always be in the front, you can always be number one.
Jodi KatzLet's talk about that topic, because I feel like beauty specifically, that brands, I almost don't want to call them brands, companies feel very shortsighted right now. And obsessed with product, but just in a sense of, I need to create and sell more product. I feel this, it feels overwhelming to me, this sense of not caring about legacy. When I was growing up early on in marketing, it was all about being here for 50 years, 60 years, growing as a business and being in our lives. A brand that would be in our lives forever, that we share with the next generation.

I just don't feel that now, I feel like very few brands even see the future beyond the next year or quarter. They're not thinking about the legacy of their company. I don't mean legacy in financial planning, I mean will this brand be a part of my life in 10 years.
Kathy Van NessI think that's very interesting, and I think maybe not. I think that legacy will come back, I think when you're dealing with a new group of customers that have a completely niche personalized point of view. You've been trained on your own music, your own singers, your own house, you're not even going to a house, here's a whole room, you're going to buy that whole room and put it in your house. You're buying pieces, even to the way you set your house, the way you order food, the way you make dinner. Everything about this new customer is niche oriented, personalized.

So when you go to the big box brands who've been doing it this way, you worry about that they're not gonna understand you. I don't want to say trust, because I don't think there's that kind of relationship. It's just all the new niche guys come up, and they're really talking to you with these special little terms, but in the end, they'll all even out. They'll be another legacy, where we invent them. Let's look at Burberry, Burberry what 15, 20 years ago, oh my gosh, that's a legacy status brand. Look at its evolution, it was nowhere. It's a wonderful store, a legacy brand that's done amazing as it came back to life, through multiple ways. I think it's just timing, I think it's a time of disruption, because everybody has to be disruptive now, to get noise.
Jodi KatzI guess in my head, maybe I'm just having a down moment on it, it just feels like a whole bunch of fish fighting for the same little piece of fish food.
Kathy Van NessThey are.
Jodi KatzMaybe I'm looking for the real innovation, which is that fish that's gonna swim around that crowd and go find a bigger chunk of food down the way, where no one else is. Maybe I'm just longing for real differentiation.
Kathy Van NessThat only comes from showing you what the difference is, then you buy into it. I think that's a harder path.
Jodi KatzRight, it's harder, which is why people aren't doing it. Let's talk about Swim, I'm actually interested. What do I need to know?
Kathy Van NessOh my gosh, don't, one-pieces are great-
Jodi KatzWhy are they so expensive?
Kathy Van NessIf you really want a great swimsuit, it has multiple parts. First of all, the fabric, you want a good fabric that stays strong, it doesn't stretch apart. You want it to hold you tight, maybe nice and dull, so it's not super shiny and expensive. You want it to be able to stay there if you get into a hot tub, so it doesn't fall apart and melt, which is what they do. And you want it to fit and make you look great, because you're naked after that, that's the real story.
Jodi KatzI want all that.
Kathy Van NessYou want all that, because you're taking off all your clothes and people are gonna be looking at you, and you want to look fabulous. And you can totally do it, it's absolutely there, it's all about the art of buying the right swimsuit. Understanding what you want for your bust, do you want to have it strapless, do you want to have a long V, which makes you sexy. Do you want cutouts or not, low back or not, there're thousands of choices. Underwires, no cups.
Jodi KatzHow did you splash into that space?
Kathy Van NessOh my gosh, I was just a kid. They walked over to me one day, and said, "We'd like you to manage this heinous department of the swimwear." The racks were everywhere, and the stuff was falling on the floors, oh my gosh, the place was a nightmare. And I went, "Oh my gosh." And I had it forever.
Jodi KatzYou started at the store level?
Kathy Van NessYeah. I started at retail, then came into wholesale. And then went into hospitality. I started at retail on the floor, and swimwear was one of my shops, in Federated.
Jodi KatzI would imagine then, that consumer contact was really valuable for you.
Kathy Van NessAmazing. And what a place to learn, because you're listening to them every day.
Jodi KatzIt's so intimate.
Kathy Van NessIt was amazing, it was great.
Jodi KatzIt only gets more intimate on the intimate side.
Kathy Van NessThat's right, that's really intimate. Another hard category, obviously, buying a bra.
Jodi KatzYes, I can go on and on about that.
Kathy Van NessEqually as difficult. But there's hope, it's all about the fabric, even though no one wants to look at it, but good fabric is important, because it holds you in.
Jodi KatzYeah, I can imagine.
Kathy Van NessIt's all beautiful fabric.
Jodi KatzThere was a time where, in my 20s, where I could buy a cheap suit, and it wouldn't matter. And then I crossed over to the other side, where that does not work anymore. The fabric does not hold me in place, it does keep my parts where I need them to be. Then yeah, they don't last, they're just junk.
Kathy Van NessAlways look at the fabric.
Jodi KatzHow did Golden Door happen, because I just feel like this feel like the most incredible match?
Kathy Van NessThis was a wonderful time, I was just in Montreal, and I just had come back to LA. I got a call from a friend of mine in YPO, they said they needed a female to come down and work with ownership to guide them through this takeover of this property. It was just acquired, went into private ownership, and I thought, "Oh my gosh, Golden Door. I bought their book years ago, how karmic, I'll do that." So they just said, "Go down there and stay there." I go, "Of course, I'll go down and stay at Golden Door and see what it's like."

And she was amazing, the owner was amazing. We got started working together, she said, "I want you to come run this." I'm sitting there thinking, I was just about ready to make a decision on my next step. I had to call ahead to her, she says, "Kathy, this is world class." I go, "You know, I know, but this is really a lot of white space." We're talking about travel and wellness and health and fashion is all on the top as the most important trends today, and will be for some time. So each week we're talking about how to make people's lives feel better, inside the store and outside the store, with incredible people like you. How do women get to feel better? How do we get to feel better?

It's not just applying stuff to ourselves, there's a whole other part of mindfulness. How is your brain gonna stay younger if you don't understand what your brain is actually doing? She said, "Come join me." And I said, "Okay." She bought it, and I was there a month after she bought it. Pretty much I've been there since it went into private ownership.
Jodi KatzTell me about the experience.
Kathy Van NessThe turnarounds are always hard, in the beginning it's always hard, because you know where you want to go, and maybe nobody else does. But once you start it, and your team is all onboard, think about it, we're making broth and ginger cookies and chocolate chip cookies, and this incredible thick jam from these figs. We're making flower gardens and vegetable gardens, we have 40,000 trees coming in, and we need stakes and water. This circumference of life all lives here, whether it be beauty or women's health or women's rights, or interviewing a neurosurgeon or a neuroscientist. Interviewing someone on space travel, which we've done, it puts you into this really interesting experiential world where there are no limits with our guests. It's all about having them feel great, I love it.
Jodi KatzHow many guests can stay?
Kathy Van Ness40
Jodi Katz40 at a time, it's so intimate, oh my goodness.
Kathy Van NessExactly, on purpose.
Jodi KatzAnd it's always been that small?
Kathy Van NessYep. It was actually smaller in the beginning, it was actually in the 20s.
Jodi KatzThat's so interesting, because when I first heard of Golden Door, I don't even know how old I was, I just imagined it was a gigantic space.
Kathy Van NessOn 600 acres, 40 rooms.
Jodi KatzWas there a lot of licensing a long time ago, is that how I would have-
Kathy Van NessThere were cruises and they were in other hotels, but I think it's really difficult to take a Japanese Ryokan inn and maybe put it in Fort Lauderdale.
Jodi KatzRight.
Kathy Van NessOr into Colorado, into Mediterranean looks, and we pulled all those back, and said, "This is the only location." Absolute right decision. Only one location, because it is a classic really Ryokan Japanese inn, cliff gardens and koi ponds.
Jodi KatzOh, wow.
Kathy Van NessIt's really authentic.
Jodi KatzThe current owner, is Golden Door somewhere she used to go to?
Kathy Van NessYeah, she was a guest 22 times.
Jodi KatzReally? That's so cool.
Kathy Van NessThe first day on, she says, "I have to save it, I have to buy it." And she did, it's the perfect person. She was also the perfect person to buy it, not a corporation, because she really loved it, still loves it.
Jodi KatzWhat is your goal for Golden Door?
Kathy Van NessTo see how many lives we can affect, not only through our mission and our charitable focus, but our Golden Door part. When we see guests come across the boardwalk on Sunday, and they look tired and gray, and we get to say goodbye to them when they leave on the next Sunday, their face is all bright, their skin looks great, they've lost some weight. They're eating good, and they're making promises as they go, there's nothing better. I've got to say it's the best.
Jodi KatzYou're wetting my appetite for this. Is it, guests stay for one whole week?
Kathy Van NessWe have shorter stays, but 90% stay for seven. That's when you see the real magic.
Jodi KatzDo they abandon their technology, leave the phones at the door.
Kathy Van NessIt's so fascinating, women are harder, believe it or not, than men sometimes, and they'll walk around. But by Wednesday, they're finally saying, "You know what, this is about me, this is my turn. I need to take care of myself." And they put them away.
Jodi KatzBut it's not a requirement?
Kathy Van NessYeah, you can't talk on the phones and walk around the property.
Jodi KatzBut they can use them in their hotel rooms?
Kathy Van NessYeah, totally, they can read them, but you can't be doing transactions at the pool.
Jodi KatzWith 40 rooms, and that's essentially 40 guests a week, what does growth look like for a company when you're limited by that?
Kathy Van NessI think growth comes from our products and all the things we do outside. You're right, we only have 40 rooms, and we have a very high occupancy. Our guest return rate is about 60%, so that only leaves 40 left every year. We're already into 2019, months ago. I think it means that we stay very special.
Jodi KatzEverything you're talking about is completely contrary to what's happening outside on the street, it's all about bigger, bigger, throw more product at people, throw more marketing at people.
Kathy Van NessBut you know, that's a very good question. When I first came into this world, the first thing I noticed was consolidation. The first thing I saw, the spas consolidating and getting bought by bigger companies. And I thought, "Hmm, you know what happened to retail when it got bigger." You know what happened to all those stores that are now gone today, so I said, "We're gonna get smaller, and we're gonna get more niche. We're gonna get more focused on that one guest, on that one single guest every week." Because when you get bigger, you can't focus on one, it's impossible. Your buys have to be, think about aggregated, for my store we buy for one place, it can be incredibly special.

If I want to get a person there who's an artist, who can understand how to make your skin vibrate, and make you feel sexy and great every day, if I can get that one person to come to my one fabulous Golden Door, and that makes it more special.
Jodi KatzThis job sounds like a gift.
Kathy Van NessIt is.
Jodi KatzTo be able to focus, without the pressures of, why aren't we bigger. I feel like listeners right now are probably very inspired, but also feeling like, "Can I find that?"
Kathy Van NessI think it depends on where you want to go, I think we're really honest about the fact that we don't want to grow too fast, because we're special. I think that when you want to be "luxury" status, special, you have to be very mindful of how you grow. Because it can go like that, that you're no longer special.
Jodi KatzBut if you were bought by PE, you would have been having locations all over. It would have been about that.
Kathy Van NessIt's all karmic, it's true.
Jodi KatzBut everything you're describing about, from focusing on every guest, every day, to giving back to your community, to evaluating the business model, to say it's not about all these external things, it's about who we are and staying loyal to that, that's a dream come true for somebody like me. So I'm wondering if you get a lot of people who want to work for your company?
Kathy Van NessYou're so cute. I laugh about this all the time, in some ways I'm honored, but every day.
Jodi KatzWho wouldn't want to work there, who's in the space of health and wellness? Or even people who want to clean the rooms and work in the kitchen, everybody wants to be there.
Kathy Van NessBecause our kitchen is not just a kitchen, this kitchen is going under renovation, an even better kitchen. But it's also, they're in this garden of 30 acres, whatever, of their own vegetables and tomatoes and cucumbers and peas and flowers and bees and honey farming. That's what makes it fun to cook, because every day they only have to make what's absolutely seasonal. If tomatoes aren't in, we're not gonna go do the tomatoes, we're gonna go to what's in. Broccoli's in, it's delicious.
Jodi KatzOkay, there's only one Golden Door, and there's only a certain number of positions, right?
Kathy Van NessYeah. But we have lots of different businesses, because we are a farmer, we are a retailer, we're a wholesaler, we're a charity, not in the sense that we are a 501-3, but we have a charitable mission, and we are a hospitality. All of the world of hospitality, so it makes us, there's nothing like us anywhere that does all that. There's lot of opportunities, for all you guys out there who are thinking about opportunities.
Jodi KatzFor the C-Suite person who's not gonna get a job at Golden Door, but is super inspired by what's happening in your personal zen, and also the contributions that Golden Door makes to their community and their customer, what can that C-Suite person, who's maybe working at a PE owned brand, who's just driven by growth, numbers, growth, what can they bring to their work to be inspired by what you do, even if they can't have it themselves?
Kathy Van NessI think it's all about looking at life differently. The fact that this, why should we wake up every day, we always tell them, why would you wake up every day with a bad thought? Why don't you wake up every day with a great thought? You go to bed at night, if the bad thought is entering your mind, why don't you put the bad thought back away, and just say, "What's my best thought I could have tonight?" If you could do that every night and every morning, when you get up, and you stretch, and you wiggle in your bed, you don't just sleep, and go, "Oh, the phone is ringing in my face right next to my bed with messages."

I promise you, you will have a change. I think that may not answer it completely, I can't obviously say if someone's working in a job and it's corporate and they don't like it, how can they feel better. But maybe you can just feel better by looking at all the things that are great in your life, maybe that's the perfect job for you and your family now. It might not be perfect for you aspirationally, but other things in your life are happening aspirationally, recognize them and be satisfied with where you are. Or change it.
Jodi KatzI love that focus. Kathy, I am so inspired. I'm going to be Googling Golden Door right after you leave. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with our listeners today.
Kathy Van NessThis is amazing and fun.
Jodi KatzFor our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Kathy. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @WhereBrainsMeetBeautyPodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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