Donna is a confident business owner, full of experience and insight. She is popular for her skin expertise, and even more so because of her kind personality.
I was delighted to have the opportunity interview her and get an inside view of her business.
Donna shared so much we can learn from - including her personal story, the risks she took over the years, her unique approach to sales, and more!
Tell us about your background and how you got started:
I was raised in the skin care industry. My mother, Sonya Dakar, has been an esthetician for over 40 years. When my parents moved to California, my mother started her own practice which began in the guest room of our home. It grew over time and after about 15 years, my mother developed her own skin care line. My mother studied aromatherapy and my father was a chemist. Together they created formulas for the skin care line. At night our dining room would turn into a lab. They would fill bottles with products and print the labels off of our home computer.
Eventually, my mother’s business moved to its own storefront. As a teenager, I assisted there and worked as a receptionist along with my sister. After graduating college, I worked in the family business for 10 years doing sales and education for Sonya Dakar Skincare.
When I moved to New York, I distributed the products on the East Coast and educated groups of estheticians to familiarize them with the Sonya Dakar product line. I trained groups from 5 - 40 people and went to trade shows. By that time, I had a really good understanding of different skin types. I knew how product ingredients worked and the effectiveness of different skin treatments. I also had a lot of retail experience and was able to sell products. Over the years, I opened and maintained about 75 accounts, including some very high end resorts and retailers.
When I worked for my mother’s company I did a lot of traveling. I would have to train our representatives in other regions. The traveling was difficult for me because I had small children. Nine years ago I transitioned to working part-time from home, producing educational content for my mother’s website. At that time I also became licensed in the state of New York as an esthetician. I began giving facials at home and within six months, it became a full time business.
The Skin Retreat is the skin care studio that I now run out of my own home. It’s a beautiful and tranquil space. I do the Sonya Dakar facials and sell their products. I don’t work for my mother anymore, however she still involves me when it comes to product development.
I love the name of your business, The Skin Retreat. It’s creative, but it also clearly tells the story of your business. How did you come up with it?
I serve a vast community of women, all types and all ages. Some of my clients are dealing with teen acne and others with aging skin. I saw that everyone has different life challenges, and I wanted to create a space where they would walk out feeling rejuvenated on all levels. I focus on skin, but it’s ultimately all about the retreat experience that I create for the women who come.
What are the benefits of selling both products and services?
Think of skin care like getting your body into shape. You can't just exercise and work out, and then eat whatever you want. If you really want to get healthy, you have to both exercise and watch what you eat. It's the same thing for the skin.
Someone who just comes in for facials needs the maintenance to really achieve the results that they want. It really goes hand in hand. It’s important to use the correct products in addition to getting the services. I find that the better results people see, the more they're going to be loyal and come back.
I mainly sell products to my clients who come for services. However, some people don’t necessarily have time to come in for a facial or they live too far away, so they will send me a picture and ask me to recommend products that they can use at home. I have so many years of experience with skin that even without looking at pictures I could pretty much tell what they need and how to combine different products.
Throughout the year, I run sales and promotions to incentivize my clients to continue replenishing their product. I find that the majority of my revenue comes from selling products. When providing services, there is limited amount of money I can make per hour. However, I do offer treatment upgrades as a way of increasing my profitability within the same time frame. Therefore, one client could spend $100/hour, and a different one could spend $400/hour and it would depend on how many services we're putting into the hour.
Business is all about calculated risk. Can you share with us some risks that you took in your business and how they turned out?
There is a certain risk that I take when buying expensive machines because I can never know exactly how long it's going to take to pay it off and how my clients will take to it. It’s a big investment but I find that when I’m really passionate, confident, and have integrity, my clients trust me and are willing to try something new.
It's still a risk, because ultimately I don't know exactly what kind of results I will get. I don't like to guarantee my clients the moon, the stars and the sun. However, I would say, the risks I have taken in business have always worked out. In fact, I’m a little on the conservative side. I should probably be taking more risks.
Another risk I took in my business was raising my prices, but I felt it was worth it. I knew the value of what I was offering and also compared my prices with the market. That gave the confidence to overcome any fears.
When deciding on price, it’s important to realize that people spend money on what they value. You can have two people who make the exact same income, but they will spend their money in such different ways because they value different things. Whenever you're selling something, whether it's a service or a product, you have to educate people to value what it is that you're offering.
How do you educate your clients?
There is a difference between selling and educating. I'm not shy when it comes to recommendations, but I will not pressure or push people.
Here is what I tell my clients:
“I'm going to recommend the products, services, or upgrades that I think are best for you and will really benefit your skin. There's no pressure whatsoever, and we can start small and simple. It's just my job as a professional to recommend what I think would be best for your skin.”
My clients often remind me that they are coming to me for advice and guidance because of my expertise. When I recommend a certain upgrade to a facial, my clients often respond by saying, "Donna, do whatever you feel is best. You're the expert. You tell me what I need."
Educating your clients is important in every industry. I would be so grateful if I when I shopped at a shoe store they explained to me, "The pair that you're picking is very cute on you, but they're not going to be so comfortable. So if you really want a cute shoe, take these. However, if you really want a comfortable shoe, I also have these to offer you."
The same concept is true when working with a graphic designer. A client might think that all they need a simple advertisement, but it is the designer’s responsibility to take it a step further. As an expert, the designer should educate the client and say, "Let's work on your overall branding to make you look more professional."
Donna, this conversation has been packed with so much great information. Thank you for being so generous and helpful.
To inquire regarding The Skin Retreat's product line or services, you can reach Donna via text or WhatsApp at 516-807-8645. Shipping is free and everyone gets 10% off their first purchase!