Award-winning Hamilton skin studio innovates business to thrive during pandemic

In 2015, Krista Swayze was working an instructor of Advanced Medical Skin Care at Gina’s College of Advanced Aesthetics in Mississauga, a long commute that she hated. “You just start wondering, ‘what am I doing with my life? I thought that maybe I could do my own thing. In fact, I just wanted to do my own thing.”

That was how Flourish Skin Studio was born.

Krista built her business from the ground up without a bank loan, though the going was tough at first. “I had no clients to start, and I didn’t take any clients from anyone else I knew because I didn’t want to owe anyone anything. No matter what, I was going to make it on my own.”

Krista started by renting a space in the Full Circle Health and Wellness Centre on Upper Centennial Parkway. She started out strongly, obtaining three regular clients early on, only to receive a cease-and-desist letter from the nail salon next door. “I knew nothing of due diligence,” says Krista, “and my options were to stop doing mani-pedis and competing with the salon or find another space.”

Krista would relocate to a 1200 square foot space on Rymal Road. From there, she built Flourish Skin Studio from nothing.

Since opening, Flourish Skin Studio has, true to its name, flourished, winning numerous Hamilton Community News and Hamilton Spectator Readers Choice Awards, most notably in 2020, when Flourish won first place for both Best Spa and Best Facial. Krista herself earned a Top 40 Under 40 Business Achievement Award for 2017

“It was a hard journey, very challenging,” says Krista, who is also a single mom raising her 14-year-old son. “I’ve gone from working on my own to having two employees. I moved to a new 1600 square foot space on Upper James during the pandemic, and hired another person.”

With health spas among the many businesses not allowed to open during lockdown, Krista had to find a way for her business to survive. Her solution was innovative and proved widely successful.

“People were always emailing me for advice, so I thought how could I get more concise about how to help them. The questionnaire really helps. We’re the only ones doing this in Hamilton: the questionnaire, the product suggestions, the ordering, and the delivery.”

The questionnaire, which you can find on Flourish’s website, helps Krista get all the information she needs to figure out what type of skin her customers have and what products to recommend. Upon receiving the answers, Krista sends back a detailed prescription of products that they can order on the online store. This simple yet highly-customized customer service strategy has been greatly successful. “Now we’re getting online orders every day.”

Flourish has always had a very strong retail component to the business, so when they launched their online store, sales increased significantly. “I didn’t qualify for any of the COVID funding from the government,” says Krista, “for either myself or my business the first time around, so when we had to move, I had to pay for everything out of pocket. No one was giving out loans to business owners, either. It was an incredibly difficult and stressful process doing renos in the midst of the pandemic, not knowing whether clients would feel safe to come back once we reopened and all of the uncertainty surrounding personal services.”

Upon their reopening in September, Flourish’s client base not only returned, but grew. “We gained so many new clients in the three months we were open in the new space,” says Krista. “We adapted by creating new and amazing services that provide a deep sense of care and wellness without the client having to remove their masks and they have been a huge hit!”

Aesthetics wasn’t always Krista’s goal, but was something she fell into. “I started in broadcast journalism because I wanted to write,” she says, “but I didn’t realize it was just the news, so I ended up dropping out. I then took social service work and realized I’m not the person for that, because I can’t separate myself. I then took medical office admin, but that wasn’t me either. I tried a bunch of things that I ended up not liking.”

When one of her girlfriends mentioned that she was taking medical aesthetics, Krista was intrigued. Taking the course, she found that she didn’t care for the medical element, but she fell in love with the skincare aspect.

Krista notes the importance of self-care during lockdown, and that contrary to popular belief, aesthetic health isn’t only skin deep. “Many people are suffering issues related to having to wear a mask all the time and being cooped up in the heat. The cold outside also damages the skin. When your skin feels good, and it looks good, you feel better.”

She goes on to say that being at home during lockdown causes people to notice themselves and their skin more than they normally would, prompting them to notice problems they would have otherwise ignored. “They’re more focused on their health and wellness at this point, and realize that somewhere along the way, they fell down the rabbit hole of not taking care of themselves. I think we all need to be a bit more cognizant of our health overall and skincare is another component of that.”

What sets Flourish apart from other spas is their commitment to education and finding the root causes for various conditions. “Just selling product or offering the facials is a secondary gain for us compared to ongoing care,” says Krista. “There may be issues stemming from your nutrition or allergies: if we find that’s the case, we refer you to a nutritionist or a naturopath, someone who can help you. We have a good community of people that we recommend a client sees so we can get to the bottom of the issue.”

Although Flourish Skin Studio remains a leader in its industry and is continuing to do well during the pandemic, Krista’s hopes are to the future, when the lockdowns are lifted and she can re-open her shop.

“I’m looking forward to really being able to take care of our clients again. That’s our strength and that’s why we have a dedicated clientele who have supported us so beautifully through this whole thing. If not for them, we never would have made it through COVID. I’m so proud to be a part of this community, and so grateful to be in Hamilton. This city has been kind to us.”

Take Krista’s Customized Skin Solution Questionnaire by clicking here.

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