Joining the team at a very young age, Hand & Stone has shaped who I am as a partner to our franchisees and leader to the members of my team. Hand & Stone has shown me the world (from within the four walls of every spa I've helped open and support), bringing me to places I would have never had the chance to travel to on my own, and has taught me how to reflect and improve upon myself both professionally and personally.
I began as a Spa Associate at our flagship store in Toms River, New Jersey. The very first location – unbeknownst to me at the time. I remember walking in to ask for an application. The founder interviewed me right on the spot in their lobby (I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and am still mortified to think back to this lapse in judgment). “I like your energy!” John Marco said. I was to start later that week.
My father was skeptical of how a front desk job was going to cover my bills (he was highly motivated to get me out of the house at this point in both of our lives, I’m sure). “You don’t get it, Dad! This is way more than that. They have another location! And they want to open more! This is something big, Dad. I can just feel it….”
I learned very quickly that I was right. Call it luck or intuition, I was where I was meant to be and I knew it. I had very little experience and was still working on my bachelor's degree, but what I lacked in knowledge I made up for in heart. It was at that front desk that I learned how competitive I was. How “hungry for the sale” I could be. And how much I enjoyed being a part of the positive part in someone’s day.
That month, we negotiated our first out-of-state franchise sale with an owner in Tennessee. We had them in to the spa for training and I just had to be involved! I wasn’t allowed into the real meetings, but they left their son with me at the front desk and you better bet that fourteen-year-old would know how to describe the foot treatment by the time I was done with him. It’s funny to think back to my gall. Who did I think I was inserting myself in this process? But that boldness would get me very far someday (and in some trouble at other times, but, hey, I’m sure Bethenny Frankel would approve).
One thing led to the next. The Spa Manager left to open her own business and I begged for the job. They wanted someone with more experience, which I understood, and I was still finishing my bachelor’s, so the timing wasn’t right. Welp, six weeks later, when the new Manager ran for the hills, I stepped up to the plate. “I’ll hold the fort down until you find someone else…” I said. It wasn’t a question, and they had no other choice really.
To all of our surprise (including my own), I was proven fit for the job, so they left me in charge. The founder’s daughter joined my side and we learned so much from one another over those next few years. “Co-Captains” we’d call ourselves. I remember we bought matching necklaces after our first week on the road, supporting new openings. “We deserve this!” we convinced ourselves after returning home from Oregon. We were lady bosses before hashtags existed and we were a dynamite team!
One thing was clear - I was addicted! We were opening spas left and right and I was on every plane I could catch to teach the owners and Spa Associates at every new spa. “Hold all my calls”, I said to no one, as I packed my bag full of training manuals Tara and I whipped up on the fly.
I just loved working with the new franchisees! They were so motivated and talented and wanted as much time with me as I could give… I remember the rush I felt when people twice my age hung on my every word. I was their source of answers they so desperately needed. And they listened- really listened -in a way I had never experienced before in my life. Success and accomplishment dripped off of them and I wanted it too!
After a few years juggling school, spa management, and in-field training, our new CEO road in. Like a knight in shining armor, he was my ticket to stardom (if only in my mind)! So many of our franchisees wanted to know how to drum up business; how to keep their staff encouraged even when they were first starting. But I had no idea! The Toms River spa had one thousand members plus when I showed up. I had no clue how to build the business – it was already built before I showed up.
Todd knew that was a problem and put me in charge of the new corporate store in Hamilton, New Jersey. Armed with nothing more than ambition and a very talented co-manager, Nikie, we built our core team and opened the spa as if it were our own. We literally rented the U-Haul ourselves – moving all of the equipment from our garages into the space… and sat back and watched the tumbleweed blow-by. Man, were we slow! Now I understood why all those owners I’d have dinner with had such worry in their eyes. Short from playing board games, I hadn’t the slightest idea how to keep our service providers busy.
But we were in it together. Slowly but surely, one client at a time, we booked them and turned them into members. And we reached 504 members in our very first year.
It was time to move over to the corporate team now. I had proven myself and the spa was left in the capable hands of my “co-captain” who had really been doing most of the work since I was on the road so often by then. Todd gave me the honor of serving as the very first Operations Manager we had on the team. I would visit all 26 of the spas we had open at the time every quarter, training, advising, and analyzing. I was living the dream! My dream.
And I was learning so much! I loved the conversation – what our spas’ needed and how I could deliver. From dinners with Paulina in Milwaukee to discussions with Maripat in Warrington, PA – I was a part of a community of powerful business owners that considered me a vital member of their team and I never wanted to let them down.
Bob joined the team as Vice President of Franchise Development and in the blink of an eye, we were at 100 locations. There were three more of me and we were churning! Like ships in the night, we would pass by one another in the clouds flying from California to Florida and everywhere in between.
And, on the road, I fell in love…. with Austin Texas! I begged Todd to let me relocate. Texas, now the fourth most populated with Hand & Stones, had just opened their second location back-to-back in the great city of Austin and I never wanted to leave. Just months later I was packed and moved into my first home – site unseen – with nothing but a U-haul, and my father and brother to help me unload.
Those were the best five years of life. Me and those Texas owners? We were on the same page! They don’t make them stronger or more determined than they are in Texas. And what did you know, this Jersey girl actually did well out there?! If you don’t count my brush with a longhorn, it really seemed like I belonged.
I was promoted to Director during my time out there. I was charged with onboarding and developing our new Operations Managers. The new VP of Operations, Jarred, joined the team and we were Batman and Robin, running the show.
It felt like overnight. We were at 300+ locations and my work in Texas was done. I fell in love again, this time with a Jersey boy, and it was time to come home. I was made Vice President of Operations and given the opportunity to appoint and develop “Robins” of my own. I learned from my time with Jarred how to challenge and support my team of ten. The same passion and determination I had for my spas I now had for my team. Their success was my success. Their lessons were my lessons. And their triumphs were their own. I just couldn’t be prouder.
Where am I now? I’m still here with the same fight I had as a Spa Associate. Determined to make my father proud. Determined to deliver for Paulina, Maripat, and a much younger me. Determined to show that Longhorn who’s boss. Determined to show the members of my team just how far they can make it in their careers with this company.
I am humbled to work alongside such talented business owners and team members. I am motivated and challenged by those around me each and every day. I am currently pursuing my MBA with Hand & Stone’s support, I lived in Austin Texas for five years with Hand & Stone’s encouragement, and I have created lifelong friendships with those I work alongside. Hand & Stone has changed my life in every way imaginable.
So here I am. 500+ locations in the US and Canada. An Operations Team of 18 Directors and Operations Managers. A company – and a career - that has been built (and rebuilt all thanks to a pesky pandemic) with nothing more than heart and determination. A good friend and franchisee once said, “We will succeed. Because failure is not an option.” That’s why I work hard. That’s why I show up. That’s why I still get excited, fifteen years later, when I go on-site and shake the hands of a tired yet determine new owner in the field. Because failure is not an option.
And succeeding is the only option for me.