Having worked in companies such as Deloitte, Block hotels, Nairobi Safari club, Eastern Produce and Safaricom, Susan Rodrigues is on a roll, setting a new standard as far as family owned businesses are run.
The qualified accountant moved away from the Kenya corporate scene where she had been for over 30 years to seize the opportunity in the wellness business and is today the owner and Managing Director of Revitalize Wellness Center.
In 2014, Revitalize joined a growing list of wellness centres aiming at making fortunes from offering body treatments and massages, yoga and zumba classes, pedicures and manicures, and the gym. The business is riding on the Elmis, a famous luxury British spa and skin care brand that is taking the industry by storm with few spas in town offering it. There is no disputing the fact that fitness at home is limited or just non-existent partly because of cost and space. Rodrigues knew this only too well and did not make a mistake to tap into the big market.
She focused part of her investment of over Sh65 million in buying equipment to use in her elegant saloon and spa, the modern gym and to set inviting wellness theme as well as the interiors for more customers to enjoy the luxury of the venue. She has employed 35 people.
She was confident in setting up at ICEA Lion Centre in Parklands to get a piece of the affluent pie thanks to neighbours that include corporate firms and individuals who share the same building with them. Silver membership (for spa a lone) costs Sh97, 000 a year allowing customers to save around Sh17, 000 per year – so each month this entitles you to one massage and spa treatment valued at Sh5, 000 or less, one spa manicure or spa pedicure that would cost Sh2, 500 as well as one saloon service of Sh2, 000 or less. And with both gold and platinum memberships, there is right of choice.
Revitalize is already doing well and has expanded to offer a coffee and juice bar that serve smoothies, gourmet coffee and tea. The MD says that the advantages of this kind of diversification are that clients can come in and have something healthier after a treatment or session in the gym, without having to look for somewhere else to get this.
“We have had extremely good reviews from outer clients,” she says. “It’s a growing industry as everyone is looking to improve their lives in terms of health in general, so there is a very big potential for growth and business success.”
Her approach to marketing comes with a proper plan. Giving up is not an option. “You have to realise that each element is different. It’s not like you have only a spa to market. There is also the saloon, the gym. The juice bar… so you have to be aware of what your competitors are doing differently,” she says.
Given a second chance, she would not run the business differently. “There are a few decisions that I would make differently, but generally, given a second chance, I would start the same way,” she says, adding that her memorable moment is when new clients leave raving about the ambience, service, staff and experience of being at the wellness centre. And, she is convinced that being a woman contribute to the success of her business.
The biggest challenge, though, is getting customers because they are new to the industry, and people in Kenya, like the rest of the world, find it hard to change from a place they are happy with. Change is however inevitable, says the entrepreneur, and people do go out and try new places like theirs, when they are happy, they talk about it to their friends – word of mouth has opened market for them.
To someone who would like to venture into the wellness business, though, there is tough road ahead. There is need to do thorough homework and research. It can be a little too late to turn around a venture when you are not well informed in the industry. “They need to know that this is an industry with tremendous potential presently all around the world and if they work it right, it can have very good returns on investments,” she says.
Susan is hopeful that her flourishing firm is poised to redefine the spa business, aiming at assisting consumers to live better and healthier at a time when massage rooms have for long been tagged “sex dens” with some brothels passing off as “spas” for enthusiasts in the city.
“We pay special attention to detail and as the Managing Director I try and meet every client and introduce myself and find out how their treatments went. I build rapport with them, which I believe is very important for the future of our business,” she says. – BY VICTOR ADAR