How to Start a Spa

Written by Dave Lavinsky

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Spa ownership can be a rewarding and exciting endeavor. However, before you take the plunge and start your own day spa business, there are many factors to consider. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to starting a spa; it all depends on what type of spa you want to offer and how much money you have available for startup costs.

Importantly, a critical step in starting a spa business is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Spa Business Plan Template here.

How to Start a Day Spa

Before you begin your research, it’s important to work out what sort of spa fits best with your lifestyle and budget. Are you interested in opening a medical spa? or a wellness center?

Once you’ve decided on the type of spa you’d like to start, it’s time to look into startup costs and licensing requirements. You’ll need a spa business plan, which will determine how much money you need to launch (and maintain) your spa. You’ll also need to get a location for your new business, and you may need to secure funding from investors, take out personal loans, or apply for a small business loan.

Once you know how much it will cost, you can begin looking at the costs of actually running and maintaining your spa. If you’re planning on hiring employees, you’ll have to consider their salary, benefits, and training costs. You’ll also have to pay for insurance, rent, utilities, research and development, marketing strategies, promotional items, general business licenses, and accounting. If you’re selling goods or products in your spa’s reception area, there are additional costs for displays, inventory, etc.

Before you can open your doors to the public, you’ll need to meet with a building inspector and an insurance agent. The building inspector will let you know if your spa meets all of the safety requirements before it can be occupied. The insurance agent won’t provide coverage until your business has obtained all necessary licenses and permits.

Finally, when everything is in order, it’s time for the fun part: opening your doors to clients! Make sure you have a website ready, and you’ve marketed the opening of your spa to your target customers. Help potential customers learn about your business before they even step foot inside.

If you take the time to consider all of these factors beforehand, you’ll be a happy spa owner for years to come.


How Big is the Spa Industry?

The spa industry is a multi-billion dollar business, with customers willing to spend their hard-earned money on spa and salon services including body wraps, body treatments, massage services, beauty and grooming, and fitness. In the last 5 years, the day spa and wellness industry is expected to grow from just under $94 billion to $127.6 billion. Continuing with this trend, the industry is expected to reach over $133 billion over the next 10 years.

What are the Key Segments of the Spa Industry?

The industry can be broken into the following key segments:

Natural spas are for people who want to take care of the environment while getting pampered using organic, all-natural products. All of these products need to be free of harmful chemicals and other ingredients that might irritate the skin. The equipment used needs to be super clean so things don’t break out in a rash, and you’ll also need a license to sell products in your spa.

Nail spas are the perfect place for people who want to have their nails done, but it’s also perfect for businesses, schools, or other places that might want to offer nail care services. The best part about nail spas is that they can be a one-stop-shop for a variety of different things in the beauty world. All you have to do is make sure your spa equipment and location are up to par, and you’ll soon start attracting customers looking to get their nails done with friends or family members.

Medical spas are ideal for people who don’t want to open a spa business from scratch but instead buy an existing business that’s already been approved by medical professionals. These types of businesses usually have machines that perform ultrasound therapy, low-level laser therapy, and other services designed specifically for relieving muscle pain.

Luxury spas focus more on pampering clients than focusing on a particular service, so it’s perfect if you want to offer a variety of services. These types of spas are known for the quality of their products and equipment, so you’ll need to make sure your location can accommodate whatever type of spa you’re looking to open.

Destination spas are built with the idea of offering a full vacation experience to clients. These types of spas might offer classes and seminars so people can learn how to do everything from getting massages to enhancing their beauty routine. They’re also known for building relationships with local businesses that might help further enhance an overall spa day experience.

A massage spa is a perfect place for getting massages, but they also offer other beauty-related services that might include hairstyling, facials, or even something like waxing. All of these types of services are designed with one goal in mind: helping clients look and feel their best.

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What External Factors Affect the Spa Market?

Many external factors affect the spa market. One of the most important is changes in the economy. For example, when the economy was doing well before 2008, spas were fairly popular and there would be an increase in new spa businesses opening across the country.

Still another factor that affects the spa market is obesity rates. It’s projected that by 2030, 42% of Americans will be obese with an average weight of 425 pounds per person. This has impacted the spa business because many day spas offer treatments for weight loss which means they rely on people being willing to lose weight. This can also mean all spa services will need to adapt to the lifestyles of their consumers for them to have a thriving business.


Who are the Key Competitors in the Spa Market?

There are many competitors in the spa market. For example, day spas that offer manicures, pedicures, and facials will often compete for business with nail salons. However, these competing businesses can also be considered complementary to one another as they offer slightly different services.

The biggest competitor of the spa market is the medical industry. The medical industry offers treatments like back massages or other pain management techniques that are similar to those offered at spas. This has made it difficult for day spas to grow over the years as they’re unable to provide anything different than what the medical profession offers. Spas have begun adapting their services by expanding into other treatment types like weight loss programs or teeth whitening which has helped them find success.

The spa industry is constantly evolving. As medical treatments become less expensive, people are turning to spas for these types of services which has helped them increase their business. However, this still isn’t enough for some spas as they continue to be faced with the threat of competing businesses offering similar services.

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What are the Key Customer Segments in the Spa Market?

Spas targeted at women often do better than those targeted at men because women control most of the household spending. Spas that target people looking for wellness may also find success over those who provide more traditional services like massage or facials.

It is also worth noting that success is not always determined by demographics. Some day spas do well because they attract certain individuals who are looking for a specific day spa experience. It’s also possible to develop niche services that target clients in specific groups like men or pregnant women. As long as the price point, location, and type of service fit what your target market is looking for, you’ll likely be able to get customers through the door.


What are the Typical Startup Costs Involved in a New Spa Business?

The cost of opening a spa can range depending on your startup goals and needs. The amount that you will need to spend will largely depend on how grand you want to go with the spa business.

In most cases, you’ll need to have at least $250,000 to get a spa up and running. That includes the cost of equipment, labor, and marketing materials like flyers or brochures. It also includes licensing fees along with other startup costs like furniture for the space.

I’ve put together a list of the key costs that you’ll need to take into account before launching your day spa.

  • Licenses and Certifications: You’ll need to have a business license, a retail seller permit, and other permits for everything from electricity access to plumbing work.
  • Renting or Buying Equipment: Figure out what kind of equipment you’ll be able to rent or lease versus what will come with the establishment you buy. Will you need sauna equipment? Steam rooms? Chairs for manicures and pedicures? Showers? Think about your concept and determine what you can use to make it a reality. 
  • Location: Where will you be building your spa? Think about what’s already in the location and how it affects foot traffic. It might also make sense to find a sign near or outside of your establishment if people are more likely to stop there on their walk by!
  • Marketing: How will people know about your spa? This is the all-important question that you must answer before going any further. Think about word of mouth, Google market audiences, finding ways to encourage visitors into your establishment itself (such as coupons or hosted events), etc.
  • Staffing: Hire experienced employees and spa managers to successfully open a spa business (and also keep it running once it’s open). Consider how much this should factor into the amount of money needed by your spa.
  • Insurance: Will your day spa require your insurance in addition to liability in case someone sues you? If so, what type of policies will you need and how expensive will they be?
  • Additional Funds: In addition to the above costs some other business expenses may come up after you’ve opened for business including legal fees if someone sues you in connection with their spa experience and repair/maintenance fees for your equipment.

In all, starting a spa can be an exciting process but it helps to prepare yourself by thinking about all of the above expenses that you should expect to incur.


Is Owning a Spa Profitable?

Yes, owning a spa can be profitable business. To improve the profitability of your spa, you’ll need to know how much money is coming in and going out of your spa business. Entry-level spa owners will find that the most important thing is being able to track expenditures as well as revenues, so they can properly estimate for taxes as well as future payments.

Every type of spa you open has a different profitability model, so it’s important to do your own research in terms of how much it’ll cost you to start up and the potential income you could expect once you’ve opened your doors to customers.

If you’d like to quickly and easily complete your business plan, download Growthink’s Ultimate Spa Business Plan Template and complete your business plan and financial model in hours.

What are the Keys to Launching a New Spa Business?

A comprehensive spa business plan is critical for success, so you need to start by identifying your target customers. A day spa business plan should describe your unique service offerings, your competitive advantage, your financial projections, and the amount of capital required to open your doors. It should also include information about how you will operate the spa. Such information may include the number of staff members needed, what equipment will be required, and any scheduled treatments.

To enhance your planning process, incorporating insights from a sample spa business plan can be beneficial. This can provide you with a clearer perspective on industry standards and effective strategies, helping to solidify your own business approach.

The next step is securing a quality location with good visibility for advertising purposes. Choose a downtown or suburban setting which can create a sense of community among clients. Be sure the location is near public transportation if it is in an urban area.

Once you have a physical location, you can set up a website with spa services and products listed. Just be sure to include a map on the site so people will know how to get there.

Be sure to do market research before opening your doors to determine if there is a need for another spa in the community. It may be worth investing in some paid advertising at first to gauge demand and build awareness.

Once you have established your day spa, be sure to keep it up-to-date with the times. Last year’s color scheme may not attract customers today. If you can’t afford to redo everything in the entire spa yourself, consider replacing or updating one part at a time so that clients don’t notice too many changes too quickly.

By following these steps, you’ll be on your way to opening your very own successful spa in no time!

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How to Start a Spa FAQs

It all depends on what type of spa you're starting up. For instance, if you're opening a high-end spa with all the best equipment, it's going to be more expensive than say a neighborhood nail spa. The trick is to research and figure out how much equipment and staff would be needed for your chosen location and budget. You can also start small by renting space at first and slowly growing your business as time progresses.

First, do your homework by researching what different types of spa businesses need. For every spa business location there are unique needs, so be sure to do some good research before you start or you'll find yourself in a bind down the road. It's also smart to have a written plan for how much it will cost to start your business, so come up with an accurate estimate of how much you'll need to open shop for the first time. Keep in mind that you'll need to look at everything from licensing fees to equipment costs, so budget accordingly.

If you're not confident in giving facials and massages, you can always hire someone to help do that for you. It's not as expensive as it might seem, and you'll benefit from having some assistance as time goes on. As with all business startups, there's a lot of legwork involved before opening up shop for the first time. It's always a good idea to figure out how much money is going to be needed for equipment and licensing fees upfront. You might also need to hire some employees or give yourself time to learn new skills like how to perform facials and massages.

Finding a good location for your spa is the next step in starting up your new business. The location will depend on what type of spa it is and how much money is needed to open the doors, so be sure to do your homework before blindly choosing where you want to put down roots. 

You'll need to choose if the location has enough space for what you're looking for and if it's accessible to others who might want to come in. It's also important that the area be clean and well maintained so clients are happy about coming in with their friends or family members. You can always ask for help from someone who lives near that spot or can offer recommendations of other places that might work better.

You can download our spa business plan PDF template here. This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.


Helpful Videos

Becoming a 7-Figure Spa Owner and Spa Retail Rockstar with Amanda Whelband


How I Opened My Spa


How To Market Your Spa Business (5 Spa Promotion Ideas)


Additional Resources

Spa Industry Association

International SalonSpa Business Network

Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates