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Published 16 August 2012 05:05, Updated 16 August 2012 06:56
When high school pals Melanie Gleeson, pictured left, and Belinda Fraser, right, started their day spa business, Endota Spa, in 2000 they had little more than an idea and a $5000 credit card limit. Today they have Australia’s largest network of day spas, with plans to open another 14 by the end of the year.
Their idea sprung from the growth of day spas overseas and the growing appetite for “wellness” services in Australia. The pair immediately recognised that a day spa facility would do well in their area – Victoria’s affluent Mornington Penninsula.
With backgrounds in theatrical hair design and real estate respectively, Gleeson and Fraser opened the first Endota Spa in Mornington and built the brand for four years before turning to franchising. The decision to franchise came about due to necessity. Finding trained day spa managers had become increasingly difficult, so the pair decided to attract owner-managers with “skin in the game”.
“People tend to work harder when the business is their own,” Gleeson says.
The company is posting double-digit growth and had revenue of $40 million in 20011-12. Endota has plans to grow to about 140 spas and open stores in Bali and New Zealand.
But Gleeson and Fraser can’t take credit for all of Endota’s success. They say they could not have achieved what they have without the support of their families and “tradie” husbands. That involves everything from child minding to errands and cooking and cleaning. In return, Gleeson and Fraser, who have five children between them, try to be as flexible as possible with their staff. “We can only do what we do because of family,” Fraser says. “It really is true that it takes a village to raise a child.”
Employees that need to leave early to pick up their children from school or bring their child to the occasional meeting are encouraged to do so. By providing a flexible workplace, Endota is able to retain talented, experienced female employees, they say. “A lot of companies say they do these things, but in reality they don’t. We say it’s fine – just do what you need to do.”
Gleeson and Fraser say as their business grows it has become easier to get their work-life balance right. Since appointing a chief executive 12 months ago, the pair now work “on” the business rather than “in” it. They focus on marketing and brand development as well as new products.
“We love our business but we love our children, too. We are also really good mums,” Fraser says.