Joyce Hampers creates a beauty of a business
When Joyce Hampers finished stimulating small business growth as head of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, she did just what she had been helping others across the country to do – build a thriving business from scratch.
Over the past 14 years, Hampers, as founder and CEO of Joymark Inc., has revolutionized the day spa and salon concept that she began as Giuliano on Boston’s Newbury Street.
In fact, business and demand grew to the point that she opened the sophisticated Emerge Day Spa and Salon a block and a half down the street from Giuliano, which she revamped and rebranded as the trendy G2O.
Today, Hampers is drawing up plans to move and expand G2O into a new, even larger building that she’s purchased across the street from Emerge. And to think that when she began her business, she didn’t know her idea for one-stop beauty and wellness care was an emerging industry.
With an initial lease for 5,000 square feet, Hampers didn’t want what she calls “a hair warehouse.” She knew she sometimes skipped having her hair or nails or a facial done because she was too busy and so she thought others would appreciate catering to every need in one place.
It wasn’t until Hampers was working on the floor plans with an architect, however, that she learned she was joining a fledgling industry.
“The architect kept saying, ‘Well, most day spas have this,’ and finally I said to her, ‘What’s a day spa?’ And she said, ‘It’s what you’re building,’ ” Hampers relates, laughing.
Hampers had her first clue to the potential of Giuliano when the state licensing inspector said he’d never seen anything like it in the state. “That’s when I knew I was onto something,” she says.
What gave Hampers the courage to start a business she knew little about was her background in law, finance and government.
One of five women to graduate out of a class of 135 at Boston College Law School, Hampers never gave much thought to the challenge of having to be twice as good as her male counterparts – while birthing all three of her children. Later she learned her classmates were betting on whether she’d make graduation. Little did they know!
After graduating from BC and while working in corporate law, Hampers was the only woman in her taxation graduate program at Boston University. A few years after finishing the night program with an LLM degree, she opened her own practice.
In 1975, then-governor Michael Dukakis asked Hampers to become associate commissioner in the state’s Department of Revenue. Finding it impossible to tackle her charge – to restructure the DOR due to bureaucratic entitlement – Hampers resigned, only to be asked in 1979 by the next governor, Ed King, to be the DOR commissioner. It was then that Hampers streamlined what had been separate bureaus by restructuring along functional lines and sharing the processes that were once duplicated.
When King lost his reelection bid in 1982, Hampers joined a private law practice. In 1986, she ran for state treasurer, capturing 46 percent of the vote against the Democrat incumbent at a time when, she says, “Republicans in this state could fill a phone booth.”
Her success captured the attention of then vice president George H. W. Bush, who asked Hampers to co-chair his Massachusetts presidential campaign. She didn’t immediately accept his offer but met with him to learn his policies before committing to the position.
At his election, Bush in 1989 appointed Hampers assistant secretary of commerce for economic development in the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, a position that reported directly to the president. Again, Hampers went about making government more effective and efficient.
The policy of the previous administration – supporting local tax abatements for large corporations with federal funding – had created ghost towns when the corporations moved on. Hampers used the empty buildings to create incubators and offered small business, the real driver of the U.S. economy, low-interest loans to start and flourish.
At the end of Bush’s term, Hampers thought she could apply her background to business and then set to deciding what type of business. Hitting upon her one-stop idea, she teamed up with her hairdresser back in Boston to start Giuliano in 1994. The business started with hair, massage, facials, nails and water therapy, including steam, sauna and Swiss showers.
By 1997, Giuliano was breaking into the adjacent building for more space plus opening on Sundays to accommodate customer demand. Around this time, spas were evolving from pampering for the ladies-who-lunch to providing beneficial health results for all types of women – and men.
“We grew like topsy,” Hampers says. “We had to take what space was available and reconfigure as best we could to run smoothly and efficiently.”
In 2001, Giuliano also expanded into the lower level of the building and by 2005, Hampers was refocusing the day spa and salon as the contemporary and cutting-edge 11,000 square foot G2O, while planning the 2006 opening of the 10,000 square foot Emerge, her “dream” spa and salon catering to clients wanting the traditional European experience.
Hampers early on wore every administrative hat until she could add personnel as the business grew. Accustomed to the ways of business, she gave staff benefits – unheard of in the industry at the time. She also expected employees to work regular hours vs. come and go. Her biggest challenge was getting everyone, the nurturing spa staff and the creative salon staff, to peacefully coexist as one business. This she accomplished through group meetings that continue to this day.
“I had to get them to the mentality that they were working for an organization, that they were a team, that we are all working toward the same goal and that, as the company prospers, so do they. I had some sleepless nights over that,” Hampers says.
Free to be a true CEO these days, Hampers is constantly looking for the next trend and the best improvements to her day spas and salons. And she’s having fun thinking about what to add to the new 12,000 square foot G2O.
A brine inhalation room is one idea – after breathing in salt air “guests won’t want to return to the real world,” Hampers says. Steeping pools for hot and cold plunges are another new-wave treatment she’s considering.
Hampers is also contemplating the more medically related, another spa trend, by adding in services for breast cancer patients, partnering with fertility clinics, and offering cosmetic and laser treatments as well as the latest in injectables.
Hampers says she has never considered establishing a chain out of her day spas and salons, and herein is the key to her success.
“The chain lends to a cookie-cutter approach,” Hampers says. “A spa is so personal. I would rather do what I’m doing – creating different kinds of spas, each one innovative and unique, catching more markets and doing different things in each market – than duplicating things. I think this is much more exciting. There’s just so much to spa.”
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