Island Skin Spa
285 Farenholt Avenue, #C301
By Sue Lee
Island Skin Spa in Tamuning, located behind Oka Pay-Less supermarket, creates a tranquil environment merged with exceptional service. That is what made the business boom and keeps its clients coming back.
After graduating from high school in 2002, Owner Chelsa Chester schooled her way into a career as a licensed aesthetician in Florida.
“In the beauty industry, a licensed aesthetician is basically somebody involved in aesthetics, somebody’s beauty and outside appearance,” Chester says.
A cosmetologist works on hair, skin and nails and a massage therapist massages the body. “As aestheticians, you’re licensed to do more extensive things on people’s bodies,” she says.
An ever-evolving student, Chester continually increased her skill set. She earned her medical aesthetician certificate. She also learned how to create a business around her name. It’s the combination of these two that boosted her into the world of small business ownership when she moved to Guam.
Chester was born in Florida, but her father was from Guam. With her grandmother and other family members still residing here since the 1950s, Chester made one of her visits final, settling here in 2009.
Taking her skills, she rented a 300-square-foot space in someone else’s salon. Her clientele grew and requests for other services pushed her forward into finding her own 1,200-square-foot space in 2012.
In an environment that she can now control, she created a tranquil escape, took time to train all her technicians and focused on creating quality in service.
How do you stay competitive in an industry that seems to be everywhere on Guam?
Any business here on Guam is successful by word of mouth, so the quality of service needs to constantly stay high. You can have a restaurant that isn’t in Tumon, but everyone will go to it because it’s the best.
Basically 97% of our clientele are local and military. If you Google massages, facials, spa or waxing on Guam, we come out on top. We get emails from people in the military that are coming in on a ship or submarine, and they set up appointments before they even get here.
I think it’s by word of mouth, and of course Facebook and Instagram are huge.
I think we’re one of the only spas that offers a website and Facebook page where you can book appointments. It’s the new age. We’re on the systems, and are 24/7 for bookings. We’re constantly available for our clients.
I’m also always updating the website. Everything is up-to-date and it doesn’t feel old or stale. People love the boomerang video. We do interactive things like that.
There are specials. [In November] we’re doing buy one get one 25%-off facials or massages. When you divide that discount out, it’s the cheapest facial you can get of this quality on island.
We try to do summer packages, like cocktails and massages. I try to keep up the excitement — making things fun so people will come and get our regular services, but they’ll also be able to try something new.
Every month we have something special.
What do you focus on, in giving the best quality of service?
Recently there have been more salons, spa and beauty places that have been opening, but I think the way that we differ from them is that we provide a tranquil environment. We don’t offer hair or nails, which are services that are a little louder. We are a little more on the relaxing side.
Everything that we use here is stateside products. We use Dermalogica brand products that I bring in and retail.
Because we are a skin spa, it is really important to be able to offer the clients something they can take home beyond receiving the services, because [not having the right products is] half of the problem when it comes to up-keeping your skin.
Dermalogica is geared towards almost any skin condition or issue. Once we use the product on the client, they’re in here the next day buying it. They see and feel the difference in their skin right away and it really isn’t too expensive for the quality that it is.
The technicians are very highly trained. When another business hires somebody, they think, “Okay great, you’re licensed, you can do this job.” But for me, [I think], “You can do this job, but I’m still going to train you for two weeks. I’m going to show you exactly how I want you to do it.”
I’ve had some employees that worked here for a year before they start doing certain services just because certain things take a lot of skills to do. It keeps the consistency. Employees come in and I show them things they’ve never seen before, so their learning curve goes straight up and they’re able to repeat that.
Beyond that, when you, as a client, come and get a facial, you’re also taught why we do what we’re doing. You’re getting more educated on your skin and people get addicted to it.
Greatest challenge as a small business owner?
Being on Guam — being so far away — you have to plan out everything. We track everything for months, so we never run out of anything. There are times when the business is out of the supply we need, so we have to find a new source for it.
Another [challenge] is finding ways to be efficient. Finding the best sources to get products. For example, after the first year, let’s say we get gloves from the drugstore, but now we get them in cases, which is cheaper.
Another struggle is [finding] employees. In the mainland when you have an advertisement out for an aesthetician or massage therapist, you’ll have 200 applicants at your front door. Here it’s a lot more difficult to find those people.
We have the people that live here on Guam, and we have military spouses as an employee source, but we don’t have that constant flow of employees coming in, so it’s difficult to find employees.
But, fortunately, once employees start working here, they seem to like it and also know their importance. I’m able to retain the employees pretty well after they’ve been working here for some time.
Proudest moment as a small business owner?
What I’m most proud of is seeing someone evolve with my business. I’ve had employees that have since moved to the states and they contact me saying, “You know when I first started working for you, you gave me my first aesthetic job and I didn’t know anything.” Just seeing someone’s growth is exciting for me.
You’re reaching your fifth year in business. What makes you stand out from others?
Every day is surreal — one year, two years, five years. People say, ‘Oh you’re at five years, you’re at the hump.’ But this past year has been the most challenging. I think with business you’re constantly needing to evolve. It’s just this constant thing, this constant evolution.
I would think you’d be naive to think that there’s just an end goal for your business. I think that would be an attitude for failure. It’s a constant daily goal to have the highest expectation every single day.