As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tamara Smith — Founder of UPKEEP Med Spa.
Tamara Smith initially started her career in real estate in Texas, where she ended up becoming a million-dollar producer in just her first year. After three prosperous years in the industry, Smith became a mom for the first time and soon realized that she wanted more flexibility to have a proper work-life balance. Being the entrepreneur that she is, Smith set out to create an exciting new model in the dog washing industry. She innovatively purchased mobile dog washing trucks and parked them at popular dog parks in Dallas. To this day if you go to any dog park downtown in Dallas, there is a good chance you will see one of Tammy’s trucks!
Although her trucks were successful, Tammy Smith decided that she wanted to follow her passion and get into the beauty industry. She took a position as a manager for one of the most prominent plastic surgeons in the country. After baby number two, Smith decided to partner with her husband and open UPKEEP Med Spa in New York City. UPKEEP is an inclusive aesthetics spa that offers high-quality aesthetics treatments such as Botox, skin treatments, body contouring, and luxury facials accessible to women and men in the Tristate area.
Tammy Smith believes that the workplace should be a positive environment with a work-life balance and a focus on customer experience!
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’m still pretty young and have always known that I was meant to be in some type of beauty/customer service role. I managed a few Plastic Surgery Offices and my husband has been an executive in the Med Spa/Beauty industry for over 10 years, so it was something that not only was I comfortable with, but my support system at home is incredibly comfortable with.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I have met and I follow so many talented injectors around the country and I would cringe when I would see their posts essentially discrediting any treatment that wasn’t charging what they were charging. I think the ethics behind trying to trick the customer into believing that they have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to get a high-quality treatment was nonsense. In some cases, it may be true, but I have seen and had my Team fix many horrible injections from very high profile and expensive injectors. Also, being a woman of color, I think it’s a travesty at the number of services and treatments out there that aren’t available for all skin types. We have a plethora of esthetic options for dark-skinned women, I have personally tried all of these treatments and stand behind them. Inclusion is important, and while some people might be struggling to accept that, under my roof we want everyone as a client. At my Spa it doesn’t matter what your budget is, or what skin color you have, we have something for you. I knew there had to a way to provide some of the best treatments in the city, for the best prices. I’m pretty sure that I have figured it out.
This is an example that I use when describing my Model: Let’s say that you are a single mother and every time you look on your Instagram you see your friends with lip injections or your favorite celebrity with lip injections. At a dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon, you can’t even get through the door because you can’t pay the deposit, at Med Spa’s you are forced to pay for the full syringe, and it’s not realistic for you to spend $800 and still be able to put food on the table. We welcome you at Upkeep, we want that person to be able to come to UPKEEP and get a Quik lip for $250 and when they save up another $250, I want them to come in and get another Quick lip. Now when no one else wanted this client or marketed to this client, I have a client for life, also she never had to put herself in a financial burden just because that’s what the industry currently tells her has to happen.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Opening a business during a pandemic is comedic in itself, I had big plans to open in NYC in April 2020, but besides that, the whole process went smoothly and not many mistakes were made. I mention it a lot, but I have a great support system and we had a pretty good idea on how to get to where we were going.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I could speak for hours on this question, but I will get right to the point. I truly believe that in order for you to be in a position to serve, you need to be served. We want our team to feel at home and we want them to be given every tool possible to succeed. I had a conversation with my husband, and we compared notes on values, and company perks that we would have liked to have seen in previous companies but were never able to get the green light on. Every single one we implemented.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
For starters, we offer paid childcare to any employee Male or Female that has children, we also offer full benefits (401k, Dental, Vision, Medical), and an education fund that renews every year. We implemented a bill pay give away for our customers, where every month we choose one of our customers and pay a bill of their choosing. We also run a plethora of other giveaways on our Instagram. We are trying to create a family mentality and a group of Loyal Upkeep followers; we truly believe the best way to do that is through benevolence and generosity.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Don’t ever bend on your principles. No matter what, if you always do the right thing, you will always come out on top. I follow this principle in my personal life as well as my professional life.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
We took over our lease on March 1st and instantly got hit with Covid-19. I will be incredibly honest, managing construction, setting the business up, hiring, all while managing two children at home with no income was incredibly tiring. We also did not borrow any relief money from the government, and we continued to pay our rent consistently. We didn’t believe that putting a burden on our landlord, fit within our personal principles. I never once thought about giving up, I realized during this process that it’s not stresses or pressure that kills a person, it’s how they react to it. My Faith is strong, and my support system is strong.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
We are one of the top producing spas in NYC and are opening our second location after only being open a few months.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Customer Service has to be the backbone of your business: If you can’t grasp the importance of this you were never meant to be in this business.
2. Have all of your Standard Operating Procedures finished and implemented: Every facet of your business should have a written-out guide on how it should and needs to be done. If you go into any large successful operation, this is something that they all have, utilize, and implement. Almost no small businesses that I have been in are doing this and it will slow you down. The idea should be that anyone can come in on day one and operate any part of your business by simply following the SOP.
3. Slow to Hire, Quick to fire: I understand that this can be controversial, but it’s important. Some people are unhappy, some people are dishonest, this is unfortunately the world we live in. Do your due diligence ahead of time, and hopefully, you can filter the bad apples out. If you do have someone that is a problem and you have found that coaching isn’t working, don’t allow them to hurt your business. Your business needs to be like your baby, you have to protect it at all costs.
4. Know your numbers, and how everything affects them. Try different things within your business with the idea that you are going to look at how it affects your P&L. Manage your hours, manage your inventory, manage and know about every single expenditure that your company makes. Every month, try and cut a few dollars off of the expenditures. If you don’t care about the numbers, you aren’t running a business. You’re playing dress up.
5. Be Involved and be honest: The customers need to see you; the Team needs to see you. If they see you working hard and going the extra mile, they will do the same. If they see you being truthful and kind, they will do the same. Don’t expect anything out of your team that you are not already doing yourself.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I don’t have a story, but I have an amazing amount of support. My husband and Children are my everyday motivation and support system. My Mother and Stepfather are some of the most inspirational people in the world when it comes to being an all around good human being, and I happen to be one of the rare few that have an amazing Mother in Law that has truly turned into one of my best friends. Without them, I don’t know where I would be.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’m a woman of color who is an immigrant in this country, my children are first-generation Americans. I want to ensure that they live in a safe, beautiful, and amazing country. I think your question is the problem though, You are speaking on such a grand scale that even someone of influence would feel as though they would never be able to make a difference. I encourage everyone to fall back into faith, whatever that faith that is , fall into it and trust it. We need everyone to be thinking on a small and individual scale. Don’t worry about making the world a better place, focus on the person right in front of you and do it with so much grace that it becomes infectious and that person carries it them. It doesn’t take a lot of energy or effort to improve people’s lives, you just have to actually want to do it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?