Diane Gillin | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Diane Gillin

Background:  

Founded in Winter Park, Florida, in 2013, Couture Med Spa offers luxury-market services at “disruptively” affordable rates. Now with three locations in Central Florida, including Oveido and Ocoee, the spa chain provides state-of-the-art services including injectables, laser resurfacing and hair removal, fat/cellulite reduction, and other skin and beauty treatments.

The Mistake:

I was closed-minded to new ideas.

I came from a medical background. Before starting my business with my partner, I was a trauma nurse and then worked in a plastic surgeon’s office. My partner, Eric Dore, comes from a strong business background. He started a Planet Fitness franchise 12 years ago and he now owns 33 health clubs in Central Florida and Georgia. And he’s the one who approached me initially with this idea of starting the med spa. So I kind of brought the medical background and he has the business background.

I came from a plastic surgeon’s office, where we charged a lot of money and [projected the image] of high-end services – in that you had to pay a lot of money to get them. And when Eric first came to me with this idea of luxury-meets-affordability and low-cost/high-volume but with high-quality care, I was very closed-minded. I was like, “That’s not going to work. There’s no way.” It took a little while for me to drink his Kool-Aid, if you will.

I was so apprehensive about starting at the lower cost, so he said, “OK, let’s meet in the middle.” A Botox unit in Central Florida is about $13 per unit. And he wanted to start at $7.97 per unit. And that just seemed crazy to me. So we started at $9.99. Then we moved to $8.99. And then when we moved to $7.97, our business just exploded. And as soon as we hit that threshold of the low-cost/high-volume [approach] – once I opened my mind to the possibilities – is when our business really took off.

I think a lot of people who’d never really had Botox before just said, “I’ve always been interested in it, but I never thought I could afford it, and $7.97 sounds like something I could probably afford.” Which was amazing, because our whole goal was to sort of open up the industry and provide these services to everyone. So my mistake was thinking that my way was the only way and the right way.

I’ve learned to be open to all ideas, even if they sound kind of crazy.

The Lesson:

If you’re lucky enough to have a business mentor or partner, you have to be open-minded to their ideas and their experience. My experiences in the medical world told me that the low prices would cheapen the brand and cheapen the service. But what I realized is that’s not true at all. It actually opened the market. 

I’ve learned to be open to all ideas, even if they sound kind of crazy. I try to listen to it with an open mind. And Eric and I are very good at kind of piloting new ideas that employees will have. If they take off, then we’ll run with them. If they don’t, then we say, “That was an awesome try, but let’s re-brainstorm and see if we can think of something else.”

Follow Couture Med Spa on Twitter at @CoutureMedSpa.

Photo courtesy of Diane Gillin

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