Pulse March 2019 - Page 49

“Back then, people thought we were going to put a jacuzzi in the airport. When we considered putting Air Vita in Los Angeles, we had to meet with the vice squad because they thought the wrong type of business was going to go on. Spa wasn’t publicly accepted.” timing was perfect; airlines had just deregulated and started building hubs, which increased layovers. airports were starting to compete to become hubs, and that competition led to a lot of the airport amenities we have today. We really wanted to be behind security—although security wasn’t as big of a deal back then—and that meant partnering with an airline. We met with the head of american airlines, and they thought it was a great idea but they didn’t have the space. Space inside an airport costs top, top dollar. P: What happened after American Airlines said no? B: We continued searching, but we finally realized we’d have to be outside security. We started to identify which airports would really be key to make air Vita work. We also had to raise money, which we had no idea how we were going to do. We were only 27 years old at the time, but we ended up raising about a million dollars and had some nice pro bono legal help. The costs of starting the business were huge, but we had really good help. Eventually, we opened up two: Dallas and Phoenix, and we sold a membership. We had a fitness center, a business center with a fax machine, and massages available. members could keep workout clothes and shoes in a locker at our locations. We also had nap rooms! Believe it or not, the fax machine was the most lucrative part of our business. We charged $5 a page. Back then, airline lounges were truly just a bar with a TV. We also had people in our Phoenix location who would book their massage before they went to their hotel, because most hotels didn’t have a spa for travelers. We filled that niche, too. We realized, though, that what we really needed was economy of scale. We had to be in more than two airports to make financial sense, and that took a lot of money, more than we had. We folded the business after four years, so we had a good run of it. People came along and said that they wished we’d come along a few years later, that they would’ve loved to partner with us, but it was clear that it was a huge need. So it’s been interesting to watch spas in airports, like XpresSpa, pop up, because it really was a need. We were just a little bit early. march n PULSE 2019 47