Founders Series – Becky Woodhouse, Founder and CEO of PURE Spa & Beauty

Following the recent announcement that Scotland based PURE Spa & Beauty had decided to fund its growth through equity crowdfunding, we caught up with Founder and CEO, Becky Woodhouse to ask her about the company and her growth plans. 

Tell us about PURE Spa & Beauty

PURE Spa & Beauty is one of the UK’s fastest growing beauty and wellness businesses. We operate eight award-winning urban day spas, based in high street, hotel and shopping mall locations. Our mission is to make beauty and spa treatments a part of everyday life for both men and women to improve their health, happiness and wellbeing.

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What do you role and what do you do there?

As the Founder and CEO of the business, I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities to grow and perfect the company.  My job is to create the PURE vision and then empower our amazing management teams around the country to deliver it to every client. I work really hard to create the best culture and working environment for everyone in the PURE team. My business is built on selling amazing experiences, therefore it’s important that my staff feel amazing working at PURE.

What was the aha moment that led to the company founding?

I have always been an avid beauty fan and wanted to enjoy spa and beauty treatments when I was working as a chartered accountant, but I couldn’t find anywhere close to my office in Edinburgh that was open when I wasn’t at work. I’ve always wanted to run my own business, so when I noticed this gap in the market, that was it. My big idea was to create a new kind of day spa that offered exceptional quality treatments, fairly priced products, an easy booking system and convenient locations. The ethos behind PURE Spa was to democratise beauty and bring wellbeing and happiness to people’s daily lives.

Where did you get assistance when you started?

I self-funded my business, however I had a mentor in the early years of PURE and found their insight invaluable.

Give us a brief history of the growth of the company

Over the past 16 years, PURE Spa has grown from a single spa outlet on Edinburgh’s Lothian Road to a thriving business and brand that operates eight spas around the UK, which are visited by over 100,000 clients every year.  I’m proud to say that we have some of the highest rankings for any spa business on Trip Advisor and have won many industry awards. I also just became the first Scottish entrepreneur to be selected for the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, which supports high-potential women entrepreneurs. We have also launched our own brand of high quality natural skin care products which are available in our spas and online.

How have you funded the grow of the business?

I wholly own and fund the business.  However with the growing potential of the business to expand, we have several opportunities and have ambitions to grow to over 25 outlets around the UK, whilst also expand our own natural based product brand.  We have explored several ways to raise more funding to support the business growth, and have chosen to do a crowd-fund via Crowdcube as we really like the our loyal customers and staff to have the opportunity to invest in our growing company and also receive the benefit and share in the reward of this growth.  

So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?

We’re delivering year on year growth of 20 percent across the business and we currently employ over 150 staff.

What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?

I think wellness is a higher priority for most people, as our lives become ever more stressful and connected. Clean beauty is also booming at the moment, however there is growing confusion and a reckless use of terms such as ‘natural’, ‘green’ and ‘clean’ which is damaging for the whole sector. This is one of the reasons why we recently launched our PURE Beauty Zone – a new online and in-spa marketplace that sells carefully curated clean beauty brands. We have also trained all our therapists in the science of clean beauty, allowing them to offer truthful and trustworthy guidance for customers interested in toxin-free products to suit their individual skin type.

What is your target market? Who is buying your product and service?

In today’s time starved society, taking the time out to relax and feel good about yourself is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury, so our market is anyone who needs a much-needed antidote to a stressful modern city lifestyle. Did you know just 15 minutes of massage releases the feel-good hormone Oxytocin in your system which is the antidote to the stress hormone Cortisol.

What is your background?

I studied chemical engineering and trained as a chartered accountant before deciding to set up my own business. My finance training definitely helped me to get my spa business up and running.

What are your goals for your business?

I would like to more than treble PURE’s number of outlets within the next five years by continuing to tap into demand amongst busy urban professionals for convenient treatments.

What are your biggest current challenges?

I used to do everything myself, however as the company has grown, I have had to delegate and become very mindful about what I spend my time on.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

It’s important to pay attention to every customer’s personal experience. This is something that we really invest in at PURE spa. Our whole team works very hard to deliver this quality across every aspect of the customer journey, consistently, every time.  It may sound easy on paper, but when you factor in our eight locations over 4 different cities, 7 day a week operations with long opening hours, 150 staff to communicate with and train, 100,000 client visits per year, every one of them needing to be spot on, you start to get a sense for the challenge!

What do you do outside work?

I love spending time with my two boys and catching up on the latest films at the cinema. I also really enjoy going for walks. One of my favorites is from Murrayfield to Stockbridge along the water of Leith and stopping for lunch along the way.

What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?

I wish I had known how hard it is to start a business! Its much harder than I ever anticipated and I think hats off to anyone who tries.  There are always things to go wrong, you just have to pick yourself up and keep going!

What’s the secret to good leadership?

A great leader needs to be resilient, adaptable and have a clear vision and detailed strategy for the business. It’s also vital to know your own limitations, so you can recruit people who have a different skill set to yourself and give them the freedom to forge ahead and do what they do best.

Where do you see the company in five years?

PURE Spa & Beauty is on an ambitious growth plan, and I plan to roll out our successful model across the UK in the next few years. We regularly look at new sites and opportunities for partnerships. However our philosophy will remain the same for each venture: democratising beauty and wellness to make their benefits available to all.

How can the scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?

The start up rate for female led Scottish businesses lags behind the rest of the UK.  It is also harder for females to access funding (less than 10% of venture capital funding in the UK goes to female led businesses), scale businesses (only 4% of UK ‘scale ups’ are founded or joint founded by females), or access support (only 3.4 % of account managed high growth Scottish companies are female led).

In my own experience, I think female led businesses are often categorized as a ‘lifestyle’ business or the support offered tends towards the smaller end of ‘SME’.  I think the stats above are self-evident of the need for greater awareness, a more joined up approach and encouragement of female led businesses at all levels and stages of growth, whether a single sole trader all the way up to PLC.  

This is why I have long been an advocate and lobbying in my own way to make Female Led businesses a strategic growth area for Scotland.  I think there are some amazing women in Scotland today leading and innovating and growing tremendous businesses with enormous potential. All we ask is that we can be afforded a ‘level playing field’ with the same opportunities and support to grow our businesses.

If females started and grew businesses at the same rate as men in Scotland, we could add a further £5bn of growth to Scotland’s GDP.  That’s worthwhile for everyone!

Founders Series – 

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