“I can juggle being a wife, mother, and a business owner because I am an entrepreneur. I’m not being pressed up against the glass ceiling trying to impress other people.”
Kristen Wood is the founder and CEO of The Ten Spot, an efficiency-meets-quality brand of beauty bars. She’s turned her niche business into a bi-coastal chain, complete with franchisees and a product line. Kristen shares the story of her success.
BY SHELAGH MCNALLY PHOTOGRAPHY BY DENIS CAHILL
Kristen Wood opened her first spa in 2006 on Toronto’s Queen Street. Combining the down-to-earth style of her hometown Winnipeg with cheeky New York sophistication, The Ten Spot quickly became the go-to for essential beauty services—manicures, pedicures, waxing, and massage—attracting loyal customers as well as national media recognition. The brand has since grown to include multiple locations in Ontario and British Columbia, a franchise program, and the Get Nailed lacquer and beauty line.
The Ten Spot has earned several awards, as well as personal accolades for Kristen. In 2014 alone, she was named one of PROFIT/Chatelaine Magazine’s Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs, was awarded placement in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, and was short-listed for the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards in the category of TELUS Trailblazer. The consensus is clear: Kristen Wood has created her own unique path to success.
“My dad set the example and my mom cheered me along. It was just expected we would start our own business, and I knew it was the best lifestyle to have.”
For Kristen, the path to being an entrepreneur was not direct. After earning a philosophy degree from the University of Western Ontario she headed down to New York City, working by day for Vice Magazine and at night for a trendy club. “It was a crazy year of living at break-neck speed. I loved it,” says Kristen. “I would call my mom with a ‘guess who I met last night’ story. I served Snoop Dog his birthday cake, put lipstick on in the bathroom beside Britney Spears. It was like being on this mini-celebrity ride.”
When her work visa ran out, Kristen went back to school, studying graphic design in Montreal. “After waffling a bit in my early twenties, I wanted a tangible skill to use in the workplace. Graphic design was going to be my career.”
She landed her first designer job with a communications firm in Toronto, but in less than a year found herself with a two-week severance package. After a brainstorming session with a friend, Kristen decided to strike out on her own by developing a shop on Queen Street with “cute branding.” She was only twenty-four, but through her father’s business had gained understanding of the entrepreneurial experience. “My dad set the example and my mom cheered me along. It was just expected we would start our own business, and I knew it was the best lifestyle to have,” Kristen explains. “I can juggle being a wife, mother, and a business owner because I am an entrepreneur. I’m not being pressed up against the glass ceiling trying to impress other people.”
Kristen developed her winning formula by finding the middle ground. Before The Ten Spot, Toronto had two spa extremes: the affordable and fast—but unsanitary—local chop shops or the high-priced, high-end spas with amazing facilities. “Chances are if you’re in your twenties and thirties, you’re going to high-end spas when you get a gift card. Sometimes you want your spa visit to be more casual without the tea and getting your chakra balanced. We combine the best of both worlds by fostering that connection with your esthetician and offering a clean, safe environment.”
“Outsourcing all this branding material would be too expensive, but since it’s me doing it, I can keep it fresh and exciting. Every single thing that is branded I have personally done.”
As a pioneer in the industry Kristen needed to be hands-on. She used her graphic design skills to develop her own brand, creating everything from the promotional in-store material to the franchise marketing. “Outsourcing all this branding material would be too expensive, but since it’s me doing it, I can keep it fresh and exciting. Every single thing that is branded I have personally done.”
Kristen also had the wisdom to recognize when she needed help. When starting out she was coming from the client perspective with no service experience, so she hired a manager to run that side of the business. She currently has five core people who work collaboratively, often switching roles when things need to get done.
Kristen describes the launch of her first spa as “magical.” Her second location had some bad neighbours, and she opened her third and fourth locations simultaneously. Along the way there were some bumps and the occasional misfire, but done is better than perfect. “Women tend to be perfectionists and that can stop them from going forward. Get it out there and tweak it later.”
She’s followed her own advice with the expansion into franchising. “I had thought it was like opening up another location, but it was totally different.” Navigating the path ahead requires an open dialogue. “We push hard to get feedback from our customers and franchise partners to improve our protocol. It’s important for our growth.”
Despite having lived in three major North American cities, Kristen has maintained her open and friendly style. “Coming from the Prairies, friendliness is just so engrained and I want to bring that warmth to our spas. When you walk into our place there is someone to help you get comfortable immediately. We want the vibe friendly and supportive for both clients and staff, so there is a zero tolerance for gossip and negative behaviour. No mean girls here,” says Kristen. “At the end of the day, we are not curing cancer; we are not doing anything super heroic. We’re giving women a great spa experience, so keep it light.”
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