Creative Entrepreneurship: This Albuquerque Spa Leveraged Breaking Bad to Grow Their Business
Many small business owners have one specific passion in life – they focus on their business, they know it well, and over time, they become ever more confident and successful at that particular business. But for some small business owners, owning one business is not enough! For these “serial entrepreneurs,” the business world is overflowing with possibility and passion, and they have to keep exploring, testing the limits, and creating new things.
Keith West-Harrison is a Kabbage customer who is an exceptionally dynamic, curious, relentlessly creative, and energetic serial entrepreneur. Keith lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and owns several small businesses, including Great Face & Body (a green day spa and “eco-urban lifestyle market” that sells natural skincare products), Spa Enrichment Strategies (a consulting firm to help day spa and salon owners improve their profitability), and My Sacred Fig (an organic private label skincare brand).
Keith’s Great Face & Body business is #603 on the Inc. 5,000 list of fastest growing companies. When he’s not running his own businesses, Keith volunteers his time as a Board member of his local YWCA, and shares his entrepreneurial talents as a small business coach by hosting lunch-and-learns for Albuquerque small business owners. He is also a certified Climate Reality Leader who has trained with Al Gore as a qualified presenter, educator, and activist for climate change solutions. Keith also has a Doctor of Divinity degree with a focus on world wellness rituals, and blending ancient Native American, African, and Ayurvedic spiritual beliefs into a system for modern wellness practices.
Keith and his partner André West-Harrison live in a restored historic adobe building in Albuquerque that formerly served as a music school. This unique building was featured on HGTV’s “You Live in What?” and also serves as a retail storefront for Great Face & Body, and an entertainment space for Keith’s businesses. Keith and André are known for their creative marketing and publicity efforts – their spa capitalized on the popularity of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” (which was set and filmed in Albuquerque) by offering a line of bath products called “Bathing Bad” bath salts.
We talked with Keith West-Harrison about small business marketing, the biggest challenge of running multiple businesses, and where he gets his inspiration.
How did you decide to become a Kabbage customer? Why did you want to get a small business loan – how is it helping you grow your business?
Growing businesses need access to cash to improve processes, add new product lines, or invest in inventory. We have self-funded all of our business growth since Hurricane Katrina because it is so hard to get affordable money fast from banks.
Kabbage made the process easy. It was the first time we could look at very specific business goals and easily access the capital to do it.
Editor’s Note: Keith made a great YouTube video about why he loves Kabbage and how we have helped his business grow.
What inspired you to start your own business, and what inspires you to keep going?
Back in 1996 I got laid off multiple times from a financial company. At that time I decided to become an entrepreneur. It is an exciting way to work because I control my future and my focus. Our desire to launch our current product company was a strong desire to make safe, effective, organic products for my clients.
We are currently launching yet another skincare concept called Urban Fresh Cosmetics where we will feature fresh, handmade bath goods with urban grown ingredients made by a local family, not a corporate chain.
What does your business do differently from other companies in your field – what makes you unique?
We are the ultimate “boots on the ground” in the small business world. Because we have owned spas, done skincare for 24 years, and grown our business 790% in 3 years, I see what people need at every step of running their business. Other skincare companies don’t live and work and farm their ingredients all in a historic urban building.
You did a great YouTube video of Groupon marketing tips for spa owners where you mentioned that a lot of small businesses make the mistake of targeting the wrong customers. You talked about how it’s better to target fewer of the “right” customers who will pay more for a great experience and great service, than to try to be all things to all people. How can small business owners strike the right balance to find the “right” customers for their business?
That is one of my favorite topics. The more you focus and target, the easier it is to find those perfect clients. Many people cast such a broad net that they hope to serve anyone with a pulse! You can’t exceed expectations and have in-depth relationships with large groups. I say you should know your target client so well that we could walk into a busy shopping mall and quickly identify people who will love what you do and most important, not waste time on those that won’t.
What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned from running your own business?
The more I help others, the more I give to charity. And the more I enjoy what I do, the more success rolls in! We made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies at #603.
What’s the biggest challenge of running your own business?
Focus, focus, and focus. I am the typical extreme serial entrepreneur. I always have ideas 2-5 years ahead of others and it can be hard to keep on the right path for long-term success. I grew up with dyslexia, ADD, and depression, and I think these experiences have actually been a huge asset that forced me to learn problem solving and creativity.
What are some overall trends that you’re seeing right now in your market, or for small business owners in general?
The biggest trend at the moment is confidence. Consumers are feeling better. Business owners are feeling better. I am really fortunate to have spent 24 years in the natural and organic skincare business, because that is a trend that has just started to boom and the future is bright.
What makes this a good time to be a small business owner?
Now is the perfect time to stop dreaming and start acting. So many people have dreams of owning their own business, but they have not taken the steps to do it. There are more resources and organizations to help with economic development than we have ever seen in the past.
I know you’ve mentioned that you have trained with Al Gore as an expert in climate change issues and that you’re passionate about sustainability. Can you tell me more about that? And do you think it’s important and beneficial today for small business owners to have a sense of “mission” like this, even if it’s something that might not seem to be directly related to what their business does?
Besides my huge desire for recognition, my big driving force is to have an impact. I find when people have a passion for social causes it adds to a rallying cry for success. When you focus on our community it allows you to think and plan from a place of abundance versus a place of fear and scarcity. I had an amazing 16-day trip to South Africa. Al Gore’s group is called The Climate Reality Project. Each year he teaches people to present all of his materials to help spread the word on climate change and how we can make the needed changes to help. Once trained, we are known as Climate Reality Leaders.
Is there any other advice that you would offer to other small business owners?
The best advice was also the hardest for me to accept in the past: Get help. Find a mentor or group that actually cares about your happiness and success. My most successful adventures have been projects that I had little knowledge on before hand. By diving into a new topic you can really learn!