Micaela Milano spent a year looking for the perfect location to open her medical spa. She was all set to sign the lease for a building in Greenlawn, but then COVID hit, so she hit pause.
"We weren’t sure what was happening or how long it might last," says Milano, whose sister, Christina Milano, was to become the spa's lead aesthetician.
So Micaela Milano nixed the idea of a brick-and-mortar location and went mobile. She purchased a trailer and interviewed eight contractors before choosing one to custom build her mobile spa. While waiting for it to be constructed, her staff masked up and did some in-home services like massages, facials and cosmetic injections. It was hardly enough. "We were essentially out of business," she says.
By January, though, the trailer was ready to go. "Food trucks have been successful, why not a mobile spa?"
Milano shares how hitting the road saved her business. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What were the challenges in going mobile?
We wanted to offer all the services that we would if we were in a retail location. We do everything from facials, massages, Reiki, Botox and dermal fillers, hydration drips, RF microneedling, and body contouring using cryotherapy. We had to have specialized equipment that would not be damaged by the movement of the coach. It was a big investment I personally financed. I had an option to move to a new home or start a business. I chose the business.
Was it difficult to find staff willing to go to people’s homes during the pandemic?
Many people in the beauty and wellness space are used to traveling, so being mobile wasn’t an issue for them. It did take time to find the right mix of professionals, not only to do massages and facials, but medical clinical injectors and staff to do hydration drips. Dr. Bonnie Rosen is our medical director and has helped establish the service offering for all cosmetic injectables. I’m proud of the team that I’ve put together. We have four full-time employees and 20 independent contractors. Everyone on our team is a highly experienced, accredited, licensed clinician.
How did you find clients?
Our team is experienced, so each of us leveraged our existing clientele. We did advertising on social media. It’s been building by word-of-mouth. Typically we book six to eight mobile appointments weekly and have about the same for at-home services. We’re starting to get requests for small groups and pre-wedding events.
How much did the custom trailer cost?
$280,000, including the cost of hiring a designer, contractor, builder, repair person, supplies, and stocking it with the technology and products used for services.
How far do you travel?
We’ve begun partnering with hotels in the Hamptons that don’t have spas, where we’ll come and offer services for their customers. Most of our business is on Long Island, but we go to New York City, Staten Island, New Jersey and Connecticut.
What does 'Meraki' mean?
Meraki is a Greek word meaning to do something with soul, creativity or love; to put something of yourself into your work. The word Meraki resonated with me from the moment I learned the meaning.
We did a build-out of a brick-and-mortar space near the airport in Ronkonkoma. We hope to open this summer. I think that some people will still want services to come to them even when the pandemic is over, whether they want it in the coach or in their home.
What have you learned?
This is all new to me. Financially I’m still recovering from the initial investment I made, but we really want to grow. I may build an additional coach and expand beyond the tristate area. I wanted to do a brick-and-mortar business a couple of years ago, but the time for this business was now. COVID taught me patience.