Business: Solaia Luxury Salon & Spa
Address: 120 Water St., Naperville
Phone/website: 630-453-5699, www.SolaiaExperience.com
Owner: Amanda O’Connor, 46, of Naperville
Years in business? Four
What does your business do? “We do all your typical salon services. Massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, body treatments, hair, makeup, nails. What makes us a little different is we have the technology and we bring people to different areas of the world.”
Around the world? “We have Rainforest Reprieve, Italian Intermission, Settle into Scotland, Escape to Everest and Tahitian Time-out. We have wall-to-wall screens that play beautiful imagery from these places. The music is complementary. And the massage is also culturally significant.
“If you go to Tahiti, you get a Lomi Lomi massage. It’s the stroke technique. More of a slow, long-flowing stroke to resemble waves. When you go to the rainforest, you get a hot bamboo fusion massage. … In addition, you get a drink. If you go to Italy, you get a little taste of limoncello. A little something to give you a sight, sound and taste. We like to get all the senses going.”
Has that gone over well? “Yes. There are people who don’t understand the concept, ‘You have screens in your rooms? Most people keep their eyes closed.’ There are studies that say people who see visual beauty, it lowers stress. People who try it say ‘Oh, I get it now.’”
Why videos? “At my other salon (in Aurora), in the waiting area we had a small TV. Instead of playing TV — I felt it was tacky — I’d play a museum art tour or a fireplace scene. It branched off from there.”
What else should we know? “I make my own product. It took years and years and years to perfect. The lotions, the exfoliators, the soaps, all the products we use for body treatments, pedicures and manicures. I built out an area at home for this reason. … I also own a bakery in downtown St. Charles. Mad Batter Bakery and Confections. It’s adorable. A whole Mad Hatter Tea Party theme.”
How did you get started in the salon business? “When I was 15, I was a pregnant teenager. I left (high) school to home school, but I decided to go to nail school. There were no nail schools at the time, so I started calling all the beauty schools. One school in Wheaton created a curriculum for me. When I was 16, I went into beauty school. I had just had a baby. By the time I left, there were eight other students in the nail program.
“My son is 30 now. I have two girls, 10 and 12. I was nine months pregnant at his high school graduation. He’s a great kid. He just graduated from law school and is married to a kindergarten teacher.”
Why nails? “When I was in high school, I did everybody’s nails in the back of social studies class. That’s not good, but I did it. I left high school to start modeling. It wasn’t because I was pregnant. I found out I was pregnant a few weeks after that. … I just fell into this industry and have been in it ever since.”
What drives you? “When my son was born, I said I never want to be that girl who goes out as a teenager, smoking cigarettes, hanging out at Denny’s, their kids sleeping in the booth at 11 at night. My son graduated at the top of his class.”
Do you get Hotel Indigo guests? “We’re not in the hotel. We’re around the corner. Visibility has been a lot to fight for. It’s getting better as time goes on. … The hotel tries to help us.”
When are you busy? “May is our busiest month. Always has been. You have graduation, the weather warming up and Mother’s Day.”
What do you most enjoy? “I love the people who work here right now. It took a long time to find that good staff.
“When a client comes in, the staff knows them. They know the staff. A general feeling of happiness. It’s a cool feeling to be that place where people feel they belong.”
Any negatives? “The pandemic was awful. The lack of people willing to work was outrageous. It’s truly a problem.”
What misconceptions may people have? “There are some people who are turned off by the word ‘luxury’ in the title. They say we’re snooty or super expensive, which we’re neither.”
What’s your advice for someone starting a business? “People who win are the people who are tenacious enough to see it through to the end. You have to expect everything will crumble and fail around you. Be prepared to rebuild it. I don’t know of any businesses that didn’t suffer at some point.”
Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.