Spa in the Family
A mother-daughter outing prompts Holly and Cayla McDonald to say Aloha to an entrepreneurial venture
By Michelle F. Solomon | Photography by Luccia Photos
Mother and daughter Holly and Cayla McDonald do everything together. “We’re best friends,” they say in unison. Despite their 34-year age difference, the two connect on a variety of levels—traveling abroad, enjoying dinners and leisure activities, and never tiring of each other’s company.
Little did either of them know that one of their mother-daughter outings (an appointment two years ago to get massages at a foot spa in Boca Raton) would result in a business opportunity.
“We talked about what a great concept it was,” says Cayla, who lives in Margate. “We loved that it was affordable, but we left there talking about what we would do better if we had a foot spa.”
Though they had discussed the possibility of an entrepreneurial project, the idea of a spa never crossed their radar. “We had been brainstorming for months,”
“We went back to the foot spa a few times, and we kept talking about it,” Holly interjects, something that happens frequently between this mother and daughter, with one completing the other’s sentence.
Soon, they made a handwritten list of what they would need: chairs, towels, lotions, insurance, employees. Then they did a cost analysis. “If [the costs came] in under this amount of money, we could do it,” says Holly, who lives in Coconut Creek, where Cayla grew up. The numbers added up. “So we did it.”
What started as a mother-daughter day of pampering turned into Aloha Foot Spa & Salt Room, which opened its doors last October in the Peppertree Plaza in Margate. Cayla is the company’s president; Holly serves as treasurer.
Holly knows a thing or two about running a family business: for 35 years, she and ex-husband Steve have owned Do We Dabber, a painting and paper-hanging company in Coconut Creek. Holly remains a full-time painting contractor while working with Cayla at Aloha. She designed and installed most of the interior details inside the space, including hand-tiling the bathroom. “Why should I pay someone else when I can do it myself?” Holly quips.
Cayla remembers spending summers at Do We Dabber. “My mother told me my whole life that owning your own business is the way to go,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to make my own path.”
“It’s hard work,” Holly says. “But you are working for your own rewards rather than someone else’s.”
After graduating from Florida State University with a bachelor’s in creative writing and criminology, a master’s in criminology and a graduate-level certificate in homeland security management, Cayla “got a nice corporate job,” she says. “Monday through Friday, 40 hours a week, good salary. It was terrible. I hated it.” Six months later, her department was dismantled, and everyone was laid off.
Opening a foot spa and salt room may not have played into her college degrees, but it did resonate with one of her passions. For the past decade, Cayla has been a trapeze artist, so keeping her body in tune is a priority. The hobby started at age 14 when she participated in a class at Miami’s Flying Trapeze School. It was another reason why she attended FSU, whose Flying High Circus is one of only two collegiate circuses in the United States. (The other one is at Illinois State University.) Cayla has continued to perform as an aerialist and recently returned from Hong Kong, where she was a trapeze artist with the troupe Cirque Adrenaline.
“Certainly, she has been getting massages ever since she started trapeze,” Holly says. “She needs it because her muscles work hard. She got very excited when we were opening the foot spa because she could get massages every day.”
“We jokingly tell our therapists when we hire them that we opened the foot spa so I could train them and get free massages,” Cayla adds.
Business has been growing over the last few months at Aloha Foot Spa & Salt Room. It already has regular customers and also gets walk-in traffic from the busy shopping center. And it’s not just women that frequent the foot spa; about 30 percent of the clientele is male. “Guys like it because they don’t have to deal with everything that a regular spa brings with it,” Cayla says. “It’s a bit easier for them, and it’s quick. You walk in, and in two minutes, you’re getting a massage. In an hour, you leave feeling great.”
In addition to the large foot spa room, Aloha clients can kick back and rejuvenate with a salt therapy session. The room, which is meant to mimic a beach with sand that is created from pink Himalayan salt, has brightly colored walls of a beach scene painted by Brett Caiati (the same artist who created murals at La Bamba restaurant, which is in the same plaza).
The salt therapy component (called halotherapy) of the business completed the duo’s desire to offer an affordable, relaxing, holistic experience for women and men. Customers spend 45 minutes in the salt therapy room. “A generator emits pulverized pharmaceutical-grade salt and you breathe the fine particles,” explains Holly. “Salt is a natural antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. By breathing the salt, it cleanses and detoxifies, and helps with asthma and allergies.”
Cayla is quick to add that Aloha is the only place in South Florida that combines foot massage and salt therapy.
In less than a year, the business has expanded to offer Swedish body massages in the salt room. Soon, do-it-yourself Holly will build a partition where Swedish massages without a salt treatment will be offered. For all of its treatments, the spa hires licensed massage therapists.
“I know customer service, dealing with people,” Holly says. “And Cayla knows marketing and behind the scenes, and she has the education. What she doesn’t do, I do; what I don’t do, she can do. It’s like she’s the brains, and I’m the brawn.”
Cayla and Holly also aim to keep everything affordable for their clients. A 60-minute foot massage is $35, as is a 45-minute salt session. A combo foot massage and salt session is $60. An hour Swedish massage with salt treatment is $80.
“We want it to be accessible,” says Cayla, “so that people can come and pamper themselves more often.”
“What we offer is affordable luxury,” Holly adds.
The pair says they don’t often argue, except for who will get a day off at the business, which is open six days a week, 10 hours on most days.
“We have a great relationship not only here, but otherwise. We really respect each other,” Cayla says. “Now we’re business partners, and it’s working out really well.”
Aloha Foot Spa & Salt Room
Peppertree Plaza5584 W. Sample Road 754.205.4949 alohafootandsalt.com