As I approached Mojo Spa, its facade a pink and white confection on an avenue of stone, steel and cement, I couldn’t help but think of Good and Plenty, those licorice-flavored, candy-coated pellets that are always hanging out at the movie theaters with their floozy cousin, Good and Fruity. Little did I know how effectively I was being subliminally prepared to enter the shop, because once inside I was convinced that I had died and gone to a sweet and yummy pamper-me-now heaven.
From the front door to the back wall, the spa is filled with luscious handmade beauty products, all of which are created and served fresh daily. I met with owner Amanda Kezios and had a chance to learn how she was able to create this space “where beauty meets comfort”, as her slogan goes.
“I started out as a personal chef for my roommates. They didn’t have time to cook and my job allowed me the time and flexibility. So they paid me for groceries and for my time and I cooked all their meals. Well, what started happening was they’d take the leftovers for lunch the next day and people would ask them where they’d gone out to eat the night before, thinking it was restaurant food. I started getting requests. At that point I was still planning to go to law school and was also getting into yoga and meditation. I decided to make something I could use to stay focused and energized, and so I created the Make The Grade lip balm. The principles for it came from yoga and meditation. I used ingredients and techniques like energized water, healing crystals, aromatherapy oil blends, and sound therapy to infuse the balm with energy to help me stay focused. The subconscious mind works only in the present tense, so I made up an positive affirmation to say whenever I applied the lip balm. Now all my lip balms come with a positive affirmation printed on them. You can use it to attract the energy you want, plus you get a superior beauty product. So either way, you win.
“I was having such good results that a friend asked if I’d make one for her to help her find a good boyfriend, so then I created the Light My Fire lip balm. To make a long story short, my friend met a guy and three months later they were engaged,” here Amanda shrugs. “It’s hard to understand if you don’t get how energy and affirmations work, but she got the results she wanted. Most beauty companies only look at the exterior, but our products work on several levels.”
“I kept creating new formulas. I’m still creating new formulas all the time. But back then I couldn’t afford to open a store. So I got the idea to start throwing monthly spa parties in my loft. People came, I cooked and baked for them and just pampered them with my products. Then Fox news got wind of my spa parties, and Danielle Serino who did The Bottom Line came by. I was so nervous because I wasn’t sure if she would give it a positive spin. When she first walked in, she said, ‘How long is this going to take?’ I blurted out, ‘TWENTY MINUTES!’ She ended up staying for three hours. When the segment aired, Danielle started out by saying, ‘Estee Lauder is dead, but a new star is born: Mojo Spa in Wicker Park’. I was just floored! Imagine being compared to Estee Lauder! After the Fox News story, I started getting flooded with calls and orders. So I decided it was time to take the plunge and open the shop since we already had the client base.”
That was ten years ago, and Mojo still has its mojo. Which, as it turns out, was no easy task for a business built in the very conservative midwest where customers required a great deal of education to be convinced to even try the products. “It was so far outside the box, we really had to educate people about what we were doing and the principles we use, and why our products were better for you than the department store products. Beauty products are so expensive. It was important to keep our products affordable, we have prices comparable to some drug store brands, but the quality is every bit as good, even better than the department store products. I have loyal customers who now tell me that they couldn’t believe they were spending hundreds of dollars on products that were producing bad side effects. You get instant gratification with those other brands, but that’s all it is. It’s just a band-aid. It’s not helping your skin at all. I make my products affordable so people don’t have to make it stretch. They can just use it. With my products you don’t become dependent on it. Over time, your skin gets healed and balanced, and better able to take care of itself.”
Luckily for us, Amanda has not forgotten her roots. In addition to the retail shop, her space also houses a full service nail spa where several specialty manicure and pedicure services and packages are available, such as the popular Beauty and Brunch. “It’s like having breakfast in bed. We serve you brunch on a tray and you have your fresh baked pastries and your mimosa while you’re having a pedi. I make my own yeast and the flavor is amazing. It’s a comfort spa with comfort food. We also have Pajama Nights, where we offer discounted nails, facials, and make-up and serve homemade desserts. People come out with their friends, we have a D.J. It’s a great night of fun. We figured our products are so different that we had to make our events reflect that.”
“It was about creating the right balance. In the beginning I had to do everything out of necessity. But then I had some wonderful partners, people who were there for me and who helped build this. I developed some health problems, and then it became about helping myself through my products. My products healed me. The most amazing thing out of all of this is that we’re still in business when almost every small business in Wicker Park was closing. My customers came to my aid. They had bonded with the products, so they helped me sell them. They brought in friends, even friends from out of town, to try the products. Our online business has been instrumental in this because out of town people could continue to order from home. And it just feels so nice to have customers who really care about your success.”
“My vision is about 70 percent in place. My next step is to write a book on how I conquered the world on protein shakes. It’ll be about balancing a business with being a woman entrepreneur and dealing with health problems. I also want to expand the spa and open more locations especially in California. Believe it or not, about half of our online business is shipped to California. They seem to be more in tuned to the use of natural products and the healing properties of the ingredients and techniques we use. This business is my passion. I didn’t do it to be my own boss and make money. Businesses that are built for solely those reasons mostly fail. You have to have a passion for it. I strategized, I thought outside the box. I had a necessity. I needed to heal. You just have to believe in yourself, and not be afraid to keep trying new things. It’s all about persistence.”
Mojo Spa, 1468 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA
On the web: http://www.mojospa.com