When you walk into any Heyday location, the founders of the skincare startup want to make one thing clear to newcomers: although the one-stop facial shops offer microdermabrasions, chemical peels and gua sha (an ancient detoxifying massage) services, Heyday is by no means a spa.
“It’s all about that step of removing the facial out of the spa, similar to how Soulcycle took cycling out of the gym and Drybar took the blowout out of the salon,” says Adam Ross, cofounder and CEO. “Spas can be intimidating so we have a gender-neutral design that brings this to life.”
With each new location, the company has strayed farther from its initial palette of light nudes and neutral tones, only to gravitate toward a darker industrial, yet inviting, interior.
“It’s a nuance but an important one for us because a spa gives a connotation of beauty, pampering and indulgence,” Ross continues. “But we’ve repositioned the facial as self-care—necessary self-care.”
The company’s inclusive approach to skincare has delivered glowing results. With 10 brick-and-mortars across New York, California and Pennsylvania, Heyday has announced a Series B round of $20.5 million from lead investor Level 5 Capital Partners. Level 5 has a history of backing experiential wellness and lifestyle ventures, with companies like Orangetheory Fitness and Core Power Yoga in its portfolio. Previously, Heyday had raised $11 million ($3 million in 2017, $8 million in 2018), bringing total funding to date to more $30 million.
Before Heyday, Ross, age 45, worked in mergers and acquisitions for CPG brands like Revlon and in 2010 cofounded Soludos, a footwear upstart that teed up with the comeback of espadrilles.
The former investment banker conducted an industry analysis and projected a skincare boom, but noted a lack of players focusing on men. More important, there was an element of “hyper-personalization” missing from the facial market.
In 2014 Ross teamed up with Michael Pollak to reinvent the facial. “We want to be freed from the spa environment by creating this open space where people feel comfortable, instead of this place with long dark hallways and closed doors,” says Pollak. He hails from hospitality design firm AvroKO, building boutique experiences, and innovation consultancy Fahrenheit212. The Heyday mission strikes a personal chord for him. Pollak, 38, also suffered from acne as a teen and recalls how a proper facial later helped him transform his complexion.
“Everyone remembers who taught them how to ride a bike, but no one remembers who taught them how to wash their face,” he says.
But these days, a stroll down any beauty aisle shows an abundance of brands specializing in the world of moisturizers, cleansers, toners, SPFs and serums. So instead of creating an in-house label, Heyday partners with roughly a dozen professional-grade brands to cater to a wide array of skin conditions. The curation includes esthetician favorites, some with established cult followings, like One Love Organics, Naturopathica and Dr. Loretta.
The cofounders of Heyday say many are clueless about the proper rules of application and building a foolproof skincare routine. The directions on the box or bottle are simply not enough.
“We want to modernize the facial experience with deepened relationships,” says Ross. “Everyone should have the advice of an esthetician, like how everyone has a fitness trainer or nutritionist.”
“Licensed estheticians are an untapped resource, they spend all day with products yet paid influencers are the ones driving skincare widely, so we want to put the esthetician in the influencer seat,” adds Pollak.
According to Ross, by 2020, Heyday’s facial havens saw 70% of clients returning for monthly facials, and 80% were word of mouth referrals. “We didn’t spend much money on marketing, when you get referrals right you get revenue right; the revenue flows right in,” he says.
The cofounders were then tasked with transferring the brick-and-mortar experience to ecommerce. Says Ross, “With a limited number of Heyday locations, Michael and I worked through delivering the expertise and human touch from our facial shops and bring that to the online place.”
They designed a website with skincare quizzes that dig into the state of one’s T-zone and the size of one’s pores. Its shopping guides are not just categorized by product types and bestsellers but by skin types (like dry, oily, acneic, combination) and less-than-glam skin conditions (like blackheads, breakouts and dilated capillaries).
By the first quarter of 2020, Heyday recorded a revenue run-rate of $25 million, but unforeseen forces would clog its pathway to growth for the rest of the year. “Covid is where we had to hit the pause button on the company shops,” says Ross. “The esthetics industry was severely impacted. What we thought was a two week shutdown would become much longer. We focused on cost structure, cut costs.”
By April, they closed all locations and furloughed 300 employees.
“March was humbling and emotional and we just tried being human about it,” says Pollak.
Heyday has since reopened seven of its 10 locations in New York City and Philadelphia; and welcomed back its entire workforce of estheticians and shop team members. Its team size now stands at 100, as many were unable to return due to personal reasons, largely related to the realities of childcare during Covid-19, according to the company.
“But there’s light at the end of the tunnel with news of vaccines and immunity, so it’s safe to say we expect to come back with both team and customers,” says Pollak.
“The spa and salon sector will rebound but it will look different,” says Sarah Jindal, director of global beauty and self care at research firm Mintel. “Safety will still be a concern for many especially with what can be viewed as non-essential services, so set yourself up for success with the right protocols.”
To continue momentum in digital, the channel that has kept Heyday afloat during the pandemic, the founders recently appointed Maureen Sullivan, former COO of Rent the Runway, to president.
To grow its chain of physical shops, they’ve hired Sean Bock as chief development officer. “We’re ready to accelerate brick-and-mortar expansion via franchising model,” says Ross. “The high-touch experience of our shops necessitates partners who can focus on delivering the level of skills and experience that Michael and I have worked on.”
Jindal says franchising in beauty could be risky amid the pandemic, but is a smart strategy because it alleviates some of the risk between brand and owner.
“It allows for expansion into markets that would normally go unserved,” she adds. “You’ve got a proven model so it’s easy to take that blueprint and then customize it based on the demographics of different locations. You can really cater to the local consumer.”
And Heyday believes this level of customization is the missing ingredient in the oversaturated skincare market. “It’s a category that cuts across genders,” says Pollak. “The pandemic has made it a self-care component versus just beauty and pampering. With Covid, and video calls, mask-wearing and heightened stress and anxiety, clients are attuned to skincare more than ever.”