Business Observer: skin care entrepreneur prospers with 'failure isn’t an option' attitude

When the pandemic temporarily shut down Alexis Pfropper’s new spa, she shifted. She paid rent in gift cards (the landlord loved it) and even developed a skin care line for a new revenue stream. 

Spa customers often asked Alexis Pfropper about her favorite skin care products, and there weren’t she really loved. "That’s when I started looking into developing my own.”Spa customers often asked Alexis Pfropper about her favorite skin care products, and there weren’t she really loved. "That’s when I started looking into developing my own.”Courtesy image

Bottom line

Key takeaway: Alexis Pfropper opened an in-person business, Ästhetik Spa in Charlotte County, days before the pandemic. She has since regrouped from that setback and found new revenue sources, including a skin care line. 

Core challenge: Keeping products affordable and accessible to a wide variety of customers. 

What’s next: Pfropper hopes to continue a strong growth track, both for the spa and the skin care line. 

Timing was not on Alexis Pfropper’s side when she finally realized a career dream and opened Ästhetik spa in Punta Gorda. She welcomed her first clients in March 2020 — days before the world basically shut down due to the pandemic.

“I remember standing in the parking lot crying and saying, ‘What did I just do? I just opened a spa,’” recalls Pfropper, a licensed esthetician and permanent makeup artist. “But it’s a really cool story how it ended up.”

During the pandemic shutdown, Pfropper took to platforms like Instagram and Zoom to talk up her business and educate potential future clients about skin care. “I thought, let me get my name out there and do as much educational work as I can, because the more I educate then at least people will respect me for who I am as a person,” she says. “And maybe they’ll want to come to me when I am able to open.”

Her new landlord worked out a deal due to the unique situation, offering to accept her first month’s rent in gift cards that could be used once the spa was allowed to reopen. “He was giving them to his clients, his friends, his family, and those 12 or 13 people were the core base of my spa,” says Pfropper, 28. “And it built from there. Between Instagram and word of mouth, that’s how I built my entire clientele…Punta Gorda is a small town, but it’s an extremely supportive town. So once they see that a business owner has a good reputation, it just took off.”

Alexis Pfropper founded Ästhetik spa in March 2020.
Photo by Gemma Schaefer

And more recently another idea had also begun taking shape. Pfropper was often asked about her favorite skin care products, and there weren’t any skin care lines where she “loved everything about it,” she says. “And so that’s when I started looking into developing my own.” 

She could have gone the private-label route, putting her brand on something created by others. “But the most control you’re going to have over it is do you want the bottle to be blue or green?” she says. “You’re not going to have a lot of control over the ingredients and that I didn’t like, because I’m not going to put my name on something where I don’t believe in the ingredients.”

So she worked with chemists on the U.S. west coast to create her Ästhetik Skincare line of products, which incorporate plant-based and natural ingredients but have proven efficacy when it comes to things like protecting and brightening skin. “You can rub green tea and honey all over your face all day long, and it’s not going to do anything,” she says. “You need something that actually works.”

Her mom, Jennifer Pfropper, 50, is her partner in both the spa and skin care endeavor, handling back-office and front-of-house tasks while Alexis works with clients. That included helping her figure out how to bottle her products as a new, small company at a time when supply chain challenges were daunting.

“There were a lot of nights where you’re struggling, where you’re literally on the internet until 2 a.m. looking for somebody to help you,” says Jennifer Pfropper. “But we made it through that. The most important part was her having a good formulation that she could hand out as samples to people.”

Alexis Pfropper worked with chemists on the U.S. west coast to create her Ästhetik Skincare line.
Courtesy image

That sample strategy proved a smart way to turn clients on to her products, like her much-loved Liquid Gold serum. Customers could make sure they liked the products before purchasing full-size versions, which range from $26 to $49. “My goal is not to push product; it’s to help people,” says Alexis Pfropper.

It required a mid-six-figure investment to open the spa and develop the skin care line. But it’s paying off: Since reopening the spa following the pandemic shutdown, business has doubled every year, with positive online reviews helping to draw people in for services that range from $175 to $350. The spa now has about 800 regular clients, and they’ve had to stop taking new customers for the time being, since Alexis is just one person working in one treatment room. 

“It’s unheard of in the field,” says Jennifer. “But people fell in love with her and her techniques.”

“My whole goal with facials is to work myself out of a job,” says Alexis. “I don’t want you coming here for the rest of your life…I want you at some point to be like, dang, I just achieved my goal.”

The skin care line has lots of room for growth, which is where the mother and daughter are focusing their attention. Sales growth has averaged more than 100% for Ästhetik Skincare products each year, and a tripling of sales in 2024 over 2023 sales numbers is anticipated. Products can be purchased at the spa or online at AsthetikSkincare.com, and the Pfroppers’ bottling company in Clearwater is now also handling fulfillment. 

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Alexis Pfropper projects sales will triple of her skin care line in 2024 over 2023.
Courtesy image

“Oh, I’m ready to grow,” says Alexis. “I want to just see it get everywhere.”

And despite the rough start, she says she wouldn’t change “a single thing. It’s weird how you look back and it’s like everything worked out exactly how it should have,” she says. “Failure just wasn’t an option.

“When people ask me for advice, it’s just work your butt off,” she continues. “That’s what you have to do. … It was a lot of work, but it was so worth it.”

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