07 Sep The History of Skin Deep: Part 2
“There are very few days that I have that are bad.”
Michelle Sheehan Foster can say this now, 14 years into owning and operating Skin Deep Spatique in St. Petersburg. But it hasn’t always been this way. Foster had to learn some of her business lessons the hard way.
When Foster first opened Skin Deep in 2002, she had a business advisor. Her then-advisor was a friend of the family; a businessman known for his entrepreneurial savvy. He helped Foster with a variety of company decisions; financial decisions, most specifically. She trusted him, so she gave him full control over the business side of Skin Deep so she could concentrate on building clientele and perfecting her craft. Then the letters started coming in.
Foster began receiving mail from the IRS stating that she had not financially fulfilled her payroll taxes. Her advisor continuously told her that the letters were a mistake and that he would take care of it. After some investigation, she learned that her advisor had been committing tax fraud: he was paying her employees, but pocketing the portion that was owed to the government. Foster later learned that he was not only scamming her, but using 11 other people and their businesses, as well. By the time he was arrested, he had taken advantage of people for $750,000.
“It changed the way I did things with this business.”
Foster immediately recalibrated her business strategy. She decided that she would take on, and be in charge of, every aspect of Skin Deep — from bookkeeping to payroll to merchandising. Her three children, George, Amanda and Alex, had prepared her to develop “eyes in the back of her head” as a mom and now she had to put that skill to use in her business. She made a promise to herself that nothing would ever slip past her again. She has kept this promise for 14 years.
“I would work a little less, but I’d never give up what I’m doing.”
When asked, Foster explained that if money were no concern, she’d still continue running Skin Deep Spatique. She genuinely loves what she does and it shows — not only in her work, but through the passion she emanates when speaking of her work.
She enjoys being a woman in business and is an avid supporter of fellow businesswomen. She takes many of her professional cues from Dermalogica’s CEO, Jane Wurwand. When Foster had more than $47 thousand and various investments stolen from her by her former business partner, she wrote Wurwand. Wurwand spoke directly to Foster’s heart and inspired her to continue doing the work she loves. Dermalogica creates a “tribe” mentality with its members where everyone is connected and able to reach out to one another for support. Foster’s “tribe” helped her get through some of her darkest days.
“All the sudden, people were asking if I could put baskets together around the holidays.”
The boutique side of Foster’s business came about by chance. She initially had just a few hand-picked products in a small area of her shop and her clients began asking if she could curate holiday gift baskets for them. This led to Foster and her associate, Jackie Wilson, traveling around to various markets selecting goods for the boutique. Foster and Wilson keep up with fashion and beauty trends and once an item becomes mainstream, they replace it with something more unique. This keeps her customers coming back to discover “must-have” products and accessories.
Speaking of the next big thing, Foster is currently enrolled in a master micro-needling class and will soon be offering this service at Skin Deep. And as always, she will serve as her own guinea pig — trying it out on herself first — to ensure that it is a procedure that she can recommend to her clients with confidence.