Welcome to All In, where we sit down with some of the most inspiring people in the wellness industry to find out how they got their start, their successes and their struggles, and their top advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Up next: Celine Tadrissi, founder of Toronto’s Hammam Spa and a new plant-based skincare line, Céla. The line, which pays homage to Canadian topography in its packaging design, includes five body care products that are meant to be adaptable to all ages, genders, ethnicities, skin types and geographical locations.
Can you recall the first inspiration you had to start your own business?
I have been passionate about the beauty and wellness industry since I was a teenager. During my years in school I always worked in beauty part time which gave me some practical insight on the industry.
Because I also studied a lot of business classes at University of Toronto and then worked at the Board of Trade I felt I had the practical side and knowledge to open my own business.
What were some of your early challenges, both with Hammam Spa and now with Cela?
There have been so many challenges with starting a new business, many which I was not able to predict.
Recruiting great employees is always one of the main hurdles with a new business. Financing and being able to support both business in the early stages for me has probably been the biggest challenge in an industry dominated by large companies.
What are some challenges you still face today with both businesses?
There are always daily problems with owning and operating your own company. The biggest challenge for me personally would fall under economies of scale.
A small business does not have the same purchasing power or reach to be able to implement a lot of the programs, marketing, packaging, etc as a larger global brand. Finding the balance to implement what I would like, in a cost that is feasible, has always been an ongoing challenge.
Were you also working a full time job when you launched your business (as a side hustle) or did you go full-force into the new business? Would you recommend the approach you took?
Both Hammam Spa and Céla have been started as a side project or I would say “labour of love” because of the initial amount of work required without an initial reward. For me this was the only possibility, but every person’s situation is unique. Being able to dive in full time would have been much easier but sometimes the hardest things in life have the highest reward.
What are some of your top tips for staying focused and on track on a day to day basis?
I always have a running to do list. I have one on my notes section on my phone and a paper one that I am always updating on my desk. I find this helps me stay focused and organized. I like to make note of all the little things but also larger goals and ideas (for instance I listen to a lot of audio books when travelling or commuting that give me more broad ideas and new perspectives to consider).
I think it’s important as a business owner to be responsible for the smaller operational tasks, but always be thinking of the larger picture.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as it relates to running your own business?
I think it really depends on the business. For me, it’s not getting discouraged or overwhelmed from the day to day issues and problems that will always arise. Looking at the big picture and being able to adapt to unplanned events when they come up is important.
What’s the best advice you would give to someone interested in starting their own business?
I think having realistic expectations is the most important part when considering opening a business. Having a clear vision of why you want to start your business along with the practical knowledge of what the realistic operational and financial demands will be is key.
About Your Company
One of the first things we learn about starting a successful business is that you have relieve a pain point for the public. What was the problem you set out to solve, both with Hammam Spa, and now with Céla, and how do you think you’ve solved it?
This question for me is key to both brands’ inspiration and success. For Hammam, we had a vision of creating an “escape from everyday.” In Hammam Spa the vision was to create a lifestyle brand where people could relax, receive treatments and feel rejuvenated.
We were inspired by the original Hammams in the Middle East and many of the spas we visited in Europe that had a relaxed social atmosphere. This was risky in Toronto 14 years ago because there was nothing like this and many people (almost on a daily basis) said it was a huge mistake. It is so encouraging today to see the spa being used in the exact manner that we originally envisioned.
With Céla, I wanted to create a brand utilizing the amazing ingredients and botanicals found in Canada. I started sourcing and purchasing local raw ingredients to use in spa treatments almost 10 years ago out of frustration with a lot of products I was importing.
I was so impressed and surprised with some of the amazing natural ingredients Canada has, which have numerous benefits and are amazing in skincare.
I am a twelfth generation Canadian and I was really proud to be able to utilize this in our treatments at the spa. Initially I did not have the intention to create a product line, but because so encouraged with the positive feedback and lack of anything similar available, I decided to create Céla.
I have seen over the years people wanting to use products with thoughtful ingredient selections, but I also feel that majority of people value a luxury product that actually works. This was the balance I wanted to achieve with our formulations.
We love that the product packaging pays homage to Canadian topography. Why was incorporating that kind of design element important to you?
Reflecting the beauty of Canada is an integral part of Céla for me, in the development of the products. My husband, Antonio Tadrissi, is an architect and designer, and he has been involved from the beginning with the development, and designed the packaging to reflect the essence of the brand.
How has the spa industry changed since you opened Hammam? How has it stayed the same?
It has been so exciting to see a pivot in the spa and wellness industry over the last 15 years. I find visiting a spa was once considered a occasional “treat” or indulgence. It has now become part of peoples’ general health and lifestyle.
It is so rewarding to be working in an environment that has a positive effect on peoples’ lives and provides a balance for so many busy and demanding schedules.
Why was it important to you to make a natural, plant-powered line?
I wanted to create a line in which I felt comfortable with all ingredients used in the formulations. I wanted to feature and introduce people to the amazing botanicals in Canada for skincare.
Being in the industry, it was also important for me to create a product that was sustainable, effective, and luxurious. I spent three years in formulation and dermatology testing to ensure that the products would be safe and effective for everyone – this is very important for the consumer to be aware of when buying natural products.