The highly competitive spa industry has seen many entrants come and go. To survive, endure and create a distinctive brand is a challenging task which Megan Tan has succeeded with impressive results. Recently, Top 10 of Malaysia speaks with the friendly founder of Sompoton Spa and finds out what it takes to do just that.
In her own words, the self-professed ‘kampong’ girl had to learn to cope quickly in the big city of Kuala Lumpur when she initially moved from Muar, Johor. But she smiles widely and says, “I learn very quickly.”
After finishing her studies, Megan Tan joined the travel industry and spent 9 years as a tourist guide. It also allowed her to pursue adventurous sports such as mountain climbing and water rafting. When Tan got married, she left the industry as she didn’t want to travel overseas so often and be away from the family.
Through her travels, Tan had realised there was a need for a quality spa outlet in Kuala Lumpur. Fired up with that vision, she poured all her hard-earned savings into her first spa in Kuala Lumpur. That was in 2003. It was a very brave move for someone who had no prior business knowledge. Tan says, “I didn’t have a business plan at all and was totally depending on my savings. I didn’t even know how to go to the bank to get a loan.”
Tan also pulled in a partner to help out with the marketing aspects while she managed and operated the spa. Having visited spas in other countries helped her to visualise how a quality spa should be. The affable Tan laughingly says, “I put together the best components into my vision!”
An opportunity to expand the business arose when an international hotel approached her to run a spa as a joint venture. “Right now we have a total of 8 outlets in Malaysia. Our clientele is currently 70 % tourists and foreigners.”
In 2009, Sompoton Spa received an award for the best customer service at the Malaysia Spa and Wellness Awards. The award brought recognition and credibility to Tan’s brand. She says, “I feel my hard work had been recognized and that it was worth all the effort that I’ve put in.”
Sompoton Spa is a luxurious Malaysian spa brand that Tan has created and it is named after a flute used by the Kadazan tribe in Borneo. Its unique selling point is the Sompoton signature massage which is a combination of traditional Malay, Swedish and shiatsu massage techniques. It also has its in-house blend of fragrances and massage oils to relieve stress, calm and rejuvenate clients during treatments.
One of Tan’s greater challenges was the freeze on spa therapists in 2012. Even now, it is still a challenge as there are some 3,000 vacancies to be filled and Tan works closely with the spa association and government bodies on issues such as licensing, manpower needs and foreign worker permits in order to mitigate the problem.
In the past 5 years, Tan’s company has been offering services in spa design, consultation and management. “Potential entrants into the spa and wellness industry can save themselves much time, money and effort by engaging our services,” she advises.
Going forward, Tan’s focus will be on franchising locally and in China. She also wants to move towards developing wellness resorts and is already planning one.
I don’t feel successful. I’ve still got a long way to go. But I’ve managed to have a local brand spa existing in a 5-star luxury international hotel chain.
Her fearless, tenacious attitude will surely get this spunky entrepreneur to where she sees herself as a success, although the feeling is that she is one already!
Her vision is best exemplified through the following mission statement:
Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.