A recession could be on the horizon, but there is no reason to panic. Though it could seem like a scary time to be a business owner (or an employee), there’s an opportunity for a prepared professional to not just survive, but thrive! Hosts Maggie and Ella have both been through a few recessions and share their experiences in this episode of ASCP Esty Talk. Tune in to hear their take on what helped them through.
ASCP Esty Talk with Maggie Staszcuk and Ella Cressman
Produced by Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) for licensed estheticians, ASCP Esty Talk is a weekly podcast hosted by Maggie Staszcuk and Ella Cressman. We see your passion, innovation, and hard work and are here to support you by providing a platform for networking, advocacy, camaraderie, and education. We aim to inspire you to ask the right questions, find your motivation, and give you the courage to have the professional skin care career you desire.
About Ella Cressman:
Ella Cressman is a licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, business owner, and absolute ingredient junkie! As an educator, she enjoys empowering other estheticians and industry professionals to understand skin care from an ingredient standpoint rather than a product-specific view.
She has spent many hours researching ingredients, understanding how and where they are sourced, as well as phytochemistry, histological access, and complementary compounds for intentional skin benefits. In addition to running a skin care practice, Cressman founded a comprehensive consulting group, the HHP Collective, and has consulted for several skin care lines, including several successful CBD brands.
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About Maggie Staszcuk:
Maggie has been a licensed esthetician since 2006 and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College. She has worked in the spa and med-spa industry and served as an esthetics instructor and a director of education for one of the largest schools in Colorado before coming to ASCP as the Advanced Modality Specialist.
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0:01:24.0 Ella Cressman: Hello. And welcome to ASCP Esty Talk. I'm a Ella Cressman licensed, esthetician certified organic skincare, formulator international educator and content contributor for Associated Skincare professionals.
0:01:44.2 Maggie Staszcuk: I am Maggie Staszcuk, licensed esthetician in ASCP Education program manager.
0:01:49.3 EC: And the shout out to Sharita Irving, who is, I guess bicoastal. She's in the US Virgin Islands in the winter, and then she works at a school the rest of the time, which is kind of cool. So she is the big listener. So, Hey Sharita, thanks for listening. Wouldn't that be fun?
0:02:05.7 MS: Yeah, that sounds awesome.
0:02:06.6 EC: Yeah, except for like not working the rest of the time would be cool.
0:02:11.9 MS: That Would be cool.
0:02:12.8 EC: You would just go there and not work.
0:02:13.6 EC: We'll work on that. In the meantime, have you watched the news lately?
0:02:17.5 MS: Yeah.
0:02:17.8 EC: What... Do you watch the news? Like is that part of your morning routine?
0:02:21.1 MS: I do, it is My morning routine.
0:02:21.3 EC: Evening routine?
0:02:22.4 MS: No.
0:02:22.9 EC: Okay. I don't blame you. 'cause there is so much bombardment of bad news and it seems like what we hear more and more is there's a storm, a brewing economically as we're speaking. And it makes sense what they're saying. But what I've started to notice is we're seeing this in conversations on some of the social media platforms too, and it feels like there's a little fear. And one thing that's interesting about both of us is that we've been through it a few times. So I thought this would be a really good subject to talk through our experience. Also talk through what is a recession and how can we navigate through it. I think we've noticed over the past few years that prices of everything, this is Ella Economics? This is Ella economics.
0:03:13.7 MS: Economics 101, people. You're tuning in.
0:03:16.2 EC: Minus 101 because I will preface that I'm an esthetician and not an economist, but this is my take. And we're lucky enough to be in an industry where we talk to a lot of people, and this is me gathering from the doom and gloom news, but also talking to some fascinating clients who are in different industries. Real estate, for example, banking, for example. Not to mention my own research, if you will.
0:03:39.9 MS: Okay. You got your finger on the pulse. That's what you're saying.
0:03:43.7 EC: I think, and this is my take.
0:03:44.9 MS: Okay.
0:03:45.6 EC: What I noticed, or what we can all see is that for the past, well, I don't know, five years even a little bit before covid, the prices of everything started to rise. And then after Covid, high, homes, cars, food. We all know this, but even Levi's, have you been to the mall lately?
0:04:04.7 MS: Oh my God. That's where it is.
0:04:07.3 MS: Listen, they've got Levi's at Costco right now. So if you need a discount.
0:04:14.0 EC: I don't know.
0:04:15.7 EC: I'll keep you posted. Because I took my step kids to the mall and there was Levi's store and I was like a what? Three digits. What three digits for Levi's?
0:04:27.1 MS: Costco people.
0:04:29.6 EC: I'm gonna take them back. But everything has gone up. And this is inflation. We know this. We've talked about this. The price for all of our disposables is up. And we raised our prices. This happens at almost every level. This is why the cost, I mean, even Starbucks, I mean, I used to get a drink. It was 2.12 and now it's $4.
0:04:49.3 MS: Oh, you can get a drink and spend like almost $10, I feel like.
0:04:53.0 EC: Well, You know what? I get an Americano, you know what Americano is?
0:04:55.4 MS: Yeah, yeah.
0:04:56.5 EC: Watered down espresso for $4. So my spending habits, I'm like, why am I paying for this? I can water down my own coffee. Make it a little stronger. But this is inflation inflating the price. The main contributor to this inflation is supply and demand. And it's very obvious after going through the supply chain issues of covid and shipping and all of that. This is happening for a long time. It's just been super obvious, maybe just to me. But it's been super obvious with the disruptions that we saw in Covid. Where it's also extremely evident for me is in car sales. If you notice during COVID, like the car or after, I would say, all the car lots are empty or a lot of them were empty because they weren't making any new cars. So the demand for new cars went up. The value of used cars went up and it was crazy.
0:05:46.7 EC: The other thing you didn't notice, or maybe you notice, but the other thing you didn't see were commercials. And the car lots are filling back up. So the supply and demand is changing. And what that can be part of is the rise in interest rates. So the federal government says, let's raise interest rates, so we can slow spending. So that demand is less and the supply evens out. With that, What happens is we also change our spending habits because we don't have as much money or liquidity to draw from. So everybody is afraid to spend money. It's just kind of a mind game in my opinion. Economics minus 101 from Ella. So in economics, a recession is a business cycle contraction that pulls in, that occurs when there's a general decline in economic activity. That fear of running out of money. So we better not spend it.
0:06:42.7 EC: They usually occur when there's a widespread drop in spending. So when we think of luxury goods, we think of, imagine two categories. Do I need it or do I want it in times of affluence or plenty? We want it, we get it. Where times where we're in fear, do we need it? Maybe, maybe not. So a little more consideration. Companies are aware of this. And so then they have to cut back or lay off or potentially move things around to anticipate it. And then unemployment can rise. And when unemployment can rise, there's more fear. And people experience a decrease in perceived disposable income because they have less money to spend. Demand falls taking the prices of many goods and services with it. So what does that mean for the average person? For the average person, it can increase stress all around, even if you're not affected.
0:07:40.2 EC: Even if you have a stable job, even if you have everything all locked up, if you will. One of the most prevalent ways that the recession affects average person is simply, is anxiety from watching the news or in anticipation. Some people from watching their retirement accounts change and whatnot. So it doesn't matter if you're comfortable in your job security and have a hefty financial cushion, or if you're struggling to make ends meet and have $100 in your savings account, it affects you. What does this mean for the aesthetic industry? More importantly, what does it mean for you, the professional aesthetician? I would like to discuss what you felt when we went through, shortly after both of us. 'cause we've been licensed around the same time. We had the economic crash, the recession of 2007, 2008. What was your experience?
0:08:35.9 MS: So I became licensed in 2006, beginning of 2006. I think that's about same time for you, right?
0:08:41.6 EC: That was the end of, yeah.
0:08:44.2 MS: 2005 or something?
0:08:45.3 EC: No, end of 2006.
0:08:46.1 MS: End Of 2006.
0:08:48.2 EC: She's, but she's senior.
0:08:51.4 EC: You'll always be licensed longer than me.
0:08:52.9 MS: Alright. Well, you know more than me, Ella so...
0:08:55.6 MS: Looking back, I wanna say I feel like I was not impacted by the recession professionally, but I know that's not true. But I think in my mind, I'm only remembering the good parts, thinking about my bank account, that's not true. As I remember, there were periods of time where clients weren't coming in the door. People weren't spending money. I was, I do recall like so okay, social media was not a thing then. Like we have today.
0:09:22.5 EC: MySpace.
0:09:23.9 MS: Yeah. MySpace. Totally. So I would put, I would write a discount on my business card and give that out to my clients that came in. Every time they'd come in and say, be sure you rebook, I'm gonna discount you next time. Things like that. Whatever I could do to get people to rebook and keep coming. Or if there was a slow day, I would put a sign out that would say, today only 10% off, or today only, we're gonna add a brow to your facial. So people coming in for like their massage service were also hopefully deciding, oh, discount today. I'm gonna book with Maggie. And that was a hard period.
0:10:02.2 EC: Was it hard because you were new or was it hard because of people's spending habits? Or both?
0:10:08.1 MS: Probably both, But I'd like to think that I was two years in and so I was not new. I had been building for two years and then it, I would not say 2007, I would say it was by 2008 I was experiencing this because it was now my second job. I had been at this spa now for about a year. I had transitioned from like my first green job as an aesthetician.
0:10:33.3 EC: Okay.
0:10:33.9 MS: And so these were measures I was taking. Once 2008 had hit, we were really into the recession.
0:10:42.6 EC: So this was a salon spa.
0:10:44.4 MS: It was just a spa.
0:10:44.5 EC: Just A spa.
0:10:44.6 MS: Yeah, Just a spa. But, it, I think it was really hit or miss because the other thing that I think about is the lipstick effect. And I don't know if you're planning to talk about that, but there were definitely those clients that would come in who were not impacted. You're talking about those people that had wealth that was not a factor versus those who were living in fear and maybe not spending. So definitely you had maybe 5% of the client base, maybe 10% of the client base who were coming in and spending regardless. Re-booking, regardless.
0:11:17.2 MS: They Were clearly not impacted. And then those who were saying to me, I really need my brow waxed and I'm gonna skip on the facial this time.
0:11:26.6 EC: So a lot of fear-based stuff.
0:11:29.5 MS: Yeah.
0:11:29.7 EC: What do I need? Right. That same language. What do I need?
0:11:32.2 MS: What do I need?
0:11:33.0 EC: I think for me it was very similar. It was, except for what I was building. So I went into, I was already building from nothing because I was booth rent in a salon spa. I'm gonna say "spa" because there was me and another, I guess there was two estheticians. One was super part-time and one wasn't. So I was building... I'm trying to maintain a relationship with all the hair people in there, but they were coming in for hair. Trying to get them to come back for facials. So what I built was a brow business, but the facial perception was, oh twice a year on my birthday, maybe my anniversary, that was perception of luxury, not of necessity. So shortly into that, I took a training with a woman who I will always credit for changing my trajectory in the industry. Brenda Cummings and I took a training with her and I started changing the way I spoke about my... It was not a facial anymore. It was a treatment. And so in building this treatment, this want column turned into a need column. And I changed my approach and built the confidence in the clientele that I was trickling in at the time into, you need this, you told me you need this.
0:12:51.5 EC: And for that, it established value for them. And so for that added value, it moved away from a luxury into a necessity. And I was able to build quickly. And then we've seen since other recession, at least one other one since then, and I survived it same way. So you look online and there's a lot of ways that people will adjust. Maybe they're gonna throw in an eyebrow service, like you said. The other thing that I think we should talk about is that sometimes these recessions, historically they breed opportunity. So keep that in mind as you are heading into this potential recession. Keep that in the back of your mind that there's opportunity. Did you know light bulbs and telephones were created in times of recession?
0:13:46.9 MS: I did not know that.
0:13:48.4 EC: In effort to save money.
0:13:50.9 MS: I told you more than me.
0:13:51.9 EC: Some things. More recently, Airbnb and Uber, as an effort to save money, but for people who still wanted to travel, these were invented in those times around 2008 and really took off later. And even software companies like Adobe shifted their mindset, shifted their platform to be resilient in times. So take these big companies that we're all, I mean, in these technologies that we can't live without, like light bulbs and telephones and think, Hey, I can do that. Let the light bulb go off in your own mind.
0:14:24.8 Speaker 5: Hold that thought. We'll be right back.
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0:15:15.7 S5: Okay, here we go. Let's give back to the podcast.
0:15:19.6 MS: There's Something that you keep saying. One, you said it with like the advent of Airbnb and Uber and shifting mindset. And also when you were talking about the training that you had as a new esthetician, and again, shifting your mindset. I think it, that is 100% a huge part of building your business, retaining your clientele. It is all about how you are viewing the treatments you're performing and the perception that you put on your client's needs. First one. So if you're having your clients come through the door and have this perception of you need this, you told me you need this Versus do you want this? That mind shift, that perception is 100% going to make or break you.
0:16:10.2 EC: Let's talk about that in affluent times. Retail.
0:16:14.6 MS: Yeah.
0:16:15.6 EC: Do you want this that I recommended that you might want this little spray that you said you might want? Like versus you need this spray because you're a mess.
0:16:22.1 EC: No, I'm not.
0:16:25.1 EC: You told me that you don't want your skin to look like this. You need this. 100%. Thank you. 'cause that's absolutely right. So adjusting your mindset. And I think to your point, a lot of people are afraid to or lack the confidence just like they do in times of, that we're talking about that initiates those type of approaches.
0:16:48.3 EC: Well, let's talk about pricing and service adaptation then. Just specifically in a potential, it's not even for sure here yet, but a potential recession.
0:16:58.6 EC: If you look online, one of the things that suggested is re-evaluating pricing structures to remain competitive while maintaining profitability. There's a few ways you can read into this. You can say, oh, I need to make sure I'm not overcharging. But I would also say, make sure you're not undercharging. 'cause if you're undercharging, you might tracking a certain type of client or customer. The other thing is, people like you did, they say add a free thing or discount your prices. But I would caution against that. So instead of introducing recession specific packages or promotions to attract new clients, I would have that as built in part of your client relationships, but not just a decrease because we're all in this together and it's a recession. Instead, emphasize value and make it a need column.
0:17:53.7 MS: Strengthening client relationships is also important during this time. There's also some customer retention strategies that you can use, like implementing loyalty programs to encourage repeat business. Providing exceptional customer service obviously is part of that. To Build trust, loyalty, rapport with your clients, and then expanding your client base by targeting new demographics or niche markets and utilizing social media. Of course, we've talked about that a million times. And online marketing to reach wider audiences.
0:18:25.7 EC: 100%. I think strengthening your client relationship, instilling the trust will help calm fears and maintain, oh, this is a part of my routine, this is part of my spending, this is part of my budget. This isn't auxiliary. And something else to think about is upscaling and diversification of your skillsets. So when we're looking at continuing education and training, don't give up on continuing education because you are afraid of something may happen. Actually if there's a slow time. Here's the other thing, our industry ebbs and flows ups and downs. It's busy, it's not busy. Like a wave going out and a wave coming in. So know that that's just part of it. And this part might just be, if you're slower right now, you're okay. You're gonna be okay because the wave's gonna come back in no problem. While it's low tide hop on a class.
0:19:17.4 EC: If it's, there's going to be a summit coming up for ASCP. If you're a member, you can get in no problem. Or if it's one of your the companies you're working with and they have classes, go to a trade show. Find ways to increase your knowledge and your base because your clients love that and they respect that. So don't be afraid to do that. Invest in professional development to enhance skills. And then also to stay up to date with industry trends. Listen to our podcast every week. That's one great way to do that. Consider new certifications. But when you're doing that, don't just hop on trends. Don't just buy a new device. Really do some research and make sure this is something that will enhance your business. Adding complimentary services, not free, but ones that compliment each other. So what would be appealing if you are having some, like Maggie mentioned, massage and facial or hooking up with a nutritionist.
0:20:16.5 EC: If you're an acne specialist perhaps, or an aging specialist looking at some of those relationships, a rolfer would be kind of cool. Things like that. Acupressure, acupuncture. And then with that, you'll be able to cross promote with other local businesses for mutual benefit. Have open houses. Those are something I have not attended an open house for a long time, but there is this cutest med spa here in town. She, I've watched her grow from a baby esthetician to this boss babe. And they just recently had an open house and I thought, oh my gosh, I haven't been to one in a long time. But it was super successful. So have one with like-minded professionals, maybe like a rolling one. If you will.
0:21:00.6 MS: Also streamline your business operations, maintaining efficiency and productivity.
0:21:05.1 MS: So This is gonna be like optimizing your scheduling and appointment management. And maybe you're operating with something like PocketSuite where you can have your booking online. Also retailing online. And this is going to track everything for, you can also be generating reports, which is gonna help with your optimization. You Can implement technology and software. As I just said, things like PocketSuite can help you do that. Inventory management. Also minimizing excess inventory. So keep on hand only what you intended to sell. So maybe three deep for instance. And negotiate better deals with your suppliers and new manufacturers. And then focus on high demand products to maximize your profits. So at first, when buying your inventory, don't feel the need to buy the entire line. Buy what you intend to use in your treatment space and then what you hope to sell to compliment for that home care and who your current demographic is.
0:21:57.8 EC: Yes. And build from it. Don't be afraid to build from it. The one thing that I've done in that regard as a mistake is I get super, I had this body line once like, oh my god, three deep but 19 skews.
0:22:10.0 MS: Oh man, that's a lot.
0:22:11.5 EC: Yeah. And up to the 12 month mark, I ended up giving a lot of it away, but I wanted to have something for the body so I could have rethought that a little bit different. I also had these other things that sell. I have to consider my spot, my target. Like I'm niche, I'm corrective. So I'm bringing these fluffy things in. They sold okay, but they didn't continue to sell. So I am constantly doing that anyways. The next thing is a little bit tougher for me. As we've talked about, I have online presence, but I'm not good at it. So something that I can strive to do better at. I would encourage you guys to also create an engaging website. There's a lot of opportunities for this that make it super easy as compare. And I think it's 'cause I'm a little traumatized from when I initially did it.
0:22:55.0 EC: My first website was so funny, but it was like $4,000 for three pages. And now, they're just part of a subscription. They make it so much easier. But in that, showcase your services, your expertise, even adding client testimonials is what people look for. And then one important thing is something I didn't do is optimize your website for mobile users. Because the majority of searches are done on phones or, or tablets or devices anyways. So make it easy and pretty aesthetically pleasing there. Leveraging your social media. I feel like this and I, you tell me what you think, Maggie, on this one. Social media seems to be cookie cutter. You've had the people doing the voiceovers, you had the people doing the before and afters. So finding different ways to showcase your, to use these platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to show your work and ways of calling to action them to come to you is gonna be key.
0:24:00.1 MS: Yeah, I think you're right. Social media is, it's all the same. You scroll and scroll and scroll and everybody's posts look the same. So You do have to find a way to stand out. And Just popping back up to the website comment there. It, you do have to have something that's going to engage with the demographic that you're trying to bring in the door. And there's a lot of people that skip websites altogether. Maybe they do have a contract with whoever it is, Shopify, Vagaro, PocketSuite. And they use that as their website and skip the website altogether. It's going to be that Shopify platform or that PocketSuite platform, that is their online presence because it allows for online booking, it has all of their retail that you can purchase through that platform. That is their business site, if you will. But just keep in mind that is not engaging with your demographic. It's very plain Jane. It's not really promoting you, if you will.
0:24:54.4 MS: So you do have to have social media in addition to your platform, if not a website. And hopefully they're linking.
0:25:04.6 EC: Yes. That's the best way to do it. I've gotta figure that out. 'cause if you follow me, I'm just a creeper. I use them and people like them and they would think, oh, this girl probably has nothing to do with the amount of followers she has. But I do. I just, I have built my business like a secret, like a speak easy skincare and I've already trademarked that. But so that, it's like you have to know somebody to be able to get in. So that's what I've done for mine. But you guys do your own way and it's going to work fantastic. 'cause it's shown time after time that it's, it works. I mean, I hear it all the time. Specific social media influencers, like, do you know, blah blah, this is what I wanna do. And I'm like, yes, I know that. I know blah blah. I saw what blah, blah did. But so with that being said, collaborating with other professionals and forming strategic alliances, partner with other local businesses, I get a ton of referrals that are vetted already for me. 'cause I'm picky from my acupuncturist.
0:26:01.8 EC: From my hairstylist. And I send a lot of my people to them or to the makeup artist. Like he sends me, I send him, they're vetted and they're people that have, it's a little different 'cause they're not searching blindly. They've asked, do you know a good aesthetician? Or they'll ask me, do you know a good acupuncturist? Yes. Or you have in a consultation, some things going on you might wanna consider going to this nutritionist. So these are establishing trust in the relationship. So that goes back up to strengthening client relationships. In the end, it's important to be adaptable and always maintain a growth mindset to get out of a fear mindset, especially in challenging economic times. Hey, we're not saying it's gonna be easy, but there is opportunity not only to survive, but to thrive during a recession. With a little work and a lot of determination, you will come out on the other end stronger and with great opportunity for success. Now, listeners, we really wanna hear from you. What are some of the things you will be doing in preparation of a potential recession?
0:27:08.8 EC: Or to make sure you stay in that thriving mindset, be sure to let us know. Comment on our social media posts or send us an email at Get connected at ascpskincare.com or we wanna know all the details.
0:27:20.8 EC: In the meantime, thank you for listening to ASCP ESTY Talk. For more information on this episode or for ways to connect with Maggie or myself, or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes.