When I walked the little steps that took me down towards a hillside spa located at Tanjung Bungah in Penang, Malaysia, little did I know what I was going to smell or taste. Hearing a calming chant in the distance, I came to sliding glass doors embellished by a small little fountain feature made from tiles and bamboos platform. Here, I was welcomed by the front-of-house staff of Danai Spa and was told that Cynthia is already waiting.
While I sat down on a wooden chair, I was immediately served with a sweet spiced herbal tea served with nuts and raisins. At first glance, Cynthia demands attention and may seem like a no-nonsense and sensible entrepreneur but our chat went on to discuss her inspiration and love for her family that truly opened up a wealth of information that has made what Danai Spa is today.
When Cynthia Tong decided to venture into the spa business and opened her very first spa at Tanjung Bungah, Penang, Malaysia, little did she know that a decade later, she will further expand to Langkawi, Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur. Inspired by the touch of a pair of skilled hand, spas have long been a space for rejuvenation and stimulation of sight and sense. Her research, prior to opening her first spa treatment centre, took her to some of the best-serving spas in the region including Bali, Thailand and Pangkor Laut in Malaysia. While she focuses on enhancing the experience in the services provided by the spa, her husband undertakes the business development aspects including new ventures and design and renovation once the spas have confirmed its new home.
While its very first branch is a standalone spa treatment centre located in Tanjung Bungah, the other 6 centres scattered around Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Cameron Highlands are located within the circumferences of a hotel. The partnerships with the hotels meant that they are directly offering advanced aesthetic applying High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), a non-surgical facelift treatment, to its in-house guests.
This husband and wife partnership is more than just a powerful force that's highly focused on customer care, it was this one feature that they've held firm even when the business took reported slow growth a few years back. Nevertheless, it did not dampen their spirits and rather than focus on expanding the business, they have come to the decision that their customers are their biggest asset
"When the business suffered, instead of expanding the business, we focused much more on taking care of the customers' needs. Customising experiences and understanding what they want out of our services. When you focus on customers, then you are no longer focused on the prices, cost or even what level of product I can offer the customer," said Cynthia Tong, Director of Danai Spa.
"In the beginning, it was a steep learning curve for all of us. With the product perceived as a luxurious service, prices are, after all, more on the upper tier range. If we are targeting the local market, local customers are not going to come every week. At one point, we were doing well until the hotels start having their own spas and we conspired firmer marketing plans," Cynthia added.
Awarded as the 100 Most Influential Sustainable Entrepreneur of The Year 2017, the fourth award in 2017 alone alongside Rising Star Award awarded by FMA Golden Globe Enterprise Award; conferred as Adjunct Professor by Beauty Care Expert Universal Academy, and Master Class Women Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017, Cynthia Tong now stands at the precipice of the spa industry in the region leading the country towards the enjoyment of resort-style spa treatment centres.
Asked on how she defines success, Cynthia remained in her self-effacing and in exorable personality mentioning the support of her in-laws and immediate family members.
"It's how you define what success is. The word success has become synonymous with owning a business or being rich. However, nothing beats the time I spent with my kids. Adopted by a single woman, I've yearned for a bigger family of my own and enjoy being in good relationships with them."
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