Meet Samer Hamadeh, CEO of Zeel.
How many years have you been involved in the hospitality industry?
I’ve been involved in the hospitality business since 2010, when I created Zeel as a health and wellness booking platform. Of the services we offered, massage was the most popular. To accommodate the demand for same-day, in-home massage, we pivoted and introduced the first-ever on-demand massage offering, Zeel Massage On Demand, in 2012. Today, Zeel is available 365 days a year, in more than 40 cities in the United States, bringing five-star massage to customer homes, hotels, workplaces, and events. Now, with Zeel Spa, we’re also bringing our vetted, licensed massage therapists to top spas.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being in the spa industry?
Delivering a five-star massage in as little as an hour is a challenging enterprise, especially when you’re doing it in 40 cities. There are a lot of moving parts, from technology to customer service, to finding the very best licensed massage therapists. That said we find delivering massage very rewarding. Massage makes the world feel better. It’s also rewarding to empower our Zeel Massage Therapists, giving them access to more flexible schedules, high pay, and now, the chance to work with some of the nation’s top spas.
What has surprised you most about working in the spa industry?
Our biggest surprise was what a great fit Zeel was for the spa industry. For the first few years of Zeel Massage On Demand, we focused solely on providing massages to customers at their location. We assumed that we’d go head to head with the spa industry, like Uber with taxis, or Airbnb with hotels.
But in late 2015, after discussions with spa owners and directors, we realized we could partner with spas to expand and improve their businesses. We identified the pain points in the spa industry and launched a new line of business, Zeel Spa.
Where do you think the industry is heading?
Americans now realize that massage isn’t just a once-a-year luxury or something to do on vacation. Rather, massage is an essential part of lifetime wellness. In addition to reducing muscle tension and pain, massage lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, improves flexibility and range of motion, boosts the immune system, improves mood, and eases chronic conditions like insomnia and migraine headaches. We think that the spa industry will accommodate regular wellness visits from local customers as well as occasional tourists or people celebrating special occasions.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I’m a lifelong entrepreneur. I’ve been building businesses since I started a candy reselling company in middle school. Over my 20-plus years as an entrepreneur, I’ve worked with more than a dozen startups as an advisor, investor, and/or board member. I also cofounded and served as the CEO of Vault.com, the career information company. Aside from my family, founding Zeel is my proudest achievement. With Zeel, we’re able to bring the benefits of massage to everyone, on demand. That’s why we say that we’re Powering Massage Everywhere at Zeel.
How did you come up with Zeel Spa?
When we created Zeel Massage on Demand in 2012, spa owners assumed that we would disrupt the traditional spa industry. To be honest, we did too. But we learned that customers loved getting massage at spas, as well as in home massage, and that wasn’t going to change. Instead of looking at traditional massage businesses as competitors, I looked to them as partners. I found that spas tend to be understaffed, making it difficult for them to accept last-minute appointments. It’s expensive for spas to have massage therapists on standby. So, I came up with a solution—on-demand staffing for spas, with Zeel Spa.
How would you sum up your personal philosophy?
My personal philosophy is summed up by the famous Wayne Gretzy quote, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”