Colette Courtion learned more than just how to make a good cup of coffee while working at Starbucks. As director of global card services in the marketing department for the java giant, Courtion also learned the importance of exceeding customer expectations—a lesson she put to good use when opening two medical spas in the Seattle area. A sufferer of adult acne, Courtion searched for a professional skincare environment that was warm, welcoming, and results-oriented. Frustrated after not being able to find a place to meet her needs, the savvy businesswoman decided to take matters into her own hands. With the backing of investors, including Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, Courtion opened the first Calidora Skin Clinic, located in Bellevue, WA, in June 2005. A second location opened last October in Seattle's University Village shopping center. "After going back and forth from doctor's offices to day spas and not having a single place take an interest in my long-term skincare goals, I determined it was time for me to create my own place," says Courtion, whose titles include founder and CEO of Calidora. "Having spent the majority of my career at Starbucks, I had a deep understanding of customer service and knew firsthand how to create an exceptional experience for clients."
The exceptional experience at Calidora, which means gift of beauty in Greek, begins with a complimentary skin analysis using photo imaging and laser technology to measure several key factors, including moisture level, pigmentation, pore size, pH levels, skintone, and UV damage. Next, clients receive a treatment plan and product regimen created by one of Calidora's care coordinators. "Offering this free service is a significant expense for us, but because we are so successful at gaining clients after the analysis, we can afford it," says Courtion, who points out that down the road she may rethink offering the service free of charge. "Because the company is young and trying to build a client base, it works well for the time being. After reviewing the analysis and receiving skincare recommendations, about ninety-eight percent of our clients utilize our services. They are so impressed with our level of knowledge and the experience we offer that they become repeat clients."
The retail area at the University Village location is bright and welcoming.
After their skin is analyzed, clients are put on the Calidora Skin Plan, a step-by-step regimen to help them achieve desired results. Calidora's care coordinator then books their appropriate treatments and follows them along their skin journey to ensure they are achieving their goals. "We don't take an à la carte approach to skincare, where a client comes in for one treatment like Botox," explains Courtion. "Instead, we take a long-term approach to really understand where the client is today and what he or she wants his or her skin to look like in three months to ten years. People come to us with their problems and leave with answers and a plan that leads to healthier, more vibrant skin."
The soft colors and lighting in Calidora's waiting area (Bellevue) calms guests before treatments.
Courtion took a comprehensive approach to skincare when creating the menu, making sure to offer treatments for various conditions and income levels. Services are broken down into four distinct categories: The Essentials, gentle facial treatments designed to enhance the look and feel of the skin; Skin Deep, non-ablative resurfacing peels and microdermabrasion to improve the texture and tone of the skin; Laser & Light Therapy, treatments that reduce the signs of aging while transforming the appearance and texture of the skin; and Skin MD, anti-aging dermal fillers and injections to restore suppleness and youthfulness to the skin. According to Courtion, all of Calidora's treatments and products have been clinically tested to prove they deliver results. Especially popular among clients is the spa's signature Calidora Rejuvenator treatment ($145, 50 minutes), which uses ultrasonic technology to gently exfoliate the skin and help with cellular turnover.
The decor at both Calidora locations is clean and minimal without being clinical. Shown above is the Bellevue front desk area and one of the treatment rooms.
The staff of 21 full- and part-timers is broken down evenly among medical practitioners, estheticians, and support staff, and all employees intermix between both spa locations. "This helps with our labor model, ensures we are meeting the demands of all of our clients at both locations, and gives practitioners a chance to see a more diverse clientele," says Courtion. Only appropriately licensed employees can perform procedures that Courtion considers medical, including high-concentration chemical peels, injections, and laser therapy. "We want to make sure clients are getting the correct treatment from a professional who is trained properly," she says.
Calidora skin clinic
In addition to the two existing locations, Courtion is opening a third clinic in the Seattle area this year, with plans for more to come. "Our business plan is to make this a national concept, and with backing from investors such as Howard Schultz, we have a competitive advantage other clinics don't have," says Courtion. "We will never have the magnitude of stores that Starbucks has because our concept would not support that many. However, much like Starbucks has established itself as the premiere brand in the coffee segment, we want to do the same in the skincare industry. We want to be known as the experts of skincare."