Shannon Haas, Vicki Canto: Spirit of Gainesville nominees
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 10, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.
As a former employee of Cloud 9 Spa Salon, (2008-2012) I would like to nominate its co-owners for the Spirit of Gainesville award in the entrepreneur category.
About Shannon Haas, Vicki Canto
Occupation: Business Owners
Years in Gainesville: 13+ in business; lifelong Alachua County Residents
While still in their 20’s, lifelong Alachua County residents Shannon Haas & Vicki Canto followed their hearts and put their homes on the line to secure a loan to build Cloud 9 Spa Salon in 1999. They had no idea how big their dream would grow. At that time, much of the public still thought “spas” were hot tubs, (which resulted in the need for comical clarification at Cloud 9’s front desk on numerous occasions.)
They followed no industry ‘model’ nor hired any consultants. They applied their years of working in other spa/salons plus their travel & research
of spas across the US. Dissatisfied with what was available in Gainesville, they devised their own business plan and set forth on the mission to open their
vision of the perfect relaxation and wellness destination. They studied different products, created their own protocols and unique treatments, wrote handbooks and training manuals on their customer service ideals, even designed their building, and logo. They took a huge risk, made lots of sacrifices and they really did it their own way, and they did it all by themselves. As a result of their dedication, passion, blood, sweat, and tears, they have created an exceptional spa experience that customers rave is on par with many top rated resort spas. They even gained national recognition when they were selected by and featured in DaySpa Magazine as a Top Spa in the US (1 out of only 13 selected).
Within its first few years, Cloud 9 grew from 5 treatment rooms to 16, and from 8 employees to around 40, with up to 1000 guests visiting per week. They have expanded their location twice, and are always refreshing their treatment areas and décor. The excellent service providers (massage therapists,
estheticians, hair stylists, nail specialists) are often completely booked and are able to earn as much as many college careers pay, working an average of
just 34 hours a week. With the state of the economy it’s more important than ever to keep local money local, and with a staff of over 40 Alachua county
residents year-round, Cloud 9s profits filter right back into the community. With the downward economy, Shannon and Vicki worked very hard to
watch the bottom line and keep their budgets in check to make sure that they not only could survive the tough times, but so that they would not have to cut
any employees nor reduce anyone's pay. Again, very unusual as I saw business after business go belly up, and heard of so many jobless or with reduced
pay/benefits. Its seems easy to be an entrepeneur in the good times; great entrepeneurs prepare for and weather the tough times, and end up better because of them.
Shannon and Vicki have always valued, respected and cared for their employees and for this reason many employees have been with them for 10 or
more years. And that’s rare in any type of industry, but even more so in the spa & beauty industry. To help attract and keep top notch staff they even chose
to offer benefits in an industry that typically doesn’t offer any job security or growth potential. They pay above average and offer 401k with excellent
matching, dental insurance and until recently, were able to offer health insurance. (Unfortunately once the cost of that quadrupled, they were forced to drop it.)
Cloud 9's mission has been to take care of customers seeking improved wellness and stress relief through relaxation. Cloud 9's other mission has been to take care of its community, and has been a steady contributor to countless Gainesville philanthropic causes. All throughout the year Cloud 9 hosts drives to collect food, shoes, school supplies, blood, books, warm clothing, and etc and encourages both guests & staff to contribute. Unique and beautiful gift baskets are thoughtfully custom created in- house to help bring top dollar to the numerous charity fundraisers and silent auctions they partner with each month. Since 2000 they have supported The American Cancer Association, The Heart Association, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Diabetes Research, Alzheimers Association, Luekemia & Lymphoma Foundation; in the past few years they have also added Tylers Hope for Dystonia Cure, Pace Center for Girls, Backpacks for Kids, Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, LifeSouth Blood Drives, Catholic Charities Clothes/Toy/Food Drives, and so many more. They are members of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, and the Day Spa Association.
Shannon Haas and Vicki Canto show courage, generosity, compassion, strength and stability as outstanding entrepreneurs and should definitely be considered as nominees.
Submitted by Renae Millwee, former Cloud 9 employee