Beauty Talk: Calvin Ng, Founder Of SK-II Boutique Spa
SK-II as a beauty brand needs little introduction. After all, its Facial Treatment Essence is one of the most widely used products and is a favourite of beauty junkies and editors alike.
But did you know that Singapore is home to the first SK-II Boutique Spa in the world? The brainchild of Calvin Ng, who helped to launch the first SK-II counter at Isetan Scotts while he was the former associate director of sales (ASEAN) at Procter & Gamble (P&G), saw potential in marrying the award-winning skincare brand with a luxury spa.
After starting the boutique spa in 2004, the founder and managing director of Senze Salus has since taken his business regional, with the latest SK-II Boutique Spa opening at The Gardens Mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
We speak with the seasoned entrepreneur and ask: What's the secret behind his success?
You’re the founder of the world’s first SK-II Boutique Spa–how did you first get into the beauty industry?
Calvin Ng (CN) My career at P&G provided me with the opportunity to work on SK-II in 1999. It was a transformative year for SK-II as it emerged from the Max Factor franchise to flourish on its own, and after spending a couple of years with the brand, I fell in love with this aspirational business. I saw an opportunity to combine retail with service, and SK-II presented that perfect opportunity.
Service was not the key focus for the brand then, and I felt consumers needed more than just using the products. I left P&G in 2003, and immediately embarked on the mission to bring this passion of mine to life, and after rounds of presentations, I successfully secured the nods to establish the first full-fledged facial spa for SK-II under a licensing agreement for Singapore market.
What was the initial concept behind Senze Salus, and has that evolved over the years?
CN The idea was to incorporate a luxury spa concept into facial services. The name Senze Salus is derived from the acronym S.P.A (Salus Per Aquam) which means wellness through water. SK-II offers the perfect synergy to integrate skin care with wellness and pampering, and hence the name SK-II Boutique Spa.
Here, every facial is akin to a pampering spa session, thanks to the lush relaxation lounge and the heavenly treatment bed we affectionately called the "senzational bed". We want people to be in a state of deep relaxation in order to extract the most out of the facial experience, as daily stress is a source of many skin woes.
Over the years, we have expanded from essential facial services to include innovative treatments that leverage on complementary materials such as pure essential oils and state of the art instruments. Today, we can treat and care for a wide range of skin troubles and concerns, and we continue to invest in enhancing our treatment solutions beyond just products alone.
What sets you apart from other brands?
CN People. We are in a people business! Our staff are our core assets. Skincare is a very personal affair, and one common frustration that consumers experience is in the continuity of the people who serve them. We recognize the importance of personal relationship in skincare and invested in building a strong people culture within our company.
Today, the founding team of beauty therapists who joined us since 2004 are still with us and they are amongst the most experienced in the industry. Many more of our beauty therapists have also worked for more than 10 years with us and counting. It is the close-knit relationship and intimate understanding of our customers' needs that set us apart. Our people are in essence our brand.
Tell us more about the newly-launched “We Love Your Skin” campaign.
CN "We Love Your Skin" is a campaign to showcase the magnitude we invest in caring for our customers' skin. Skincare is beyond skin deep. Every source of skin wellness matter to us, and we pride ourselves in going the extra mile for our customers' wellbeing.
The campaign is centred around the concept of water, as it is the essence of life and is critical for the body, including the skin. Water is heavily used at the spa for cleansing and facial steaming, and although water in Singapore is treated and safe for consumption, it still contains chemical residue and a small amount of impurities. Given the sensitive nature of the skin, clean water makes a difference.
At our newest flagship at Raffles City, we have installed a four-stage professional water filtration system to further clean tap water and remove up to 98 per cent of chlorine and chemicals that are present, and this is what we use while cleansing our customers' faces. We also use 100 per cent distilled water in facial steaming so that the skin receives only the purest form of water for treatment.
Finally, we serve alkaline drinking water and previously engaged a Japanese tea sommelier in Tokyo to hand-select the first flush of Sencha and Hojicha tea leaves, which is high in antioxidants and health benefits, for our customers' enjoyment.
Do you have a favourite treatment? And SK-II product? Why?
CN This is a tough question because every treatment is a favourite! But if I must pick one, it would be our Senze Oxygenated facial, where concentrated oxygen is infused with the SK-II Treatment Essence to nourish the skin from within. I can see the immediate glow and my skin just feel 'livelier'. Don’t take my word for it, try and see for yourself!
As I'm not much of an outdoorsy person and given the fact that I spend most of the time indoors and in air-conditioned comfort, I've been using the SK-II LXP Treatment Essence and RNA Power to keep my skin hydrated. The product absorbs well into the skin, and importantly, it is relatively scent-free, which is perfect for my sensitive nose.
(Related: Beauty Talk: Indie Lee, Founder And CEO Of Her Eponymous Skincare Brand)
The best advice you’ve received was…
CN Embrace a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo. I learnt this while I was still at P&G, and it has influenced the way I look at opportunities. I apply this to the business and am constantly looking for better ways to enhance our services and offerings. The “We Love Your Skin” campaign is one of those moments where I feel we can provide better value for our customers, and that they deserve better treatment and service from us.
Any words of wisdom for entrepreneurs?
CN Always focus your energy on impacting and enhancing people’s quality of life and find passion in doing so. Don’t place too much emphasis on money as this is merely the result of your effort. There is no short cut to long term success or easy money that lasts. Devote your energy on the means (making a difference, adding value) to an end, and not on the reward itself. If people recognise the value you add to their lives, rest assured they'll reward you with their support.
What’s next for you?
Retirement! Just kidding... What's next is still in the making. Right now, I continue to embrace a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo, so watch this space!
Vote SK-II Boutique Spa by Senze Salus for the best beauty service in Best of Singapore 2020 below.