In the early ’80s, natural cosmetics were rare. But Natural Body Spa and Shop founder Cici Coffee was convinced that if women could experiment with the products, they’d be a hit. She opened the first Natural Body Spa in Atlanta’s Morningside neighborhood in 1989 as a cosmetic sampling room, a place where people could explore natural products from companies with a focus on transparency, integrity and the environment. The sampling room was such a success that 20 years later, Coffee’s visionary concept has evolved into 21 eco-friendly spas in several states, 11 of which are in Atlanta. Here’s what the green beauty maven shared with us:
What’s your favorite part of your job?
First, the passion I have for our core concept: “If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?” Second, it’s always fulfilling when an employee tells me they have changed their life or the environment for the better since working at Natural Body Spa.
Your least favorite?
The recession! People’s spirits are low. We give even more and try to be in tune with individual needs and stress levels when clients come in because they are exhausted from working twice as hard.
What special challenges do you face as a business owner and entrepreneur?
The prevalence of “greenwashing” is frustrating—some customers believe their drugstore products are organic, but when I research the product line, I find that they may have one organic ingredient and the product is in fact still loaded with artificial preservatives. This challenges me to do more work around educating the consumer through my non-profit, the Green Spa Network. We have a committee dedicated to product knowledge and what we call the “Dirty Dozen” of ingredients.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve ever learned?
That even good people steal.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Natural Body’s reputation with employees and clients. I regularly read our in-store comment cards and online reviews and am thrilled to see how many customers are happy with us. I use that positive energy to bolster my team by thanking them for their hard work and service to our industry. Letisha Allen, founder of the Atlanta School of Massage, recently told me that when her students are placed at Natural Body she always hears how happy they are with our company.
What do you see as the keys to being your “best self”?
Honesty, integrity and authenticity—for yourself first, then family, friends and the people you work with. Giving back to myself makes me better for everyone else.
When you leave Atlanta to get away from it all, what do you do?
I spend time with my mother at Big Canoe and treat her to spa services at the Natural Body Spa and Shop at The Avenue Forsyth. We cap off the afternoon by eating chocolate by the big fountain in the center of The Avenue.
What’s your No. 1 beauty secret?
Sleep and doing whatever my trainer, esthetician, chiropractor and massage therapist say I should do. Also, drink plenty of water and eat local organic and sustainable foods.
What’s your fitness regimen?
When I can (and weather permitting), I ride my bike to work, and also hike, kayak, swim and exercise at the gym if the bike ride doesn’t work out.
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Verana, a boutique hotel in Mexico for outdoor enthusiasts.