- LGBTQIA+ - Owned Businesses (June)
LGBTQIA+ - Owned Businesses (June)
June 10, 2021 | Skin + Touch Therapy Spa | Brian Lam and Will Mackintosh
It has been over 10 years since Brian Lam and Will Mackintosh made the move from New York City to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Since then, Brian opened Skin + Touch Therapy Spa downtown and Will became a member of the Economic Development Authority. We had the opportunity to interview Brian and Will about their passion for bettering the Fredericksburg community, what they enjoy most about their careers, and who their biggest inspirations are.
Brian, you previously worked in the fashion industry. What made you decide to switch to wellness?
Brian: In fashion there’s always trends, and I saw the trend of wellness coming up and it always intrigued me. I also personally had a journey with stress and understanding how that affects the body, so the combination of the two made me more interested in the industry. I was transitioning out of fashion anyways, so I began working at a spa. I learned yoga, Pilates, barre, massage, skin care, and nails, I just immersed myself into it. I felt like it was something becoming more important in the world.
What made you turn your passion for wellness into a business?
Brian: I think a lot of people want to make that leap. I did massage and skin care but I really enjoyed the marketing part of my background too. For me it was like using both sides of the brain and it combined into a small business. I like aesthetics and interiors, so it was a combination of all my interests. That’s why it’s called Skin + Touch Therapy Spa! It’s ‘Skin’ for facials, massage is for ‘Touch’, and ‘Therapy’ was my yoga background. It rolled everything into one and fit as a nice package!
What is one thing about skin care you wish everyone knew?
Brian: The skin is a living tissue and with that it changes every season. At Skin + Touch we try to teach you about how to understand your own body and skin. The skin is a good way of how the body communicates its health. So if you feel like something’s happening or it’s not normal, let us tell you how to interpret that and we can give you the right ingredients to rebalance it. With this approach you get a customized experience and save a lot of money because you’re not buying a bunch of random things on the shelf. Understanding yourself more is a good thing!
What brought you both to Fredericksburg?
Will: We moved to Fredericksburg because I got a job here at the University. We were living in New York and I was finishing my graduate degree, so I applied across the country for jobs in my field. I got the job at Mary Washington so we moved to Fredericksburg!
Brian, how did you know Fredericksburg was the right place to open your business?
Brian: I opened my business in 2010 at the initial location in Fall Hill, but I really wanted to be downtown. Will and I have always liked Fredericksburg and what it had to offer the community and everyone has always accepted us and supported us. It reminds me of a cute section of New York. I think of Fredericksburg as it’s own village with it’s own character and feel, and I’m just happy to be a part of it!
Will: It was very clear to us after we moved here that this is where we wanted to put down roots!
The both of you are very involved in the Fredericksburg community and part of that is Will’s membership to the Economic Development Authority. Why did you want to join the EDA?
Will: I love Fredericksburg and I wanted to put some time into seeing it grow and thrive. I had a double perspective on it- as someone who works at the University and is a historian, I had a professional view of where it was coming from. Through Brian and his work at the spa in the downtown community, I could see where it was going. I got excited about the opportunity to use my skills to put those two things together. How can Fredericksburg build on its history and its past? How can Fredericksburg build on its historic infrastructure to build a modern and thriving environment for small business? The opportunity came up to join the EDA so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring to help move that process along.
What do you both find most rewarding about what you do?
Will: I love that I get to be a teacher and a student at the same time. I get to help mostly young people learn about the past and think creatively and critically about where we’ve come from. That’s what I spend most of my time doing, but I get to balance that with always learning myself at the frontiers of what we can understand about the past. That could be keeping up with the work of my fellow historians all over the world, or spending my time with old materials and dusty archives and trying to piece together people’s lives and experiences. So I get to be both a teacher and a student all the time and that is an enormous privilege!
Brian: For Skin + Touch Therapy Spa, what’s satisfying is that we’re a place for people to get back in touch with themselves. We’re a service-based business, so we’re at service to our clients and what they need and what we need to help them achieve. It’s very rewarding because when they come in they could be feeling a little bit stressed, but when they leave they’re happy. Or we have new mothers who have just had a baby and this is their first moment to themselves and we give them that space, which is always rewarding for us. I like that everyone does their job in the world, but when they come here we are servicing them and they leave happy!
Who are your inspirations that you look up to on your challenging days?
Brian: We have two kids, a 6-year-old named Hazel and a 1-year-old named Clementine, and they are my biggest inspirations. If I have a bad day, they ground me. There’s a lot in small business and happening in the world, but to have them and experience life through their joy and unbiased approach, it’s nice. I forget about the world and focus on them.
Will: Brian is the most level-headed person I have ever met. He has an unflappable sense of himself and I’ve never met anyone who is less traumatized by himself and how he wants to be in the world. He has a way of seeing things clearly and when I get all messed up in my head and over-complicated, he has a real ability to cut through the knot and get to the heart of things. It helps me think, “Oh right, it really is that simple!” He keeps me very balanced because I over think things and he has a gift for clarity.
What do you both enjoy most about serving the Fredericksburg community?
Brian: We do service our clients but we also feel the need to service the community we’re in and helping out with other organizations. I was on the board of Main Street when they were newly formed. I’m proud to see how far Main Street and downtown has come. There’s been a lot of forward progression in the past 10 years and now we have a lot of diversity, stores, and businesses. I feel like I’m just the cheerleader for downtown!
Will: Fredericksburg is such an ideal combination of small town and big city. It’s a community where you’re constantly running into people you know but it’s got some energy and a worldliness that I love. The city has been incredibly generous to us as newcomers. I mean, we’ve lived here for 10 years but in Fredericksburg terms that’s nothing! As relative newcomers, it’s a community that’s welcomed us with open arms, given us so much, and never made us feel like we didn’t belong here. I just want to return that favor, it’s been an incredible place to put down roots.
June 25, 2021 | Joshua Lawrence Salon | Josh Bethka and Lawrence Henderson
How did the both of you get into salon work?
Lawrence: I remember growing up I would always take my sister’s Barbies and style their hair! My mom eventually got me a Barbie and that’s how I got started. After high school my mom said I had to go to school for something so I said, “cosmetology!” She said, “Pick a place and we’ll go!” I went to Heritage in Manassas and after school I worked for Elizabeth Arden.
Josh: My mom had me going to salons at a young age. I had a few bad haircuts in my life, so I knew that you had to go to a nice salon to get a good haircut. Even in my early 20s, I would pay $50 dollars for a haircut, even though I only ate ramen because that’s all I could afford. When I was thinking about what I was passionate about I thought, “I love my own hair!” At the time I got my hair done at Elizabeth Arden, so I talked to my stylist about where she went to school, which was Graham Webb Academy in Rosslyn. I started there before I worked at Elizabeth Arden where I ended up being the department lead.
What made you decide to start your own business?
Josh: Lawrence and I moved down here in 2010 to have more community. Up in D.C. you don’t really know your neighbors, so we wanted to try something new. We opened Joshua Lawrence Salon in 2018. We were fully booked doing haircuts and coloring on our own, and we wanted to keep growing. We said we would never open a salon! If you talk to other salon owners they’ll say, “Don’t do it!” We wanted to learn about the process and take it as far as we can go.
Lawrence: A lot of things just seemed to happen at the right time. He was cutting hair for one of his guests and she asked if we had thought about opening our own place. We told her that we wanted to do it, but only downtown and we didn’t see any spaces we liked. She said, “Well I have a building downtown! Come and see it, I already have a few offers on it!” We came and saw the set up and thought it was perfect!
Josh: The concept for our layout was different zones: the styling floor up front and the waiting area in the back, to make it more of a lounge setting. That way guests weren’t sitting up front watching people come and go.
Lawrence: A lot of people come to their hair appointments and call out of work for “an appointment.” So we didn’t want guests sitting up front by the window and getting caught!
Why did you want your business to be located downtown?
Lawrence: We wanted to be part of a community and to do as much for the community as possible, opening downtown was the best way to do that. Josh has done a lot of work with the SPCA, the local schools, and Hope House. We’d love to do more and work with Empower House, do makeovers for women getting back into the workforce, we have lots of ideas!
We also already knew a lot of the business owners downtown and it seemed like a close knit community, which we loved!
What does the Fredericksburg community mean to you?
Josh: The level of support and love from this community has been great. In June of 2019 we did a Pride window at our salon and the outpouring of love from the community was amazing. There was nothing more fun than seeing people stop by the window and take photos. It was a very welcoming feeling for two gay men. We were nervous about putting the window up, but now it has become our favorite part of the year!
How did you two meet each other?
Lawrence: It’s funny because no matter how many times I bring it up, Josh doesn’t remember how we first met! When I went into Elizabeth Arden for my interview, he was working the front desk. I noticed his name tag and said, “Oh my God! We have the same name!” When I officially started working there as a colorist, the educator said there was already a Josh working there so I had to change my name. I just made it Lawrence, since that’s my middle name. We met again in an elevator at work and he asked me why I chose Lawrence as my alias name. When I told him he said, “That’s my middle name too!” We had the same name!
Josh: I had never met another Joshua Lawrence in my life! It’s a family name for both of us.
Do you work well together as co-owners?
Josh: We spend more time together than any couple we know. We work together, live together, and share the same values and ideas for the salon. We’re human and we have disagreements, but just to have the connection that we do is good synergy!
What is the most rewarding part about what you do?
Josh: We both got into this because we love the work we do behind the chair. Having a client be excited about the finished product is why we do it. To help anyone feel good about themselves, it’s a very precious gift, to feel like you’ve contributed to someone’s day. We’re running on a high like that right now because our last client felt that way. It was her favorite color she’s ever had, and we’ve been doing her hair for the past ten years. It’s nice that even ten years later you can get that feeling from people.
Lawrence: It’s like being a painter, you get that sense of meditation. When painters are done, but I get every 6 weeks to tweak it and try something new! It’s a constantly evolving art and that’s what I love about it.
What’s one thing about hair care you wish people knew?
Lawrence: Towel dry before you condition! If you think of your hair like a sponge, if you wring it out first you pick up the most product. Your conditioner will work so much better! Companies don’t put that on the back of their bottles because they want you to use more product.
Josh: Getting your haircut is taking care of yourself. There is a mental aspect to it, and people don’t always think about that. It feels great to know you’re doing your best to feel good at the end of the day.