Universal Companies: one of the largest distributors in the Professional Beauty/Spa industry.
Ever wonder what an average day looks like at the company? About their history with Intrinsics? In an interview with Kelly Wilson, Universal’s Vice President of Strategic Vendor Alliances, we got the answers to all of those questions, and more! Here’s your inside scoop.
Tell us about the history of Universal Companies. About how many employees does Universal have?
Universal Companies, Inc. currently employs 135 associates across many departments and many states; this number includes our team in Shanghai. Many of our associates are licensed estheticians and master estheticians, licensed massage therapists, nail technicians, and cosmetologists. Today Universal Companies is the leading single-source supplier to over 25,000 clients in the spa industry, providing thousands of products to help professionals manage and grow their businesses.
- 1982 – The company was founded by Marti Morenings and her father, Dr. G. H. Morenings, to market a medical therapy unit designed by Dr. Morenings.
- 1985 – The company patented and trademarked several devices that were sold to estheticians and medical practitioners, and began adding esthetic products, furniture, equipment, and sundry supplies to its offerings.
- 1992 – The first catalog was developed, making it easy for estheticians to find everything they needed in one place.
- 1999 – The company changed its name from Universal Esthetics to Universal Companies, providing all spa professionals their one-source spa solution.
As the largest distributor in the Professional Spa industry, what’s an average day look like at the office?
Every day our primary focus is to be customer centric, and this extends to every department at Universal. Our Sales teams put the customer first in every aspect, and the warehouse team gives special attention to each order with careful selection and packing. Those in Receiving are constantly inspecting each Vendor’s delivery to ensure quality in both product and packaging.
Product Development is comprised of licensed estheticians, massage therapists and nail technicians, each with in-spa/salon experience. This team constantly uses customer filters to ensure we are meeting--and anticipating--the needs of each customer segment.
Creative Development emphasizes the language and messaging required to communicate with customers in the most effective and efficient manner.
Our Education and Training department leads the way for all of us, as they are constantly sharing product knowledge and treatment protocols with external customers, as well as internal staff. This is so everyone can assist customers with questions and inquiries regarding product usage.
What are the values that Universal Companies adheres to?
We have a passionate commitment to:
- Exceed customer expectations.
- Treat our associates as we want them to treat our customers.
- Foster honesty and integrity.
- Build profitable relationships with our customers, vendors, and associates.
- Create fun and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit.
Universal Companies is also committed to inspiring and empowering its employees, customers, and vendors to exhibit leadership and implement eco-friendly practices. We employ a Sustainability Specialist who carefully reviews and evaluates all earth-friendly products for: safety, toxicology, social responsibility, efficacy, third party certification, and overall sustainability. In addition, our website discloses all ingredients in all of the personal care products we offer. Universal Companies is also involved in outreach to other sustainability groups, as well as providing leadership assistance and support to our local Chamber of Commerce and tornado victims.
We are one source with many solutions to simplify the way you do business:
- Extensive product collection
- Universal spa equipment
- Professional support
- Great value
- Fast turnaround
- Easy order consolidation and no minimum orders
- Account management
- Free web resources
What’s your favorite part of working at Universals Companies?
Piggy-backing on our position of customer centric, the Vendors are our customers, and I feel are my first customers. With more than 11,000 sellable SKUs and more than 350 Vendors, I have the opportunity to meet so many interesting people from such varied backgrounds who present a full array of products designed to meet the needs of our customers; whether that be day spas, corporate day spas, resort-hotel-destination spas, medi-spa, schools, salons, or independent practitioners.
I love being the advocate for the Vendors and the conduit between them and every department at Universal. I love being able to develop friendships with them and I really enjoy building business relationships that ultimately culminate in positive results for our spa and salon customers. Sharing that common goal – what is best for our customers – is the foundation for strong bonds between Universal and its very valued Vendors.
How long has Universal been partnered with Intrinsics?
I have been with Universal since 2006 and the relationship was well established then. I had to look in some of our archives and found that Universal began working with Intrinsics in November of 2003, so we are in our 15th year! And it has been a great partnership!
What do you think sets Intrinsics apart from competitors?
I think it begins with the Barnhardt family, their commitment to quality and to their customers. The fact that it is still a family owned and managed organization is what sets Intrinsics apart.
In 2016 Anna Bralley, in her former role as Director of Product Development, and I visited Intrinsics in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had enjoyed a long standing relationship and had hosted visits from Intrinsics over the years, but this was the first time for us to visit in Charlotte. Dave Albers, as always was an incredible host and well prepared for our business meetings.
But the very best part of our visit was the tour conducted by George Hargrove. George is always so personable and such a pleasure to be around, but the depth of his knowledge. He detailed us on every single step of the processing of cotton and manufacturing of end products, it was nothing short of amazing. Anna and I were thrilled with all we were learning from George, and certainly gained a new appreciation for these wonderful products.
It was great to meet members of the Barnhardt family and get to know them better – you just cannot beat the face-to-face interaction and what it means to developing strong relationships.
In what sets Intrinsics apart I also do not want to fail to mention the Barnhardt family’s pride in all products they are able to make which are sourced and made in America. They, rightfully so, display the “Made in the USA” logo with our American flag on their packaging. They put their pride in our country right on the label of their products, and I believe this truly resonates with our customers.
Which Intrinsics products do you see heading out the door most?
Intrinsics provides the tried-and-trusted products that our spa professionals can’t seem to get enough of. The top sellers are the 2x2” and 4x4” Silken Wipes, 2x2” and 4x4” Cotton Wipes and 2x2” and 4x4” 12-Ply Gauze, the 3x9” pellon wax strips, the 2” cotton rounds, and the compressed sponges.
Universal offers more than just spa and salon products. What are some other helpful resources/services that you all provide?
I think what has always made Universal different is the owner’s commitment to the business success of each and every customer. Marti Morenings is the quintessential entrepreneur; Marti has demonstrated this over the years by not only supplying quality products, but by providing spas with treatment protocols, menu descriptions, marketing materials and education.
Anna Bralley, who I mentioned earlier, is now the Manager over Education and Training. She not only ensures our Universal Associates are trained on each product, but she manages our trainers throughout the country.
In 2016, Universal launched the Wellness & Beauty Learning Center in Los Angeles (Torrance, California). The WBLC provides an easily accessible location where Spa Professionals can take a vast array of classes on every spa topic imaginable. Creating this educational resource on the West Coast demonstrates Universal’s partnership with and commitment to its customers.
What are some of the new beauty trends that you’re absolutely loving? And what are some areas/trends in the industry that you expect to see grow in 2018?
Lash and brow services are still very hot, as are trends in nail services – dipping powders and nail art. I love that spa and salon customers are having so much fun with a greater range in color palette; I adore the actual art created on these little nail canvases!
Aromatherapy is huge as the consumer has gained great understanding in recent years of the benefits of essential oils. Salt is hot – from salt lamps to treatments to actual salt rooms. And unique spa retail gained from the spas’ websites is an avenue that has followed the boom in all online retailing.
Spas have returned to the core of their services, but I also think that health and wellness has taken center stage. I love the fact that consumers are now understanding the health benefits gained from their spa treatments and that these are no longer thought of as just luxury treatments.
At Universal we are constantly looking for those health and wellness product lines, and recently are proud to have gained exclusive distribution of the Moor Spa line. The benefits of these products are vast. We are excited to offer the line complete with easily accessible, understandable and affordable trial and success kits, of course with comprehensive treatment protocols.
What’s your favorite way to pamper yourself?
I do have my favorite local spas and salons that I frequent (not often enough – never enough, right?). I am pretty religious about my nail and hair appointments. And I now see frequent massage as a necessity. I love my job and my family, but also understand that I can only be my best if I watch out for my own wellness. There is no denying that massage simply feels fabulous, but I feel the immediate and long lasting benefits of releasing the tension from my muscles. I swim a lot and that helps too, but nothing replaces a good massage.
Other than that, I am in a great position for product testing, so I do “spa at home” a great deal. This helps my understanding of how spas can retail “home care”, to not only further engage their clients in taking responsibility for their own wellness plan, and also how to partner with their clients for wellness management that is best served through a treatment plan that includes return visits to the spa
It is not a one-shot deal Yes, you will have immediate benefits, but it is the on-going maintenance that achieves the greatest results and the greatest level of well-being. Again, I am happy that people now really understand the important role our spas and salons play in successfully attaining these wellness goals.