Laurie Aroch, Maya Aroch and Shannon Mouser had no business opening a spa. Fifteen years ago, the pharmacist, ex-corporate employee and masseuse did it anyway.
While the two sisters and their best friend had no educational background in entrepreneurship, they always had a passion for it. They decided to found Viva Day Spa to provide guests with quality service, hopefully leaving them feeling better than when they came in.
In 1999, Mouser started working as a masseuse at a local spa. Around that time, she met Laurie Aroch, who was a student at UT’s College of Pharmacy. The two became best friends. Meanwhile, Laurie’s sister Maya was working in the corporate world in Atlanta, Georgia, where she quickly grew tired of the scene.
Mouser said the three of them toyed with the idea of opening a spa, using her background in the industry, Laurie’s pharmacy knowledge and Maya’s corporate work experience.
“We had been collaborating on ideas for years when Maya decided she wanted to take a break from working in the corporate environment,” Mouser said. “By the time she arrived (in Austin), we had already started considering opening a business, and then we did. We hit the ground running when she arrived.”
Viva Day Spa first opened in 2005, despite people trying to deter them from starting a business without formal business education. Mouser said their commitment to the idea had them convinced they would succeed.
“I think it was a perfect storm for us,” Maya said. “We were just young and idealistic enough. We were very passionate about creating a place for the community and working with people we knew and loved. We had a good team, and we were unstoppable.”
At the time, there weren’t other spas like Viva Day Spa. Maya said there were small spas in the area, but they weren’t full service, the aesthetic wasn’t right and the quality of service wasn’t up to standard.
The three women also wanted to create an atmosphere where people could relax and experience luxury, but without the caveat of extravagance or stuffiness.
“(We wanted) a hip, plush environment with an Austin vibe: upscale but unpretentious,” Mouser said.
Mouser and the Aroch sisters said they hold the spa industry in high regard, and they are passionate about the self-care and wellness aspect of the spa business. Laurie said she knew she wanted to work in this industry after finding a home at Peoples RX, where they encourage alternative ways to be healthy in addition to medication.
“So much of what they (Peoples RX) do is educate the public and recommend alternative ways to take care of yourself in terms of wellness,” Laurie said. “I felt like the spa world really complemented that.”
As self-identified “people people,” Viva Day Spa’s founders said they find it gratifying to be able to take care of others for a living. Mouser said the thing they love most is having guests leave feeling better, which they attribute to their guiding principles.
“We have three golden rules at Viva that we’re constantly talking about: Do the right thing, show others you care and do the best you can,” Mouser said. “It’s been what we’ve done and it’s worked, so we’re very committed to those three principles.”