Development Bank partners with Renu Medi Spa to promote medical tourism
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Local dermatologist Dr. Debbie-Joy Huggins has a mission and vision she feels should be the guiding principle for all the hard-working people in the federation and the visitors who come to our shores. Her simple counsel is that after you would have worked hard, the body needs to rejuvenate, recharge and refresh.
A dermatologist since 2007, the Wales (UK) and USA-trained Huggins runs a successful practice at Bird Rock Commercial Site in East Basseterre, which she has maintained since returning home from her studies. However, she wasn’t interested in only traditional dermatology.
“I wanted to do cosmetics, too, since nobody was doing it here because that is the main area I am interested in,” she said. She thought running a medi-spa would offer more. The result of her vision was the opening in November of Renu Medi Spa in bustling Port Zante, where locals and tourists mingle as they seek to rejuvenate, recharge and refresh their bodies.
“I realised spas are doing more and more, as it is not just the nails and your face,” Huggins said. “They are doing more with skin care, and that is one of the reasons that I have the name (of the spa) as ‘Renu’ – it is a ‘new you’, renewed, recharged, rejuvenated.”
Huggins said dermatology is very personal because the exterior is the first impression, so it is something that affects the quality of life of the patient.
“So Renu is about a better you,” Huggins said. “We are not trying to create a different person. It is just a better you. I thought about doing it at my office, but I just couldn’t. A lot of people don’t associate cosmetics with traditional medicine. And so even though I was doing the same peels and everything at my office, it was not the same feel and experience as if you are doing it in a spa setting.”
She did her research and felt that as much as local people would benefit, she also knew that there is a great interest in medical tourism and therefore looked at Port Zante, a duty free zone visited by cruise passengers. However, she found setting up a medi-spa is an expensive business. Her many years of planning were almost brought down to naught when she approached a number of commercial financial institutions that flatly told her that they do not give loans for new businesses.
She heard about the Fresh Start Programme, which offers business loans to small-to-medium scale entrepreneurs at attractive rates, that was being administered by the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis. When she read about it, she decided to go to the bank to find out more about it. There she met and spoke to Kimmoy O’Loughlin-Burroughs, assistant manager of the Business Support Unit.
“She (O’Loughlin-Burroughs) was really open, and informative and I left the bank feeling like this could happen,” Huggins said. “Okay, Renu could eventually happen because she just had a lot of information – she made it sound possible. Everybody else was giving me the impossible, oh, what is a medi-spa?”
Huggins talked to Development Bank’s business support officer in the Business Support Unit, Manasses Huggins (no relation to her), who had visited Renu Medi Spa recently: “Mrs. O’Loughlin-Burroughs was like, ‘that is a good idea because there is none here.’ She basically outlined exactly how I should do it (the business plan) up and all the different categories – all that I need to put in it.”
Huggins, who has captioned her experience with the bank as ‘Renu Medi Spa and Development Bank: When Finesse and Financial Services Meet’ had this to say: “I can honestly say that without Development Bank, I do not think Renu would be here, because in terms of the capital investment, I just wasn’t getting it and the equipment is very expensive.”
Renu Medi Spa is now a busy operation with four employees. “We get tourists from the hotels and we do get cruise passengers, but I want the main base of my business to be locals,” said Huggins. “It (coming to a spa) is not a luxury; you work hard and you should be able to treat yourself nicely, and so you come and you get a massage. We think of you holistically, basically. So, if your lifestyle is in the sun a lot, we encourage people to come and get the body scrubs because it is good for exfoliation and skin rejuvenation.”
According to Renu Medi Spa’s operations manager, Davida Huggins, for some of the procedures, one has to do a consultation first. She and her three colleagues handle most of the work, but when it comes to a dermatologist’s professional touch, that is when the services of Dr Debbie-Joy Huggins come into play.
Services offered include warm bamboo massage, hot stone massage, Swedish massage, manicure, body wraps, chemical peels, facials, body scrubs, laser hair removal, lipo-sculpting, dermabrasion, teeth whitening, eyebrow microblading and shading, reflexology, acupuncture, body waxing, facial threading, eyelash extension and tattoo removing, among others.
Davida Huggins observed that many people sent mothers for the spa’s services for Mother’s Day and hoped people will do the same for fathers on their special day.