Amanda Erickson, Director of Esthetics at Icon Salon Systems, enjoyed a straightforward interview process before she started work at one of BC’s major distributors of spa and salon supplies. It was the family business after all.
“When I was in high school I never really thought about working for Icon,” she laughs. “It was never forced upon us to get involved. We were encouraged to do our own thing and find our own way. We worked here weekends and summers, but I never thought about doing this for a career.”
It’s a good thing that Amanda changed her mind. She came to work full time at Icon after graduating from Blanche Macdonald’s Esthetics School and has helped grow the Surrey-based company to where it is today, working with 3,500 accounts in BC and another 100 across Canada on top of that. As Director of Esthetics Amanda is a saleswoman, a stock handler and a liaison with manufacturers. But above all, she’s an esthetician.
“I took a semester off from university and started working here at Icon running the wholesale store,” she continues. “One day I was given the job of entertaining a woman who ran a spa in New York. She spoke about her job and her spa and I fell in love with the industry. She told me about the treatments she offered, and how she helped people and changed their lives. Back then Icon was really only focussed on the hair industry. We didn’t carry much for esthetics and we didn’t know much about the spa industry.
My Blanche Macdonald binders are still at my desk. I probably pull them out once or twice a week to help answer questions from clients.
“She was so inspiring I told my Dad I wanted to work here full time. He said I could either become a hair stylist, an esthetician or get my business degree: something that could benefit the Company. I had a week to decide. The time I had spent in the industry meant that I already knew Blanche Macdonald’s reputation.”
The daily commute from Surrey to Vancouver was admittedly tough. That was the lone downside of Amanda’s Blanche Macdonald experience.
“I went into Esthetics School knowing that I was never going to work in a spa. I thought I was taking the program to get the information and bring it back here. But I took to it more than I thought. I didn’t know I would enjoy doing the procedures and services so much.
“It was very hands on. I’d spend half some days receiving a massage or giving one. You couldn’t complain about that. At the same time, if you don’t get to experience both sides of it, you can’t understand how your client is feeling. You get to learn what feels good and what doesn’t.”
Amanda never did work in a spa. And yet, it’s her esthetics training that’s been at the heart of her business success.
“Everything I learnt at Esthetics School I use every single day,” she insists. “My Blanche Macdonald binders are still at my desk. I probably pull them out once or twice a week to help answer questions from clients. You can’t teach the theory behind skincare to other people if you don’t have that basis of understanding yourself. I can tell clients the techniques and answer their questions. I took the Nail Parlour Program too. Nails are a huge part of our business now. I wouldn’t be able to understand any of it if I didn’t have that hands on experience, physically learning how to do it.”
Amanda returned to Icon after graduation with a mission to build its esthetics business up from scratch. Every day was a new challenge as she travelled to trade shows across Canada, sourcing products, building relationships and winning clients. Although Amanda collects fewer air miles these days, variety is still at the heart of what she does on a daily basis.
“I have meetings with manufacturers on a regular basis and I’ll spend a couple of hours on the phone every day answering customer and sales reps’ questions. I do all the ordering for our esthetics lines and sometimes I’ll even put stuff away in the warehouse myself. Other days I’m out on the road with our sales team, going to clients and answering questions about our lines in person. I’m the face behind the product and the support for them. I can answer all their questions.
“Every time I do a presentation I’ll do a small demo. It’s not fun to just stand and talk about a product. I’ll do a sample of manual dermabrasions so they can see the difference from one hand to another. We’ll always do a nail demo. People need to see results, not just hear about them.”
Estheticians are very down to earth people. The whole industry is full of creative, intelligent, unique people.
Being the bosses’ daughter isn’t a free pass. If anything, Amanda has a higher standard that she needs to live up to. She works hard to meet those standards. Luckily, it’s a labour of love.
“I love this industry,” she smiles. “Estheticians are very down to earth people. The whole industry is full of creative, intelligent, unique people. There’s always something to offer and learn. I love working in the office, but I love getting out and seeing how spas are going to take care of their customers, the details of the service and the treatment and what they do to make it special for their clients. Someone comes into a salon and spa, and estheticians get to make a difference in their day and their life. Helping teenagers with acne feel better about themselves at school, or giving someone going for a job interview that positive boost or giving someone a massage and relaxing them. I don’t think there’s another job where you can change someone’s life in a couple of hours.
“Estheticians are so much more knowledgeable than they were ten years ago. They’ll look at your products, go home, do a ton of research, write a list of questions, phone me and then order. They want to know that what they’re using on their clients is the absolute best.”
Amanda may not be treating clients directly, but she’s still affecting spa visitors’ lives on a personal level. In her role as the link between manufacturers, customers and clients, she’s helping to shape and improve the next generation of esthetics products.
“We’re very conscientious of tracking what our clients are saying about the products and what they are looking for. We try to distribute lines that we have exclusive rights to. There’s always something new and better coming out. With the smaller, less corporate manufacturers they want that feedback about what clients are looking for.
“Keyano Aromatics is our skincare line. It’s a line created by a doctor of homeopathy and naturopathy. He’s on the cutting edge of what’s going on in that world. Light Elegance is one of our nail lines. They’re always coming out with unique items and great colours that are inspiring the nail art industry.”
Amanda still has a connection to the school that launched her career. Any time she walks through Blanche Macdonald’s doors, it’s always a pleasure.
“I love going there and spending time with the students. They’re brand new in the industry. They’re so excited to see different lines and products and starting using them.”
Just as she was inspired by an esthetician, Amanda is now doing the same with the next generation.
“There are so many different ways to get involved in this industry,” she smiles. “You can be a distributor, a manufacturer, a representative or an educator. There are so many avenues open to you.”