Published on 30 July 2018
Words & photos:
Marinda Van Zyl
Cindy MacGregor, Owner of Nina Belle Spa
Cindy MacGregor is an accidental entrepreneur with a heart for women. She spoke with me about the path that led her to become the owner of Nina Belle Spa, and how she feels she’s able to make a difference in the lives of those who are overstretched and overburdened.
Didn’t you study psychology?
That’s correct, I studied psychology, but I felt like it was too heavy for me. I’d imagined saving tons and tons of people, but I realised I’d romanticised it. It’s not glamorous, it’s dealing with people who make the same mistakes over and over again. One step forward, two steps back. It felt heavy, it felt like it was going to be burdensome. I was in the first term of studying for my master’s, and I decided to quit. I was disillusioned, at the time I had no idea what I was going to do.
How did you end up doing massage?
One night it just came to me that that’s what I wanted to do. I did a course and then started trying to build up clients slowly and painstakingly. I worked in a salon for a while, doing massage. That was before I had kids. The salon where I worked offered pilates, and the instructor asked if I wanted to teach, so I did a course and started teaching Pilates. In the interim, I did a few add-on sports massage courses because that was really what my passion was.
What is it that you love about doing massage?
It’s therapeutic, for me as much as it is for the client. A client phoned me the other day with loads of technical lingo. This muscle, that joint, etc. He wanted to know if I can help him and asked me how long I’ve been massaging for. I told him I’ve been doing it for 14 years, and I know the anatomy, but I really feel like I go on instinct. I’m not into the esoteric side, but I do feel that I get into the zone. My clients are divine, I love working with them. Compared to psychology, I see a far more immediate result. It’s still a helping profession.
How did you end up buying the Spa?
I had a little home studio, and I was working from home when I had my kids. I felt very privileged to be able to be with them. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Because I wanted to spend time with them, I was precious with my time and when I would work, so business wasn’t booming. I’d always gone to Nina Belle for my pedicures. The first owner sold the salon, but I hadn’t known at the time. I was disappointed when I found out she’d sold it because I would have loved to be able to buy it. I moved on from that thought and kept going to Nina Belle for my treatments. A while later I heard that the second owner wanted to sell the salon. Even though I was super naïve where business is concerned, I met with her. I’d never owned a business, never had to do a budget, never employed anyone. It was daunting, to say the least.
Through most of the meeting, I had no idea what she was talking about. When she showed me her stock figures, I said: “that’s lovely, but it means nothing to me”. My dad and I asked someone at Investec to do a due diligence. He said the asking price was in proportion to what she was making and suggested I snap it up. I prayed about it and left it in God’s hands. All the little hitches sorted themselves out, and everything just fell into place. I strongly believe it was God ordained.
What does running the salon mean to you?
I’m not really a planner, I’m very much a take-it-as-it-comes kind of person. I love being productive, I love having something that is mine, that is separate from being a wife or being a mom. I love being able to meet a woman’s needs. I think that could be what it’s become for me. I felt very undervalued when I worked from home, this has given me added purpose. I love the girls I employ, and they are happy to come to work. I want to provide an environment where people can come and listen to the music, relive a memory in a place that caters just to them. People want to tell their stories and they want a listening ear. It’s so humbling. We actually don’t know what others are going through. I don’t think I counsel my clients, but I am able to listen to them. Most people just need that, and a little bit of empathy. I’ve got a client who has a little boy with Multiple Sclerosis. When he has a setback, and the medication isn’t working, it’s so difficult for her. That is her ongoing reality. She just wants to come to the salon to be pampered and have her nails done. I want to provide a place where people can come and chat if they want to, or not; if they don’t want to. We’ve created a little haven where you can reflect if you want, or zone out if that's what you need to do.
We’re all running around, our lives in Johannesburg are manic. Everyone is trying to be fabulous, going to the gym, socialising, being perfect wives and mothers, having the perfect career and chasing success. We’re stretched to the max, and I feel that a little bit of acknowledgement goes a long way to helping someone feel valued. Here I get the chance to acknowledge a woman, and it’s just about her, not about being a wife or a mother or fulfilling any of these roles. So many women are so thinly sliced, they don’t replenish themselves. It means a lot to me that I can help them to do this.
Where to from here?
I’d love to have another Nina Belle. In the first few months, I felt like I couldn’t handle even having one, but I got into a rhythm. There’s always the possibility of a franchise. I think it’s important to set an example for my girls that you need to do something for yourself. Especially with having daughters, I’m very aware of that.
If you would like to visit the Nina Belle Salon, it’s situated at 7 Villa Varose, Christaan de Wet Road, Roodepoort, telephone (011) 475 8824.