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“We are married to our customers for 5 years because we fulfill the warranty so we really strive to have good relationships with our customers.”

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For Spas and Hot tubs in St Louis, visit Mirage Spa & Recreation, Inc. an exclusive dealer of Sundance Spas, the Best Built Hot Tubs in the World.

Family owned and operated since 1988, Mirage Spa & Recreation offers high quality Sundance Spa sales and exceptional service operations to thousands of satisfied St. Louis customers.

Gus: What insights did you gain while watching your husband start the company back 1988 at just 21 that you were able to later apply when coming on board in 1996?

Karen: I was not in his life when he started the company. But we got married in 1992 & I watched how he was doing business. Dale is a person who loves to sell something that he believes in and is a great big picture person. He also has a lot of energy that allows him to get many things done. As I watched him work on Mirage, we both realized that he did not like to manage people. So in 1996 he left the company for around a year and I started to put in processes, forms and guidelines. I realized that he had a very good business but a financial person was needed to keep the expenses under control and the prices of the products needed to be profitable. The expenses were not taken into account when determining the prices because the staff was setting the prices. At the time that I started, I did not have a financial mind but I had to quickly develop one!

Gus: What influenced your decision to become part of the company 8 years after first launching? Can you talk about the process of having to teach yourself how to do accounting, write PR articles, marketing, customer service, do payroll & taxes and understand a financial statement? How did keep from becoming overwhelmed?

Karen: Dale was really frustrated with Mirage because he was not able to utilize his strengths and was trying to sell the business. When the financing fell through for the potential buyers, we talked and I felt that the business could be successful. He decided to let me work at the business & he would take some time off to work for a friend. When I started it was a very difficult time for me personally since I was pregnant with our son and I threw up all day for the entire pregnancy. I knew that the business could succeed but I needed to become a sponge for knowledge in the areas of finance & accounting. I had my dad teach me the basics of accounting and then an old friend worked for us and taught me accounting up until the day she left. For example when I didn’t understand how a journal entry worked, I would try it and then look to see if it gave me the results that I needed which taught me how to properly enter a journal entry. As time went on I wanted to understand how those journal entries impacted my financial statement so I researched it. After awhile I realized that learning something new was exciting and that the more I learned the better equipped I was to handle a variety of situations. I once had a boss who did not know how to use the copier or fax machine (back in the early 90’s) and I decided that I would never be that type of person. After getting a pretty firm hand on accounting, I decided to see if someone could help me write a PR article but we could not afford to have someone write it. So I researched it and created a template for myself for future use. I began to read as much as I could on business to understand even more. I realized that if I didn’t understand how something was done then how could I manage anyone doing that type of work? From then on I learned as much as I could every week. I have now been working at Mirage Spa for over 16 years and I have not stopped learning along the way. My next project is to understand how to create a website or mobile app. Knowledge is so important to growth in any field.

I did feel overwhelmed many times but I had to figure out how to do payroll, clean the bathroom, sell product to customers and pay bills. I worked a lot of hours and did a lot of research when the kids would go to sleep. We lived and breathed our business because that is what needed to happen. Now we have certain times that talking work is off limits. The one thing that I had to learn to embrace was change.

Gus: What advice would you give to someone considering purchasing a hot tub? What considerations need to be incorporated into the decision making process?

Karen: A person that is purchasing a hot tub needs to make sure that there is a strong retail store that is behind the product and a strong manufacturer. A person/family should determine what they want from the hot tub which could be physical therapy, family time, parties or relaxation. Once you have quickly reviewed what you need the hot tub to do for you then get your swimsuit and try out the spa in the showroom. This alone will tell you more than anything! We are married to our customers for 5 years because we fulfill the warranty so we really strive to have good relationships with our customers. We only sell hot tubs so when it is spring, summer and fall the customer is not competing with the pool customer to get our attention.

Gus: Can you share one marketing strategy that’s really worked for you?

Karen: Marketing is so hard to understand and I learn something new all the time. There is no tried and true method that works for everyone. One marketing strategy that I found that is really helpful is to put our company on every free site available. Make sure you list as much as possible and check back on it as things change. Consistency is really important!

Gus: What kind of options do you have available for the customer who is concerned about energy efficiency and sustainability?

Karen: A Sundance Spas will use about $20 in electricity which is very low. The reason for such high energy efficiency is because the tub has full foam insulation. Just like your home, the more insulation the lower your utility bill!

In terms of sustainability a Sundance Spa is a really big winner. You only fill it every 3-4 months, unlike a big bath tub, and the water is purified instead of being drained daily. We treat the water in our hot tubs the same as a water plant however because we each have different needs, the way we treat the water can be different based on health needs or skin issues. I have very sensitive skin and I require a low level of chemicals. The water plants can’t always get the water to the level my skin needs but I can do that once it is in my Sundance Spa.

Sundance no longer uses real wood for the cabinet but has replaced it with synthetic wood. This is more durable, requires no maintenance and doesn’t cut down any trees! They also still make a hot tub that will last for over a decade when some manufacturers are moving to disposable tubs.

Mirage Spa has developed a chemical maintenance program that uses fewer chemicals and keeps your hot tub crystal clear. If you combine that with the new UVC technology called Clearray for better sanitization it makes owning a hot tub very simple.

Gus: How has the hot tub industry changed and evolved since first launching 24 years ago?

Karen: The hot tub industry has grown up a lot! It started out exactly how you would think…a bunch of young guys who wanted a hot tub to party in. Now we have realized that the benefits of a hot tub are really diverse. A hot tub can be therapeutic, a fantastic massage therapist, a place for peace & tranquility yet it can also help with arthritis, sleeplessness, headaches, muscle aches, and helps to remove toxins from your body. The technology has come a long way by no longer using bearings in the jets, better filtration, combining high powered and energy efficiency in the pumps, cleaner water with better filters and providing ways to damage bacteria that has entered into the water which makes it safer for you. I personally have asthma and my new Clearray system allows me to use my hot tub without causing any lung irritants.

 

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