We had the good fortune of connecting with Carrie-Joy Neal and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carrie-Joy, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I started Counter Culture Esthetics in 2018, after finding the typical “spa culture” too restrictive, and stale. I’ve loved skincare since I was a teenager, but noticed that most skincare clinics were cut and paste copies of each other in terms of aesthetic, and weren’t as inclusive for ethnic skin tones as I would’ve liked. Overwhelmingly spas are lush and glamour, or bamboo and sound bowls, and have menus that are riddled with services that are inappropriate for black and brown skin. I was of the belief that those environments, while perfectly tailored for certain parts of society, left others feeling on the fringe, excluded and unwelcome. I set out to build a space that was creative, unique, inviting and where melanin rich skin types could feel safe booking any service. The development of our studio began with loads of self learning, as the general aesthetics curriculum left gaping holes, when it came to ethnic skin education. Scouring dermatology books, consulting with Physician’s, and teaching myself ancient, natural treatments originating on continents like Asia, India and Africa, we are confident that each service on our menu is safe and effective for all skin tones. We also fiercely maintain a “come as you are” mentality. We are open and welcoming to each person we service, without regard to race, class, weight, gender identity, sexual identity, or anything else that may have caused a feeling of being judged in other spa settings. We feel that too often skincare is treated like a luxury, when indeed skincare is a health issue. Counter Culture truly believes that everyone should be just as in tune with their skin health, as they are with their overall health. We hope to provide an environment where top notch skincare is well within reach of the average person, and just as comfortable and fun as going to a friend’s house. In fact, I’ve been affectionately referred to as the “homegirl who knows skin”. To me that means I’ve found my market, my people. Not everyone will get what we’re doing here, but those that do, find a beauty and wellness family for life. And we do not take our relationship with our clients lightly. 2020 was a difficult year for all small businesses, but our clientele rallied around us. We survived! New digs, expanded retail options, but we survived. And without a doubt we are dedicated to continuing to provide high quality treatment options and products, from the most “vibey” studio in town.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Counter Culture is a special place. Not just because we started with a business goal of being different, and serving a niche market, but because we truly are a service focused group of individuals. We aim every day to provide a full and inviting experience to our customers, but also to serve the community around us. Our business started in the Historic Grand Ave district of downtown phoenix, and although Covid forced a move slightly uptown, we still consider that community our family, and work diligently to contribute positively in whatever way we can. “People first”, is our overriding theme. Whether that entails serving free breakfast for the homeless in the park, picking up litter on the block, or simply partnering with local, small batch, handmade businesses to bring their products to a wider audience. Service is always our goal. Business has its ups and downs, and after last year, we know how important it is to build trust with your clientele through authentic, transparent communication. In that effort of putting people first, we found it beneficial to have real conversations with our clients about how our business was evolving and responding to the pandemic. I think honesty and direct dialogue is what allowed us to bounce back so quickly after re-opening. Our clients understood our challenges, and moreover understood our ultimate goal of staying open and available to them. We truly believe that there is no other skincare clinic like ours in the valley, and so in that vein, returning to serve our family of clients was paramount. If there is one thing I want to communicate about the Counter Culture brand, its that what is exceptional about our studio lies in the uniqueness of our staff and clientele, and our desire to provide superior service in an inclusive and safe space. We put people first.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I spend almost all of my time in downtown phoenix. There is inspiration to be found everywhere. When I’m not working, I spend most of my time in Desert Sun Plaza on 15th Ave and Grand. Start your day with tea or coffee from El Charro Hipster. Get your cards read by the powerful Gypsy Luna over at Elements of Spirit Magick Shop. Get enough tea and herbs to heal any ailment, from Awaken One Home Remedies. Then head down to Grand Ave records for some new vinyl. Back to the plaza for a vegan lunch at Earth Plant Based, and then take a walk up Grand to take in some of the art at places like Belhaus, Abe Zucca and Abloom. Cross the street for Novel ice cream. Get a haircut from the badass Wolf Howl Honey. There are so many things packed into one weird little neighborhood, the whole time taking in the incredible street art that lines your walk. Historic Grand Ave is an absolutely magical place.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Counter Culture would not be the success it is today without the contributions of our partnering businesses. Vic Wilburn of Vic’s Natural Stylez, provides the natural hair care options we offer in shop. Malcolm Alcala, owner of 4sight Gallery, who we partner with to provide new art from the emerging local artists that we display and retail. Brittany Phillips, or BeatByBritt Makeup Artistry, our partner for package menu items, including wedding services and photography. Laz Rocha, of Cedar Haus Design, our go-to for logos and branding.