This is an episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast, which features candid conversations about how today’s trends are shaping the future of the beauty and wellness industries. More from the series →
Cyndi Ramirez founded Chillhouse, a self-care spot in SoHo, in 2017. The idea was to solve for a white space she’d observed: a place to get an affordable massage, a manicure and an adaptogenic matcha latte, all under one roof.
During Covid, Chillhouse pivoted quickly to ensure its survival, launching press-on nails featuring its signature cool-girl nail art. Since then, the brand has also launched a suite of body-care products including a body scrub, mist and in-shower lotion. Today, these products account for around 70% of the brand’s business and are sold at retailers like Target and Urban Outfitters.
On this week’s episode of The Glossy Beauty Podcast, senior reporter Sara Spruch-Feiner spoke to Ramirez about her original idea for Chillhouse, the pivot to press-ons and the process of choosing brand collaborators.
The excerpts below have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
The white space before Chillhouse:
“I was a young 30-something trying to figure out what to do on a Saturday afternoon, and…I couldn’t figure out anything that didn’t involve drinking and eating and indulging. And [I thought], ‘I would love to get a massage right now.’ But it was either pretty expensive or out of my price range. And there were a lot of experiences that felt kind of seedy. … It felt like there was a huge gap right there in the middle to make massage affordable and less of a guilt to receive, to indulge in. So it started with massage. But I didn’t want to just do one service. … So I thought about all the different things that we, as mostly women, want to receive on a regular basis, when it comes to self-care and beauty. And I immediately went to manicures. …The pairing of the two felt unique to me: a [nail] service is something you get weekly, and then people mostly indulge in massages monthly. And another thing that was missing from the spa environment was a fun cafe. Usually, when you walk into a salon, you just get handed a green tea or get offered a green tea or champagne [with your] spa service, which is all very lovely. But there wasn’t a layer of creativity or hospitality that was happening, when it came to food and beverage. So that’s how it all came together.”
Pivoting to press-ons during Covid:
“It wasn’t until Covid happened that it was like, ‘OK, we have to figure something out. Because the state of retail was super rocky at the time, as we all know, and there was this big opportunity to create products that solved [for] the at-home salon experience — which is exactly what press-ons are. So, we were just brainstorming one day, trying to figure out what was gonna be our thing — the main go-to-market product for Chillhouse — and it felt very obvious that it had to be press-on. … We are known for our nail art. So it just made the most sense to be able to take our nail art and be able to give that experience to everyone across the country.”
Which collaborations make sense:
“A lot of [collaboration inquiries] are inbound. … Chillhouse has become a distribution-slash-marketing strategy for some brands that aren’t in the wellness space or aren’t in the self-care space but want to align themselves with that audience. There is such a great, robust community of young women and people who are hyper-connected to that industry and are super active in it. So I think that’s why Chillhouse has been on the radar of brands that are so different than ours. We did Sonos, which is electronics, tech. We did something with PF Flyers [footwear] recently and with Vitamin Water. … One of the things I love most about what we do is being able to take another brand’s DNA and infuse it with ours and make something really fun together — like, the Vitamin Water designs are so out-there, but they’re so Chillhouse at the same time.”