LeBrina Johnson comes from a long line of strong women. She grew up watching matriarchs lead by example: working hard to pursue their dreams despite often having minimal resources or assistance. Her family’s hair business has passed through five generations of women, and at age 20, Johnson was already starting her own—Pure Strandz—in her mother’s salon.
Though she admits she wasn't entirely passionate about the industry, styling was an innate skill she learned growing up as a “beauty shop baby.” Later, as a single mother herself, Johnson realized she could easily rely on it to make money. And she was good at it.
But her heart was really in the concept of self-care, and she noticed something that stuck with her: There was an obvious disparity in thinking among the black community, where going to a spa was considered a leisure activity, not a health priority. Growing up, Johnson observed that spas were for birthdays, special occasions, or otherwise considered as a treat reserved for adulthood. As she widened her horizons through traveling and her time at Texas A&M, she realized other cultures would participate in spa treatments regularly, and her community was missing out. She came to believe that self-care and self-love are universal concepts everyone should experience. So, in September 2017, she opened Pure Vichy Spa in River Oaks.
We sat down with Johnson to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey and the philosophies she lives by today.
On the name "Pure Vichy":
I am eventually going to expand to water—I will have Vichy Showers and mineral bags, so I wanted to start building that brand, even though I don't have the water right now. All elements of our products and what we use are always on a higher percentage of the organic side, which is why I used the term "pure." Pure meaning we come to our guests in the purest and humblest form from when we talk to you, when we cater to you. We want everything to be natural; nothing is staged. We do not have scripts on how to call our guests. Everything about us is pure, and Vichy is just the water incorporation of what the business will become.
On what makes Pure Vichy unique:
You can have the nicest spa, but a lot of times we forget about the people inside of the nice place. A lot of people think you have to be super fancy to create an experience but forget everyone is simple. The simplicity of catering to this person and making them feel like a person is what makes us unique.
On overcoming entrepreneurial hardships:
My general hardship was business knowledge. I know people in business who do not have an ounce of the knowledge that I have. Despite the background of business being the same, no business is actually the same. When you're in business, the way to gain the most experience is by being in business. You can be in school for it, read every book about business, but being in business is the real challenge, because you are finding and figuring out new ways to always win. You don't know all the information. I didn't know I needed established business credit, so accumulating that business knowledge outside of a book is important, because you have to jump out and experience it.
On what advice she'd offer someone starting out in the industry:
Never let anyone deter you from your dreams. I remember someone telling me, "Hey, you've been doing it for a year and it hasn't kicked off yet," and this was a successful person. Just imagine if I was weak-minded and if I had listened—I would have stopped my business. Sometimes people in higher places will still reach down low to tear someone down instead of building them up. You cannot allow anyone to place their fears on you. Go for it. I had this huge budget and I jumped out because the passion was burning inside of me. I didn't know anything about being a business owner. Experience is your best teacher. I would rather take advice from someone who has been in the business for five or 10 years than someone who has been taught about business but never had their own.
On achieving work-life balance as a single mom:
When I first started the business, it started to get more hectic, and I felt like I was parenting in the wrong manner. I didn't have the time to help [my son] with his homework, to pay attention to him, or to be a nurturer. He had to take a backseat, because I am only one person. People always say "put your kids first," and I highly believe that, but me putting him first was pressing the gas on my dreams. There are many ways in which someone can put someone else first, and that's what I felt was important. Now, my son brags to people about his mother owning a spa. Be the parent that your kids brags about. I am happy he can say that about me. I set him up to have a better future because the majority of his life will be his adulthood. His childhood was a snap piece of his life, so I would rather have things set into place and a solid platform for him to be able to step to higher places. If I had not accomplished my dreams, he would not have that. I would be two years behind. You need to make sacrifices to reap enormous rewards.
On the philosophies she lives by:
It's very simple: I just believe in treating people right. My great-grandmother would always tell me, "You treat people the way you want to be treated—I don't care who they are, I don’t care what walk of life they come from." I instill those same values into my team, and that is a part of the culture at Pure Vichy. We put ourselves in the shoes of our guests because we want to make people's lives better, help their confidence, help their skin, and help them become better versions of themselves. We don't call them customers, we call them guests. When our guests enter Pure Vichy, we don't tell them to come back because we want the money, we want them to come back because this is a journey. We have a plan for them and we care about them. We know who they are, and we even know their kids' names. I do not treat guests like cattle—we allow them to take their time and to begin our services whenever they're ready. We have a 31-minute rule, which means you have 31 minutes to calm your mind and body, whether that even means sitting in your car. We don't know what you're going through as our guests, and there is no rush to get back into the world. We want Pure Vichy to feel like a safe haven.
On what self-care looks like to her:
Making yourself a priority.