When we think of self care, we often picture ladies in bubble baths with candles reading Vogue Magazine. Men hardly seem to be in the self care conversation. Does that mean they don’t need self care? No. If there’s one group of people who really need self care, it is men, specifically Black men. Years of generational trauma stemming from slavery, and race based exclusion for health, social and economic resources has in turn led to disparities within the community. As a result, this has had an adverse impact on mental health in the Black community. Statistics from Mental Health America show that adult Blacks and African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness than adult whites. Thus, all this point to the fact that men do need to look after themselves, and self care is one way to start.
Well, Darnika Platt of Man Cave Atlanta identified this gap in the self care market, and decided to create a luxury men’s spa which provides a men centric environment where men can cater to their self care needs, thus normalising the notion that it’s okay for men to look after themselves. She shares with us why : “It actually started with trying to get my husband to go get his foot and nails maintenance. It was like pulling teeth He hated going, especially if it meant him missing his Green Bay game. I started “people watching” while at my spa appointments and watched the uneasiness that come over the men as they walked in. It got me thinking what if there was a place that felt inviting to men, offered them all their grooming services, all in one place because convenience is key. Besides, sometimes we want to have our alone time so ManCave Atlanta allows men to have their little escape as well.”
For Darnika, this process has been a journey. She recounts: “When I started, I had no idea about what it took to run a spa, even for men. I frequently get self-care services but that was about it. I do have experience being a business owner because I’ve ran my own tax business for years, plus my parents and grandparents had their own businesses as well. But it took a lot of research to get where I am today.”
You may wonder what it’s like for her running a business catering to men. Darnika shares that she loves it: “The guys who come in are no different than my husband, my brother, and my friends. They’re professional men that want or need to be taken care of but also want to relax and my facility is basically an upscale hangout spot for them. I fashioned it after the show “Cheers,” where everyone knows your name. They get to come in and get their services done, but they can also network, hang out, smoke a cigar, and just be themselves. Also, our services aren’t just for men. All of the spa services are open to men and women. But our membership is only to men, and they get to enjoy our private business and sports lounge, our cigar lounge, and our private barbershop.”
Moreover, it is important to note that while there’s a lot of men who don’t do self care, there’s still a large portion of men who do. Darnika echoes that: “It’s becoming increasingly popular for men to learn who to take care of themselves, which means that they need to have clean hands and feet, healthy skin, and healthy hair. If you go to a nail salon you will see men come in.”
However, she states that the problem at hand is that: “these services are traditionally marketed to women. And a lot of men aren’t knowledgeable that these things aren’t just what women do, but their things that all people should do to be healthy. Also the word cosmetic generally refers to products marketed toward women. Men think that cosmetic products mean makeup. But truly the word cosmetic refers to any product that aids in the health of hair or skin. If you give a man a pedicure, he will enjoy it. What he doesn’t enjoy is going to a nail salon filled with mostly women, or having to sit there and smell nail polish and acrylic.
Darnika stresses that self care is extremely important not just for Black men but for every man. She says “The same way every man should exercise, eat right, and drink water, they should also be getting massages regularly or relaxations and muscle health. They should be getting facials and other esthetician services to prevent breaks and inflammation, hydrate the skin on their faces, and extract materials from their pores that contain dead skin and bacteria. They also should keep their hands and feet clean. Health isn’t just about lifting weights and eating right, it’s about doing everything possible to make sure that every part of your body is clean, hydrated, and well taken care of.”
Like every business, there are blessings and challenges. Darnika shares hers: “The building was the biggest blessing. It was in the best location and had more than enough room to incorporate everything. Everything is exactly the way I wanted it and it’s also exactly what men want. Men walk through my doors shocked at the facility. I like to say that it’s a polished version of what men want because it’s essentially what men want through a woman’s eyes. I’m very proud of the end result.
On the other hand, she states that launching a business during the pandemic was her biggest challenge. She recounts: “Not only was business slow because people weren’t leaving their homes or not frequently places with close contact, but also working with the government to get permits and licenses takes a lot longer now. “
Like every successful entrepreneur; they have to find a way to adapt to the changing restrictions caused by the pandemic. For Darnika, the hardest part was sustaining the business through this slow patch: “Things are just now getting better, but at the beginning, people weren’t frequently barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, and spas. Even here in Atlanta, while we were more open than most cities, people were still being cautious. The best we can do is constantly sanitize, provide hand sanitizer, require masks, and hope that our efforts to keep everyone healthy while allowing them to relax make our customers comfortable with coming in for services.”
Darnika has shown that she has what it takes to weather the storms that may come one’s way when running a business. She shares the key ingredients to building a successful business in the self care industry: “you just need the proper equipment and licensed professionals that will work for you. I think the success part comes from the same knowledge that requires running any successful business which means doing your research, being organized and making a plan, having an understanding of finances with actual capital and a budget, knowing how to market yourself, determining what’s your target audience. All of that stuff is important, no matter if you want to open a spa or a food truck.”
Darnika is optimistic about the future of ManCave ATL. She shares: “We’re currently in the process of adding a kitchen to provide our members with fresh food. But our plan is to have 7-10 new locations within the next five years.”
Through Darnika’s story, we see that one of the attributes of successful entrepreneurship is to identify a problem or gap in your industry and provide a solution to it. For more information about ManCave Atlanta and to inquire about services and memberships, visit https://www.mancaveatlanta.com/.