On the first of April, Ecplize Hair Design & Day Spa celebrated its 25th anniversary. However, for owner Darla Dilbert, the journey has been even longer than that.
“I knew that I wanted to do cosmetology from a very young age,” she says. “I was a Saturday girl at Virginia’s Beauty Salon when I was eight years old. This has always been my passion. I can remember being five years old and wanting to be in the beauty industry.”
After high school, Darla spent two years in Toronto getting her formal training in cosmetology before returning to work with Gary Callan at the Visage salon in the Greenery. Within a year, Gary opened up a second location at the former Treasure Island hotel, Darla went to work there and eventually managed that location. After seven years of working for Gary, Darla made the decision to start her own business.
The first location for Eclipze was at Paddington Place, where she stayed for four years. That was followed by 12 years at Alexander Place. Eventually, she was approached by Dart representatives to move to Camana Bay. Although very tempted, Darla says she declined the first overture because the numbers just didn’t work.
“I said a prayer,” she says. “I said, Lord, if this is for me, send them back. If it’s not for me, don’t send them back.”
A year later, Dart representatives returned. By that time, the Camana Bay Town Centre had grown and Dart was able to offer Eclipze terms she could accept.
“I moved and started up on February 1, 2009, and the rest is history,” she says. “I had faith it would work out.”
Although Eclipze initially lost some clients due to Camana Bay’s location, being in the Seven Mile Beach corridor enabled the business to attract clients she hadn’t seen since leaving the Treasure Island hotel.
“It opened me up to tourism clients again,” Darla says, adding that as Camana Bay has added new office buildings, she’s also gained many new office worker clients.
Key to Eclipze’s success has been Darla’s philosophy that her clients want more than just good salon and day spa services; they also want good experiences.
“We can’t just provide the technical service,” she says. “We have to provide a high level of customer service to go with that.”
As her business has grown, Darla has spent more time on the running of the business and less time working with clients, some of whom she’s had since her early days at Visage.
“I still spend four to five hours a week with my clients, but I haven’t taken on a new client in 19 years,” she says. “I’ve been trying to reform my workaholic ways, and I still have a tendency to do that, but I make sure I take time and smell the roses a bit more now.”
Now that the 25th anniversary of Eclipze is behind her, Darla will set her sights on 30 years. But that will probably be the last big anniversary she celebrates while running Eclipze.
“I’d like to retire in five years,” she says, adding that now that she’s seeing more Caymanians getting into the cosmetology industry, she hopes she can hand over the reins of Eclipze to a qualified Caymanian in the future.