Our Beauty Q&A with Owner-President Saira Ali
Our new Owner-President, Saira Ali, is quite the interesting lady! After growing up between the UK and NY, she opened a series of businesses in the medical-health sector before joining the Urban Retreat family. Read on to find out more about our fearless leader, including her personal secrets to looking great!
Q: What are some hobbies or pastimes that you enjoy? What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Saira: When I’m not working, I love fine dining, great wines and good movies. I also love to travel. I love entertaining my family and friends. And SHOPPING!! I love shoes, makeup and perfume—all the girlie stuff.
Q: Where did you grow up and what ultimately brought you to Houston? What were you doing in the most recent years prior to moving here?
Saira: I lived in England until I was nine, then my family moved to New York. I lived there until high school and then moved to New Jersey. After high school I went to college at and graduated from Drexel University. In 1999, I moved to San Antonio to open my first medical clinic. In 2007, I opened a second business – a medical spa located in Stone Oak, which is a high-end real estate area in San Antonio. In 2008, I opened my third business, another medical clinic, located here in Houston.
In 2008, I met Francie Willis, the former owner of Urban Retreat. We had lunch at the River Oaks Country Club and formed an immediate friendship. In 2010, Francie decided to sell Urban Retreat. This was a hard decision for Francie, but because of the friendship and trust that we had for each other, she trusted me with Urban Retreat. In March of 2010, I took over the company, and it has been a whirlwind of a journey!
Q: How are you enjoying living in Houston? Any particular likes or dislikes?
Saira: I love living in Houston. My favorite thing about Houston is Urban Retreat and the people that make it happen! We are like one big, happy family. The dining here is great! The shopping is fabulous. And my sister and cousin have moved to Houston from New Jersey! What could be better—family, friends and a job you love!
Q: I understand that you have also lived in San Antonio. How do you compare the two cities? Do you have a favorite of the two?
Saira: The best thing in San Antonio was my beautiful custom home that I left behind to start this new adventure in Houston. I miss that home…and my GIANT WALK-IN CLOSET! But one day, I’ll have my dream home in Houston too. I look forward to that day. Houston is definitely home now, so there’s no going back!
Q: What are some personal or professional goals you hope to accomplish in the next few years?
Saira: Some day, I would really love to be a mom. I know that clock is ticking; but if it is meant to be, then one day it will be!
Until then, on a professional level, I have big dreams for Urban Retreat. We want to open more locations, in Houston and beyond. This year, our focus has been on defining operations at our River Oaks location so that we can build a business model that can be replicated anywhere we choose to go.
Q: How did you get into the beauty industry? What is your favorite thing about working within it?
Saira: Before Francie, I was always interested in makeup, hair and everything beauty. I used to do my mom’s makeup and hair from the time I was nine years old! I said I loved girlie stuff; the beauty industry has always been a passion of mine. When I lived in New York, I did some modeling for Chanel. My foot in a Chanel shoe was actually on TV—that was fun!
My favorite thing about working in the business is watching my team hit their goals. I really enjoy challenges that push and motivate me. I am a go-getter and like to see how far I can get our team to go!
Q: What made you want to get involved in UR? What do you enjoy most about it?
Saira: When Francie first approached me about purchasing Urban Retreat, my first thought was—“I want to help Francie.” I really had no idea of what I was getting into. But it’s a decision I have never regretted! It was more than I bargained for but has been more rewarding than I ever dreamed.
What do I enjoy most? My staff! I love our staff!! I have loved getting to know them, and I care for them like my own family. It’s great throwing parties for our staff. We have fun, and we love to dance. Those fun moments together are really special, because they hold you through the tough times. All businesses have good and bad days. But in the end, it’s the people that get you through.
Q: Do you have any specific plans for the future at UR? Are there any specific changes that you have made or are planning to make, since coming in as the new owner?
Saira: We are working on developing various locations that will target specific markets, i.e., teenagers, young professionals, male and female suburbanites, etc.
What’s YOUR favorite treatment on the UR menu? And what beauty product can you absolutely not live without?
My favorite service is hair care—no one does it better than Urban Retreat! From cutting and styling to the best products ever—Urban has it all.
My second favorite—and this is for ultimate relaxation—is a massage! They’re so relaxing; I could fall asleep during one of our amazing massage services.
My third favorite is our pedicure! I absolutely love the SpaRitual products, and our technicians are so very caring. My favorite time for a pedicure is at the end of the day—that’s true relaxation.
My favorite new products are by DermaQuest (our skin care line)— Breathable Coverage Foundation and Makeup Primer. I have been wearing makeup for a long time, but these two products are THE BOMB! And for eye, lip and cheek color—you cannot get anything better than Franché mineral makeup. I never leave home without my Franché.
Q: One of the first things noticeable about you is your skin—gorgeous! What’s your secret?
Saira: My favorite line is undeniably Société Clinical Skincare. I use it morning and evening—twice a day.
For the ultimate anti-aging service, I recommend our Photo Facials and Skin Tightening by Sciton Laser. We have a very sophisticated laser— there are only about 15 of these machines in all of Greater Houston.