Cristin Smith: Founder & CEO, Saffron & Sage

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My Native AdMission Statement: Cristin Smith is the Founder and CEO of Saffron & Sage, the holistic health club located in Downtown San Diego. Saffron & Sage helps executives and entrepreneurs regain or maintain their wellbeing through their multi-sensory healing experiences. The flagship location in Little Italy is just the beginning of the Saffron & Sage lifestyle brand. In the coming months, Saffron & Sage is also launching their skincare line, body care and beauty products.

Prior to Saffron & Sage, Cristin has founded four companies before the age of 30 and has traveled around the world consulting and supporting local leaders to promote community development through social enterprise. Her background in financial and insurance services, sales and marketing has been instrumental in building a brand and business that is creating affordable access to holistic healthcare.

Recently named one of San Diego Magazine’s Women of the Year for 2019, Cristin has been profiled by various media outlets including The San Diego Business Journal, Modern Luxury, and PACIFIC Magazine, among others.

How did you get into the industry?

Saffron & Sage was founded by Cristin Smith as a result of her personal healing journey. During a six-month sabbatical in 2012, Cristin had a health crisis. Doctors found four tumors in her neck and thyroid leading her to seek out a team of holistic health care practitioners, non-toxic products, therapeutic practices and healing places. Cristin’s journey toward wellness of the mind, body, and spirit inspired her to bring all of these experiences and elements into one place to provide the integrative care she so desperately needed during her time of need.

Today, Cristin has built a multi-disciplinary team of more than 30 practitioners from Medical Doctors to Acupuncturists, Psychotherapists to Movement Therapists, who connect the community to consciously curated wellness resources through services and classes, products and practices and create customized treatment plans for each client.  

Any emerging industry trends?

The membership model is definitely developing as a trend, first started by businesses like Massage Envy and then moving into subscription boxes and now member-based wellness spaces are starting to spring up all over the country. From the few that I have seen they are isolating a specific service like Acupuncture or Concierge Medicine. This is definitely something we are going to see more of in the coming years.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

We are currently living in the age of information. Before calling the doctor most of us google our symptoms and have diagnosed ourselves with multiple conditions after 10 minutes of reading WebMd and a series of blog posts. We’re overwhelmed with unqualified information and when we finally do seek out a Medical Professional we leave with a long list of questions and often times prescriptions.

This country is looking for a community of health and wellness professionals who are on the same page and can offer simple yet evidence-based solutions in a therapeutic environment. This is what Saffron & Sage is providing—affordable access to holistic healthcare. Think about meeting your doctor at the spa! We are curating wellness resources at Saffron & Sage, where people can walk in the door and buy anything in the boutique without reading a label. What health food store can you do that in? You can step into a session where the Practitioner is looking you in the eyes, listening to you and providing you with a multi-sensory healing experience every single time. When it comes to healthcare, curation is the currency of the future. We have curated our products and Practitioners, practices all with our current and future members mind.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I was driving from Tijuana to Los Angeles and everywhere in between paying a-la-cart prices for all of these top Practitioners but I was having to synthesize their diagnosis and treatment plan. This made me ask myself the question of why there isn’t a place with all these Practitioners and products under one roof, where I can take all the classes and services that they are recommending?! And as it turned out, there are, but they designed for the ultra-wealthy, with prices of upwards of $10,000 for week stays at “wellness hospitals” or “wellness resorts”. I didn’t have the time or money to jet off to a destination medical resort, but this fueled me to begin devising a plan to create such a space for myself in San Diego.

Saffron & Sage was designed with me in mind. A busy entrepreneur who needed a space to support me in healing my gut, learning to breathe out of my belly, decreasing stress, eliminating toxins from my system, and the list goes on. I wanted one place that I could walk through the door, not care about what I looked like or fear that I was going to break the bank and could begin to heal from the inside-out.

Located in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, Saffron & Sage is a 3,000-square-foot urban wellness sanctuary is designed with expansive, light-filled treatment rooms, a movement and meditation studio, a luxurious wellness lounge, a clean beauty boutique and apothecary. Saffron & Sage offers its members a multitude of services and classes, including acupuncture, botanical medicine, energy therapy, fire cupping, sound therapy, and more. The studio also hosts wellness classes that are carefully curated to nourish the body, cultivate a clear mind, and serve as a space for your spirit to dwell. These include breathwork, sound baths, cleansing meditation, energy work and various forms of yoga, including yin and restorative classes.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

Saffron & Sage is expanding its current space, building out more treatment rooms and launching an IV lounge along with Medical Consultations. With this, Saffron & Sage will also be enhancing its memberships providing Members with exclusive access to these new wellness offerings.

Saffron & Sage is also launching a skincare line featuring makeup removing oil cleanser, gel facial cleanser, facial serum, facial moisturizer and finishing oil. The full set and travel set will be available on the shelves in October and online just in time for holiday shopping.

Saffron & Sage also has an apothecary where the team custom formulates herbs for clients to help with anything from skin conditions to restoring gut health. The essential blends will be on the shelves next to the Saffron & Sage signature Flower Essences, which are a homeopathic tincture designed to support the emotional body. Taking a few drops under your tongue can help decrease stress or anxiety, help cut cravings and connect you to the Divine. Flower Essences can be found at Saffron & Sage and in the suites of a local hotel partner, Kimpton Solamar Hotel.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Here’s just a few:

1. Hotels – Saffron & Sage has local partnerships with San Diego’s Kimpton Hotels and The Andaz. You can take Saffron & Sage classes and curated events on the rooftop or by the pool not to mention custom-designed suite packages featuring our flower essences and body care products like bath soaks and face masks.
2. Luxury Living Communities – Saffron & Sage partners with local living communities like Broadstone Maker’s Quarter, Alexan ALX and LUMA to provide residents with wellness experiences like Sunset Sound Bath and Acupuncture or Multi-sensory Meditation experiences along with cooking classes and other workshops.
3. Companies – Saffron & Sage partners with local companies to provide C-suite wellness packages to workplace wellness experiences onsite for employees, offering meditation and yoga to individual sessions like Massage and Acupuncture.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

The most difficult part of building Saffron & Sage has been financing. I financed Saffron & Sage myself then went out to supplement my contribution with bank loans and found that the banks didn’t grasp the concept of Saffron & Sage yet and therefore found it too risky of an investment. Additionally, they told me I should have kept my money in the bank and financed everything. Having personally funded my previous businesses and wanting to keep debt to a minimum, I thought banks would see my personal investment in terms of commitment and a reflection of my due diligence and market research, but they did not. That said, once we opened doors, I had investors knocking on my door but they wanted a lot of equity. It was important for me to remember the value of the Saffron & Sage brand I was building even if bankers and investors didn’t. My ability to embrace my worth served me well as I later attracted the investors and bankers who shared my vision and values and have turned into powerful partners.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

An ideal experience for a new client is an acupuncture session. Acupuncture is experienced both physically, energetically and emotionally. Whether people are dealing with brain fog, anxiety, fatigue, pain—they are going to feel a night and day of a difference after an acupuncture session at Saffron & Sage. The affects after acupuncture are also felt for longer than other modalities like massage because it
works on multiple dimensions.

How do you motivate others?

First, I hire leaders who share the vision and values of Saffron & Sage. Leaders who are self-starters and go-getters who thrive making decisions and designing their own path to achieve organizational outcomes. I highlight their wins and successes in front of the rest of their team. I have designed a compensation plan that rewards their achievements. We also celebrate as a team on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.

Every onboarding process begins with me sharing my story and how Saffron & Sage grew out of my wellness journey and walk new hires through every aspect of the client experience, our vision and values, philosophy and methodology. We spend all day going through this, and I ensure that I highlight different components to illustrate how these are not just words we post on a wall but our North Star to which we always set our compass and the framework that we use to make every decision. We hire and fire by our values. Every policy and practice is shaped by our ethos.

Career advice to those in your industry?

We primarily hire for two types of positions, concierge or practitioner.

When it comes to concierges, I don’t hire based upon a resume but focus on strengths and experiences. For anyone looking to make a career change, I want to highlight that you’re more than your resume and there are many companies out there that are looking for good people and are willing to invest in training and development.

When it comes to practitioners, candidates need degrees, certifications and licenses even for modalities like energy therapy and nutrition. We receive a lot of applications from individuals who don’t have the necessary credentials. With that said, in addition to having a degree, license or a certification, it’s necessary to have the maturity and integrity to companion clients through very difficult times in their life. We hire the best and part of being the best is a lifelong commitment to personal and professional development.

What do I do best?

My Vision— my dreams or ideas go through this incubation process which allows me to clearly see outcome or my future desire and that paired with my strategic planning strength allows me to reverse engineer a plan to make manifest that vision. And then there’s pure determination, because I am committed come hell or high water to see my vision come to fruition and I align my life towards my objective.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Perseverance—I am committed to going the distance. When I set out to achieve something, I align my energy and focus to make it happen. I can’t tell you the number of sacrifices I made to make Saffron & Sage a reality and the sacrifices I am still making to grow the brand.

What are my aspirations?

I am living the life I want to live. I live in a beautiful neighborhood that is five minutes down the road from Saffron & Sage. I spend my weekends at the Coronado Dog Beach with my dog Harper or sailing on the bay. I want to travel more. Since I have lived in the U.S. and Mexico, I am on a mission to visit all 50 United States and 32 states in Mexico. I’m reviving my seasonal retreats, taking one week off a season, and this Summer I’ll be traveling to Oaxaca. I’m also looking to start playing tennis again and going salsa dancing regularly.

Professionally, I would like to open our Bath House consisting of a variety of wet therapies and beauty treatments and see one of those in each city nearby our Holistic Health Clubs and later launch our Retreat Houses which will feature everything in those two spaces, as well as a boutique hotel and restaurant in remote areas around the world.

There is also a long list of other ventures outside of the wellness space that I would like to launch so stay tuned!

My Biggest Success?

My biggest success thus far has been selling a minority share of my company to the right investors. The day after one of my investors wrote me a big check she told me, “I want to make sure that you that she honor your vision. Don’t get sidetracked my trying to deviate from your mission hit certain numbers but stay focused on your vision.” I knew I held out for the right investors.

My Most Challenging Moment?

My most challenging moments last year were centered around raising capital. I knew when we opened that we were underfunded and that I was going to have to pull together capital along the way. I also knew the timing was right and although that wasn’t ideal it was necessary. I remember one Sunday afternoon, I thought I would have to throw in the towel because I was on my last dime and one of my mentors called and said, “Today you have to do everything in your power to convince yourself that you gave it your all, that you left no stone unturned. So, what’s left for you to do? Who is committed to your success?” I sent an email that afternoon to about 20 people and I raised $30,000 in 24 hours allowing me to “live to fight another day” as my mentor would say.

My Motto?

Under promise and over deliver. This is a phrase I remind myself and it’s a phrase I share with my team almost every day. Don Miguel Ruiz reminds us to “be impeccable with our word” and I think that aligns so well, as we aim to align our actions with our intentions and to show up for ourselves, and therefore be able to show up for others.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Personally, I admire women like Katherine Hepburn and Coco Chanel – fierce women who embracedtheir essence and were determined to live an authentic and transformative lives. They were disrupters to the status quo, and they are icons as a result of their leadership.

Professionally, my team of advisors and investors. These are men and women who have dedicated their lives to creating purpose-driven businesses and have made an indelible impact on the community. I am thinking of one couple in particular. A husband and wife and duo who recently came on board as investors, are the most gracious and generous humans not to mention savvy and integrous business leaders in the community. It’s going to take a lifetime to soak up their wisdom both personally and professionally.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

That’s a tough one! A few years back I was in China and absolutely fell in love with Hangzhou just outside of Shanghai. This little city has 9 million inhabitants. It’s a unique blend of old-world charm and modern innovation. Mexico is one of my favorite countries because of its close proximity to the U.S. and its biodiversity. From its snow-capped mountains to beautiful beaches, rural desert oasis to urban metropolises. I love Mexico City and tend to hideaway in La Condesa or La Roma when I visit. One of my favorite cities is Queretaro and when it comes to the beach and a lush jungle retreat, Nayarit is my destination of choice.  

My Favorite Products/Objects?

My current obsession is the soon-to-be-released Saffron & Sage skincare collection. Having suffered from severe cystic acne when I was younger, I have terrible scarring as a result and nothing has been able to take the scars away let alone have moisturized balanced skin until now.

The collection features our pollutant and make-up remover along with a gentle gel cleanser, serum, moisturizer and finishing oil. Not only is my skin healthy and hydrated, tone and firm, but my scarring has continued to diminish with every use. My skin feels light after using each product and is protected to apply my sunscreen and begin my day. I use the same ritual during the evening only after applying the finishing oil I use my favorite beauty tool – my Jade Gua Sha. Used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for radiant skin and clearing the body of stagnation and supporting the immune system. Gua Sha is an essential for holistic health!

My Current Passions?

Currently my passions are centered around healthcare. I am intrigued by the existing and emerging models of healthcare in the U.S. and am excited to experiment with new ways of providing affordable access to holistic healthcare. We have some exciting projects in the works and I can’t wait to see how they come together and how they impact our clients’ lives.  

My Daily Thoughts:

Goal of the Day: Delegate whatever task or project that better aligns with another member of my team
Thought of the Day: Are you doing only what you can do? If someone else can do this, you should not.
Action of the Day: Beginning each day with a long walk with my dog, Harper. Starting with silence and movement is essential for me.
Deed of the Day: Eat a nourishing meal slowly and with others.
Tip of the Day: Take time to transition. When you pull up to a meeting, before jumping out of the car, take a minute to pause, breath and focus on the intention of that meeting the get out of the car. Think about those little moments of transition in every part of your day.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

We’re a collection of neighborhoods. San Diego has done a wonderful job of designing little pockets unique to the fabric of their neighborhood. Each have their niche and vibe and you are drawn to them for that reason. Little Italy is now restaurant row, North Park is the hub for dinner, drinks and entertainment. South Park is like a sleepy town on the East Coast with little boutique businesses.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

My favorite place for brunch is Craft + Commerce in Little Italy. They serve their spin on eggs benedict which is a cornbread base with filet and the egg on top which is to die for. And my new favorite is the Soufle Pancakes from Morning Glory, also in Little Italy.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – I am waking up and walking Harper (my English shepherd) around the neighborhood

10:00 AM – In a meeting

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal? Dona Jean In Bankers Hill. It’s a gourmet vegan restaurant and the best in town!

7:00 PM -  I am stepping into restorative yoga class at Saffron & Sage to activate my parasympathetic nervous system and prepare for sleep

11:00 PM – I’m asleep by 10 p.m. to honor my body clock and the detoxification and restorative rituals that out organs do every night.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I drink a custom blend of herbs that when combined with hot water make a tea specifically formulated by my herbalist to support the unique needs of my body.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

Favorite instagram account is @captainandthegypsykid sometimes referred to as “Australia’s first family of style”. This husband and wife duo travel around the world with their kids exploring and creating content around their lifestyle highlighting people and places, brands and business of interest.

What should everyone try at least once?

Fire Cupping! It’s such a unique experience and a satisfying one. An ancient Chinese medicine technique designed to pull toxins and tension from the body bringing you back to a place of homeostasis.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

I enjoy escaping south of the border to Mexico, where I lived for six years. Tijuana is one of my favorite cities, it’s chalk full of culinary treasures and cultural experiences, and not to mention it’s just an hour away from Valle de Guadalupe (the Napa Valley of Mexico) for a little respite featuring world-class cuisine and a bottle of wine!