2023 Rising Stars: Tava Reese

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Tava Reese (Photo by Bryan Oller)

I think people [don’t] realize how truly beautiful they are,” says Tava Reese, owner and founder of ELKE beauty day spa where they believe in holistic, whole-body beauty.

Reese felt other spas funneled their clients toward a specific, uniform look, but ELKE wants clients to be free to be themselves, celebrated for their diversity, and convinced of their own beauty. Through their work, they’re also able to support other local and international nonprofits to help those in need.

Reese realized she was a serial entrepreneur, perpetually seeking to create, rather than manage. “I tend to get bored really fast,” she says. “About three years into any project I start, I tend to say, ‘OK, what can I build next?’”

She dreamt of being a writer — earning her Associate of Communication from Pikes Peak Community College while in high school — but when full-time college didn’t work out, she went to trade school to become a massage therapist, like her mother had been. “I genuinely didn’t go into it saying, ‘Oh, I want to care for people the way that I was cared for,’” she says. “I chose it because it was a quick school.”

In time, she fell in love with it.

As a freelance massage therapist, she built a loyal base of 300 clients and a network of partner locations where she operated. Embracing whole-body care dovetailed with her growing love for Colorado Springs, and fueled the urge for her to put her own pin in the map. Early in the pandemic, she coordinated a grassroots campaign of clever fundraising and client-supported microloans to make ELKE a reality when government loans were going to big businesses and not altruistic local startups like hers.

"Ok, what can I build next?”

But for a long time, Reese wasn’t very attached to this city or really, other people.

Her family moved to Colorado Springs when she was young, members of a fundamentalist Christian group of which her father was a leader. She and her siblings were homeschooled, sheltered from the influence of the outside world in a church and a home where she never felt like she belonged. Feeling alone, she lacked much compassion for others or the social skills required to connect to people outside her upbringing.

Her way forward came from a seemingly unlikely place: working at a Dutch Bros. Coffee shop.

“[It’s] really close to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, the methadone clinic, a bunch of nursing homes and also Downtown,” she says of the Platte Avenue and Union Boulevard location. “There’s this weird group of people that were really down and out [but] are really having the time of their lives and I got to hear their stories.” It was then, in her early 20s, that Reese says that she finally embraced Colorado Springs despite living here most of her life.

During the pandemic, she went on hiatus from her massage work and took a part-time job at Trader Joe’s just to get by with her boyfriend. Reese ideated different concepts, like a youth hostel and then what she calls a “trade gym” to teach trades informally through mentorship and community, an idea she may still put together some day. She landed on the full-body health spa concept and with the financial help of her clients and the community and the able bodies of her future husband and father-in-law, they demolished and rebuilt their current location by hand, opening at the end of 2020. She even enrolled at UCCS to earn that Bachelor of Communications she always wanted.

For Reese, receiving the Rising Stars recognition feels like a performance review from the city she loves. “[It’s] really neat as a founder because you don’t always get one-on-ones with your boss telling you how you can grow or if you’re going in the right direction,” she says, reflecting on something her husband told her. “People thought that I’m on the right track and it’s nice. I’ll keep going, I guess.”

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