Gina had always loved beauty, and as a young girl growing up in Italy, she was inspired by the fashion and beauty that surrounded her. She lived through the Second World War and the devastation that it brought, but beauty was always a glamorous escape for her.
She was fiercely independent, strong-minded and ambitious. At a time when most women were expected to marry and stay home with the children, Gina wanted a career. For her, a career symbolized freedom, independence, and the ability to live the life she wanted without having to rely on anyone else.
Without telling her parents, she started training under an aesthetician on the elegant main street of Naples, Italy. Despite her parents’ protests – being a working woman was very unusual in those days – Gina excelled in aesthetics and developed a strong customer base.
Gina’s life took a momentous turn when, lured by the promise of a better life for themselves and their four children, Gina and her husband Ciro made the decision to immigrate to Canada. Like so many other immigrants, they were alone without family or friends, barely speaking the language, and struggling to make a new life for themselves. Ciro, who had run a successful business in Italy, found himself struggling to find work. But Gina, determined as ever, knew she could rely on her exceptional skills as an aesthetician to support herself.
The only problem was that there was no aesthetics industry in Canada at the time – the concept of the “spa” had not been introduced yet. Gina would not be deterred. She walked into every hair salon in Kitchener Waterloo and offered her services, until she finally found one who was willing to take her on – offering manicures only but it was a start. Slowly and persistently, Gina built up her clientele by offering exceptional services and customer service. Soon she had earned enough money to open up her own business, so that she could offer the full range of treatments she was capable of.
She found a tiny shop and converted it into her first proper spa, naming it “Gina’s Spa” so her clients would be able to find her. Gina’s Spa was the first ever spa in the region – if not the country – with just one tiny room for treatments, and her teenage daughters taking turns as her receptionist. Word spread in the community about the trail-blazing aesthetic services offered exclusively by Gina – and women were hooked. To help meet the demand Gina sent her eldest daughter Cristina to Italy to study aesthetics at a professional school. Soon both Cristina and Gina were fully booked for months in advance. Clearly, it was time to expand.
Gina found a little house on Regina Street in Uptown Waterloo that she knew would be perfect. She knocked on the door and convinced the owner to sell it to her. That summer, with the help of her husband and her children, Gina renovated the house to complete her dream spa.
Now that Gina and Cristina had the perfect location with space to expand, they faced a new challenge– where would they find aestheticians to hire? There were no aestheticians they knew of, never mind aesthetic schools. It wasn’t enough for them to train staff members on their own, they wanted their aestheticians to have the same professional credentials that they both shared. Luckily Cristina shared her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit, and so Gina’s College was born.
They registered as a Private Career College in 1979, and opened their doors to the first ever class of Gina’s College students. In a single classroom above Gina’s Spa, Cristina taught the students theory, while Gina demonstrated the practical techniques, combining the knowledge they had gained throughout their careers.
Gina’s College was founded on the same principles that had made Gina herself such a success – a dedication to excellence, respect for knowledge and proper technique, and a passion for beauty and well-being. They chose the slogan “Become a professional” because to Gina, being a professional was the starting point for all her future accomplishments.
As with her spa, Gina’s College soon earned a reputation for being the leading destination for a beauty education, and as the beauty industry in Canada grew, Gina expanded her College to locations in Ottawa and Mississauga. Gina’s graduates went on to found their own businesses, and to become leaders in succeeding generations of beauty professionals.
Gina continued to teach at the college and work on her loyal clients at her spa until her retirement. She continued to check in on her spa and college, proud of how it had grown and how far she had come. She talked fondly of all the clients who had passed through her doors, all the staff members who grew with her through the years, and all the students she had graduated who went on to start successful careers of their own. It is a legacy she was proud of, and a company she was proud to give her name. Gina passed away peacefully at her home in 2018, but her children and grandchildren continued to carry on her tradition in the family beauty business.
Cristina has continued to run the school that she is so passionate about. She is a leader in the beauty industry, founding her own skincare brands, and running Intercosmetics, a wholesale supplier dedicated to beauty professionals. Cristina earned her CIDESCO diploma, and brought the program to Gina’s College, which is now the only private career college in Ontario to offer the prestigious international accreditation. Cristina travels internationally to attend conferences, industry events and to source new trends and technologies. She keeps herself at the leading edge of new developments in the beauty industry so that she can bring the latest information to her school and incorporate it into the programs. She is a popular speaker at industry events, where she shares her sought-after expertise on all facets of the beauty industry. While her business does not allow her to teach full time, she still treasures the days when she gets to teach special seminars or work with her students in the clinic.
The third generation has now entered the family business, with Cristina’s daughter Amalia and son Everardo joining the school to carry on their grandmother’s legacy. As a family business, they put their heart and soul into maintaining Gina’s legacy as the best in the business.