Monday 11th December 2017
By Michelle Hammond
We take 10 with the fabulous Abi Wright, Founder & Director of SpaBreaks.com
Q1 - How did your childhood influence your work ethic and attitude towards business?
I have this dominant memory from school of the careers teacher telling me that I wouldn’t amount to anything, and that was really pivotal for me because not only did it make me determined to prove her wrong, but it also gave me a real sense of how important it is to support people in their work.
Q2 - What do you believe the principles of a successful business are today?
I think it’s really important to be flexible, to adapt, to do everything to the best of your ability, to listen to your customers and to surround yourself with a great team of people. I get so much energy, support and ideas from my team; they are instrumental in making Spabreaks.com what it is, but many of our best initiatives and adaptations to the service have come from listening to customers and trying to understand what they feel is missing from the market.
Q3 - Looking back, what was your best business decision?
To start! I started Spabreaks.com four months after my first child was born. It’s scary, exciting, daunting and hard work, but you have to start somewhere. It sounds cliched but I knew my market having worked in the hotel spa industry for a long time and in my gut I knew there was a different way to market spas, so I followed my instincts and simply started.
Q4 - Who has influenced you the most through your career?
Different people in different ways. I am fortunate to work in an industry surrounded by amazing women in particular - some I know, and some I don’t. On a professional level though, Sue Harmsworth, the founder of ESPA has done incredible things with her business and is an inspiring industry leader. She founded ESPA comparatively late in life in her at the age of 47 in 1992 and now at 72 continues to travel a ridiculous amount, work hard and remain true to her ethos. It’s a thoroughly modern brand aimed at bringing holistic therapy to modern life and it’s that ethos that the spa industry as a whole should be listening to. She’s inspirational to learn about and listen to.
Q5 - What was your most difficult / worst business decision?
I don’t think it’s ever just one thing, but it’s always about people. When to let people go is a horrible decision to make, and trying to figure out how to balance time between work and home is the impossible decision that every parent makes every second of the day.
Q6 - What would you say was the single most advantageous character trait for success?
Oh gosh, that’s a tough one! Probably determination. I don’t mean that in an aggressive way, I mean the determination to get up and do something day after day after day and continue to have the energy to drive it forward. It’s one thing driving something forward for a day, a week, a month or a year, but just to keep putting one foot in front of the other takes determination that you really have to delve deep for because it can be exhausting and some days you simply don’t want to. We live in an X Factor culture but it takes a long time to become an overnight success.
Q7 - What happens when you’re stressed or overwhelmed?
I go home to my children and spend time laughing with them at bath time. I have three kids, so it either relieves the stress or gives me something entirely different to worry about!
Q8 - How do you invest in your own wellbeing. How do you look after yourself?
I was brought up by the sea, so spending time at the beach, and specifically by the water has real healing properties for me. I also like nothing better than walking around in the grass without my shoes on - preferably with my family - that’s when I really feel at my most relaxed and happy.
Q9 - If you could change one thing about the spa and wellness industry what would it be and why?
I am working on it, but I really would like to see it become completely inclusive and accessible. The spa industry has so much to offer people, making a real and significance to health and wellbeing, but there have been a lot barriers put up over time - some real, some perceived, when it comes to treating people. It has become 'treatment first’ rather than ‘client first’ and that should never be the case. Cancer is a prime example of how people have been excluded from spas in the past, but it is changing. Equally, the perception of spas has become one of privileged, female centric pampering, and while pampering is very much a part of the experience, that should not be to undermine the real health benefits of the spa experience… so that’s what I would like to change, and like I say, I’m working on it!
Q10 - Finally, What’s your favourite quote or the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I am not sure that it’s advice I was given so much as just general advice that I have always held dear, but ‘trust your instincts’ has very much been my motto. When I started Spabreaks.com in 2008 the UK was in the midst of recession and the Groupon model of discount buying was at its peak. The idea of starting a luxury product with an in-house call centre focused on premium customer service seemed farcical and went very much against popular advice, but that quality of service is what set us apart and within three years we had gone from being a small contender to being the market leader. I had a lot of good advice along the way and there’s certainly no way I could have done it alone, but knowing it was the right time to start the business - that’s just instinct.
Abi started her career as a journalist before progressing into marketing. After time contract negotiating in Maritime Security following 9/11, she worked with a small collection of hotel spas. There she realised there was an opportunity for changing the perception of spas and working with them to realise their commercial potential. Abi launched Spabreaks.com in 2008 with a team of three. Since then, she has balanced work and family, using her personal experience to champion women in the workplace. Spabreaks.com is a pioneering industry leader, particularly concerning spas and cancer, and is Europe's largest spa booking company.