The words 'private member's club' immediately stirs our imaginations into thinking of fusty curtains, the lingering smell of cigar smoke and a sniffy no-women's policy.
Although these days private member's clubs allow both men and women, we can't help but be curious about a women's only club - isn't that double standards?
No, says founder of The Grace Belgravia, Kate Percival, because it's not anti-men, just pro-women.
What makes this private member's club - a world that usually only the rich have access to - slightly different, is that you get the feeling that the focus is on women and what they truly need, not necessarily how much money can be extracted from it.
Certain aspects of the club are open to the public - if they book medical treatments - and more significantly, it seems to have its finger on the pulse, as was evidenced by a recent course in how to be apply mindfulness at work.
Having just launched a sleep programme, The Grace is tapping into the global message that HuffPost UK is helping to champion: we no longer want to live in an age of burnout.
To be able to provide that space to women and to help be part of this powerful message is definitely something to be championed.
We took the time to chat to Kate about her journey...
How did you set up Grace? Did you have the idea and take it to a group of investors?
I developed the idea during my Masters in 2008/2009 and the business plan became the foundation for Grace. We went out to private investors to raise £3m in finance with the three founding partners investing the balance of the funds.
Did you think it was time for women to have their own space?
Women spend their lives multi-tasking, always putting family and work before their own health. I knew it was time for women to have their own space and so Grace was created to put the best of the best under one roof - from health and wellbeing through fitness, healthy eating, spa relaxation and mental stimulation through lectures and events.
I wanted to create a place where women could come and feel nurtured, cared for and intellectually stimulated. We talk about empowering women, giving them the tools to go out and be the best at they can be.
How popular was the idea at first?
The idea of a women’s only Health, Wellbeing and Lifestyle Club has always been like Marmite. But the women who do “get it”, realise that having a space for Me time, a place to restore the balance of work/play, to recharge, meet empathetic people, and have some fun at the same time is hugely valuable.
Men are welcome after 6.30pm as a guest of a female member for both drinks and dinner. Two members last week were talking about their renewal which is due now at our first anniversary and said they asked themselves a simple question “could I live without Grace in my life now?”. The answer was no!
What were some of the challenges of setting Grace up?
Raising the finance was the first and most stressful, followed by getting 11,500sq ft of Grade II listed space fitted out and interior designed in 5 months to ensure we did not miss the autumn market of 2012.
Have you noticed that women are treated differently in business than men?
Personally no – I have just always got on with it, but undoubtedly discrimination occurs to greater or lesser degrees, in different business sectors.
I never questioned whether I was better or worse than any male colleague, just whether I was as good as the next person….and this is where I think women go wrong. Men and women are different – fact. So we should play to our skills. Read the Athena Doctrine and recognise that it is the female personality traits that will play such an important part in the success of business going forward. And these characteristics are shared by both men and women.
How good are you at the whole work/life balance?
Appalling – practice what you preach – but I know what to do and a year after launching I think I am definitely improving. But women are very bad at putting themselves first and we have to take responsibility for doing that and saying no to things that take away Me time.
What do you do to relax?
Spending time with my two amazing daughters, my grandson and my very supportive husband!
Mindfulness and creating a space for women to unwind seems to be really important to you - why?
Because I realised that women are too hard on themselves – that they need a very special place to be safe, to be nurtured and empowered, and to help them be the very best they can be at whatever it is they want to be.
Do you think we are harder on ourselves than men are?
Absolutely, women are very bad at actually making time to take stock, usually feeling guilty about having Me time, and giving themselves breathing space. We are generally not born with the inherent male confidence gene.
How do you give back to your loved ones and your community?
I try desperately hard to be supportive to my children – not necessarily with time (which is of course the bit they want) but giving them practical advice or making health and wellbeing services available to them via Grace, and spending time with them and my grandson. For my husband, it is taking the weekends off and spending time with him.
Giving back is high on our agenda and last year we launched The Grace Belgravia Foundation. Our first project is to support ground breaking research into gynaecological cancers at The Royal Marsden Hospital supporting Dr Susana Banerjee and personalised genome treatment. We also launched our support for Action for Children with a fundraising group called Women in Action – which helps families to cope with their children and the difficulties of every day life.Suggest a correction