Spabreaks.com was built around the idea of making spas accessible for everybody, and in the last year that idea has taken on a whole new meaning.
I have always worked in the spa hotel industry, but four years ago I decided that there was room for a new way of marketing and booking spa days and breaks. It is an industry that has always had some level of mystique about it, and a bit of a reputation for being the domain of time-rich, cash-rich house wives, and I wanted to show that actually, it can provide some much needed R'nR for everybody.
So with that in mind, Spabreaks.com was born - thanks to the fortuitous availability of the domain name (clearly it was meant to be), and has grown into a fully functioning spa booking agency complete with a call centre of 25 sales consultants, a product team managing relationships with more than 500 venues in the UK and abroad and sending more than 2000 people on spa days and breaks each week.
In How to be a Woman, Caitlin Moran refers to the aphorism 'if you want something done, ask a busy woman' and cites parenthood as the ultimate 'efficiency bootcamp' - so perhaps the fact that I also became a mum for the first time four months before Spabreaks.com launched, has something to do with its success so far ... it has certainly given me an insight into a new world of juggling acts that people face in the 21st Century.
Combining my personal experiences; my awareness as a mum watching my children grow up in a world where health, confidence and body image are precious commodities; and listening to the requirements of customers and the ever-present hum of wider societal concerns, the past year has seen that initial idea grow in ways that are ever more meaningful and ever more exciting.
It is important to us that we offer a whole range of opportunities at spas - everything from cream teas to bootcamps; smoking cessation to detox; and tribute nights to pre-natal treatments, but this year we launched Spa for All, which is an umbrella title for spa breaks which will open up the industry to anyone who has previously felt marginalised for reasons beyond their control. The first form this took was our Recovery Retreats which are an industry first tailoring packages specifically to people who have or have recently had cancer (invariably spas won't treat anyone with cancer)and in August we launched Accessible Spas, highlighting venues with facilities catering to a range of disabilities, and at spas that opt in - an option for carers to join individuals and use facilities free of charge. The idea is simply to give people as much independence as possible to make informed decisions about where they want to go and enjoy a spa break as easily as anyone else.
The thing that people tend to forget about going to a spa is that is it means more, does more, achieves more than just going to have your nails done and sitting by the pool for a while - although I am definitely a fan of that as well. Taking time out both in mind and body is an extremely important part of long term health and happiness. I have spoken to women whose bodies have been wracked by illness, and who have felt that through massage and aromatherapy they have started to regain some semblance of who they are. I work with venues where they can take the time to support people suffering from a catalogue of health concerns or address issues that guests have been plagued with for years. A spa break combines something that is really good for you with something that is fun and has both a long and short term impact: that is the real joy of it; that is the message I want people to receive.
Being nominated for Woman of The Year is a real honour - especially in light of the other people being considered, but what I feel is important is that what we have achieved at Spabreaks.com is thanks to a whole team of people who share a vision. I am surrounded by an effervescent team of people who share my ideas and want to see them grow, which gives me faith that they are concepts that also resonate with other people as well. Every body works hard; every body needs a break; and it seems to me that a spa break is a pretty good place to start.
Abi Wright is a shortlister of the 2012 Women of The Future Awards.
The awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday 20 November and is hosted by Real Business in association with Shell.