Sheila Otieno-Osanya, South Africa’s Spa Dynamo
I became acquainted with Sheila Otieno-Osanya just four short years ago. Her consulting company The Spa People was gaining momentum and a fine reputation as she transformed many upscale award winning spas in Africa.
She has been an ongoing inspiration as I’ve watched her travel thousands of miles from Thailand to Las Vegas, Nevada to hone her craft while maintaining an active position on the board of the South African Spa Association.
I was able to break into Sheila’s hectic schedule and have a chat to discover what frustrates and inspires her as she embarks upon the opening her own establishment-The Spa at Marion on Nicol.
LHB-When did you first know that you wanted to work in the spa industry?
SOO- My background is actually in hospitality, and I studied hotel management at The Swiss Hotel Management School Les Roches, in Switzerland. I moved to South Africa in 2001, as the Deputy General Manager for a 4 star hotel that also happened to have a spa. All my fellow managers were male and the owner of the hotel asked me to take over the management of the spa in addition to my other responsibilities as he felt it needed a “woman’s touch”.
I loved working in the spa and it soon became my passion. The spa grew under my management, and monthly turnover increased. We eventually had to build additional treatment rooms in order to accommodate guest requests. At that point, the owner of the hotel asked me to focus exclusively on the spa and appointed me Spa Director.
LHB-You have a very extensive education. Is there any particular area of training that you feel was invaluable to your success?
SOO-My training and work experience in Switzerland definitely has played a huge role in my career success.
LHB-What made you decide to open your own spa?
SOO-I own a spa consulting company – The Spa People, which has been in operation since January 2009. There are quite a few spa consulting companies in South Africa. Some of them have created training programs for spa staff. Others have developed their own skin care and body product ranges.
I decided that my point of difference would be that I would be the only spa consultant who actually owned and operated my own successful spa. This would give clients peace of mind when choosing my company for their spa consulting services. Owning a spa will also help me keep abreast of industry trends. I will also have the opportunity to train and develop spa staff, which is a passion of mine.
LHB-There are a lot of day spas in South Africa What makes yours different than others?
SOO-Personal service, luxurious and peaceful environment, results focused products and a well educated team with years of experience who are passionate about what they do.
LHB-Are there any aspects of the spa industry that frustrate you or that you would change?
SOO-I am often frustrated by spa owners who do not regularly train and develop their staff and also by spa owners who do not put enough emphasis on marketing their businesses.
LHB-What advice can you give to newbies in the industry?
SOO-Working in the spa industry can be very demanding but as long as you are excited and passionate about what you are doing, and ensure that you are constantly developing yourself through continuous education, you will be a success in this wonderful industry.
Want more information about The Spa at Marion on Nicol or The Spa People? Connect with Sheila at thespapeople.co.za
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