Four years travelling and working in Europe taught Jo Watson a thing or two about the finer things in life. "I left New Zealand in my early twenties, and I was a real "soap and water "Kiwi girl," she recalls. When Wellington beckoned her back in 1991, Jo threw herself into an industry still new to New Zealand, opening a small beauty therapy clinic out the back of a hair salon on Featherston Street.
This year, Urban Sanctuary is celebrating its 20th anniversary, with Jo and business partner Linley Ramsay, a fellow beauty therapist, at the helm. It's been named Decleor New Zealand Salon of the Year six times and shows no signs of slowing down.
Jo and Linley have seen for themselves how working life has changed in the corporate arena. "Women have really taken on their own identity in the business world," says Jo. "They have families and careers - but they still need a little time for themselves."
As employees work longer and longer hours, both women and men are increadingly valuing a little indulgence. These days a little relaxation is more a necessity than a luxury - but Jo and Linley take pride in creating their own work-life balance. "We love Wellington because you can find a lifestyle that suits you and stick with it."
As well as managing the business and admin side of things, Jo and Linley work hands-on in the clinic. They're particularly proud of their signature treatment. which they describe as a "facial for the entire body." Both are also yoga enthusiasts and believe in offering a holistic service. "We say to our staff: "Remember to work with your head, your heart and your hands...we want our clients to leave feeling better than when they came in. That's achieved through making sure there is plenty of positive energy."
As I step out of the blustering, numbing cold of Wellington’s winter into beauty therapy and day spa Urban Sanctuary, my first thought is, ‘what a fitting name’. The door closes behind me and I’m met with calm, quiet instrumental music, my nostrils fill with natural oils, my fingers start to warm and I can physically feel my body relaxing. The sign on the door says, "take a breath", and I take a few.
Jo Watson began the business, and now a team of eight, including business partner Lynley Ramsay, are celebrating Urban Sanctuary’s 20th year. Considering the competition within the industry, that longevity speaks volumes. I have high expectations for my treatment.
I’m receiving a birthday special today - a two-hour long "face and body experience" that includes the ‘deluxe facial’. Having never done this before it is with nervous anticipation that I strip into the very ‘attractive’ disposable g-string provided by therapist Jaicelyn, and slip between the soft towels on the heated massage bed. I’m wishing I’d shaved my legs and worked out more - but when Jaicelyn returns she assures me that nothing could surprise her. As she rubs me all over with exfoliant I begin to relax, and we chat about all sorts of things. Apparently beauty therapists aren’t trained in matters psychological - but Jaicelyn may as well have been, she’s so easy to talk to.
It’s hard to remember what happened in what order, but over the next two hours my small talk disappeared as my entire body was exfoliated (the grit removed with hot, moist towels) and massaged with natural oils. The only thing that kept me from nodding off was the fear of missing any of the massage - Jaicelyn worked my back and neck until I had melted into the bed, my thighs, calves and feet, my arms and hands (who’d have thought a hand massage could feel so good?) and my face - seeking pressure points and stroking my temples ‘til my whole body was buzzing. She analysed my skin and talked me through what it needed, but without ever pushing a product on me to buy. She even tidied up my eyebrows.
When the treatment was finished, I was left to ‘take as much time as I like’ for the transformation back to city-dwelling go-getter. I didn’t want to leave the bed - but a cup of herbal tea and 10 minutes over a magazine eased the transition.
As I floated out of Urban Sanctuary I was moving half as quickly as everyone else; looking around me and smiling, where everyone else was eyes-straight-ahead and frowning. Ramsay had told me that, "What sets us apart is that we view treatment holistically, using our hands and our hearts. We like to transport people back into their lives with grounded harmony."
Before today I would’ve scoffed at that kind of talk, but it really has left me feeling calm and at peace with the world, with the added bonus that my skin looks amazing. If there’s someone in your life who deserves a special treat - I couldn’t recommend Urban Sanctuary highly enough. Considering the effect it will have on their disposition, it’s a gift for everyone around them too.
This article is from the Capital Times Website www.capitaltimes.co.nz - 4th August 2011