The First Women Awards launched in 2005 and are proudly leading the way in recognising the many achievements of exceptional women. The awards celebrate female trailblazers who have broken glass ceilings, removed barriers for other women and who have disrupted established industry norms through innovation.
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, so she 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 and pioneering industry change, particularly concerning spas and cancer, and is Europe’s largest spa booking company.
“The first online spa agent to build an online portal for spas to communicate availability…”
When Abi first launched Spabreaks.com her goal was to market spas differently, showcasing their vital role in our health and wellbeing, making them more accessible, and opening up the spa industry where people had been marginalised before. In an online-only world of discounts she based her business on a London call centre and customer service. Today Spabreaks.com has more than 80 members of staff, was ranked number two in the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 in 2012 and manages 6000 enquiries a week.
Abi’s other awards have included, being one of 12 winners in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Regional Finals, winning the European Business Award for Leading Woman in Business for Inclusivity and Diversification in 2016, and being one of Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 in 2014.
“Helped to break down prejudicial barriers against cancer patients…”
So far, Spabreaks.com has come a long way to achieving its goals. It was the first online spa agent to build an online portal for spas to communicate availability to us and sell from allocations on the website – a big change for an industry that worked with paper and pen.
Abi pioneered Recovery Retreats (an industry first), for people with or recovering from cancer, and they have helped to break down prejudicial barriers against cancer patients. Recovery Retreats are part of an ongoing effort to ensure no cancer patient is again turned away from treatments due to a lack of training amongst therapists. She also launched Accessible Spas making booking easier for anyone with a disability.
“The London based call centre was designed to attract more women…”
On another note, Abi has created more opportunities for employees. The London based call centre was designed to attract more women (although not to the exclusion of men) into a male dominated world of sales and as a result her skilled senior management team is 98% female. In 2017 we introduced its first apprentice, believing we now have the correct nurturing environment for young educated females, and we have started to look at a wider home working programme for part time parents wanting flexibility.
Following a beautiful black tie event last week, Abi said that the award meant a lot to her both personally and professionally as it epitomises all the things she holds to be important in her career. She said: “I am feeling very humble and thankful for the award, and I dedicate it to each and every one of my team who make Spabreaks.com the industry leader that it is.”
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