Inspirational Female Founders – Abi Wright

Introducing Abi Wright…

Meet Abi. Founder of Spabreaks.com an online Spa Travel company which offers affordable and exclusive offers for spa and theatre packages, recovery retreats for ‘singletons, hen parties, groups and everyone in between’.

How did you come up with your business idea?

I worked in the world of hotel spas for about 10 years before I started Spabreaks.com. During this time, I really got to know how many amazing experiences there were available, however the message wasn’t really getting out there.  Everyone had a very linear idea about what spas were about – often deemed to be just for rich, perfect women with perfect lives and lots of money. 

I really wanted to show everything that spas had to offer – from the real wellness side of things to the fun of an afternoon tea with friends and facials, and how important all of that is to wellbeing.  So, when I set up Spabreaks.com I really wanted to showcase spas differently, market them more dynamically and make it really easy for individuals to find the right spa break for them through the advice and expertise of our team.

My goal was to bridge the divide between commercial success and brand integrity for the many amazing spas in the UK and around the world.

Who has been your stand out business mentor?

I have not really had a mentor of my own, which is why I think I am so passionate about wanting to provide support for other young people, especially women, to feel supported and empowered to achieve their goals in work and life. 

I don’t come from a remarkable background.  I wasn’t remarkable at school.  I failed every maths test I ever took.  In fact, my teacher told me I wouldn’t amount to anything at all.  I don’t have any formal business training, and I started my company at the same time as becoming a mum.  But I am doing it and I have amazing people around me, working with me every day. 

That said, while I don’t have mentors I do have women who I thoroughly admire in the industry and who I take real inspiration from – people like Sue Harmsworth, who founded ESPA and has made a phenomenal contribution to the wellness industry.

What advice would you you give to a promising entrepreneur?
  • Know your industry – the best ideas come from people who have really observed the industry they want to be in and understand how it works and what its limitations have been.
  • Trust your gut – get other peoples’ opinions of course, it’s good due diligence.  But if you know your industry then you can afford to trust your gut on the decisions you make.  Sometimes that’s all you have.  At least if it doesn’t pay off then you have the peace of mind that you did what you thought was right at the time.
  • Surround yourself with people who share your vision and are passionate about driving it forward.  You don’t want a team of yes men around you, but you do want people with the energy and enthusiasm to make things happen.  You definitely don’t want people with a ‘can’t do’ attitude because they will wear you down.

How would define your leadership style?

I really work hard to try to empower other people to feel confident in their roles.  I am always involved in every aspect of the business.  I think it’s really important to muck in and know what’s going on, but I don’t believe in micromanaging your team.  I really think it’s important to build trust in the people you work with.  That way it becomes an amazing and really powerful working environment.

How can businesswomen support other businesswomen?

I really think it starts with the attitude we bring into the room to be honest.  I think sometimes there is a culture of trying to bring other women down, criticising and I don’t like that.  As a woman you’re often damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but I really believe that a rising tide lifts all boats.  We’re all in this together, so be helpful, be positive and be encouraging.  There’s room for us all to be successful!

” Failure is part of becoming successful ” – What has been your most memorable failure and what did you learn from it?

I don’t think it’s one particular failure that I would highlight, I think it’s lots of little things that didn’t quite work out as planned, or perhaps more importantly than anything it wasn’t a reality of failure but my feeling like a failure at times – that has been challenging.

Like I said before, I was never exceptional at school and I didn’t have a big fancy business degree I could point to.  I have always felt a bit like the underdog, and I have always been proving to myself, as well as to anyone else, that I can make it all work. 

That’s something you have to square with in your own head, but it is a driving force.  I think the biggest challenge for me, as well as the biggest driver, has been balancing being a working mum.  There have been plenty of times I have worried I have done the wrong thing, that my children might resent me for working a lot.  I have always tried to make sure I am home when they are home, and flexible working has been a big part of that, but it doesn’t stop you from worrying and that’s always felt like the biggest gamble because you don’t really know the result until it’s too late. 

That said, my kids are getting to an age when they do voice their opinions and thankfully they are really proud that mummy is out there working hard.  That feeling and that knowledge has also really informed how I try to support my own staff to balance home and work, especially when they become parents or their personal lives present challenges.

What three things do you absolutely need to help you through your toughest work days?
  • My husband
  • My children
  • My team

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