Announcing The 2017 Winners of the Women in Wellness Awards

Sue Harmsworth is this year's Women in Wellness Industry Icon.

Discover the winners of the 2017 Women in Wellness Awards. We are announcing this year's industry icon, innovator, mentor, visionary, and rising star. Find out more about the winners below and check out our digital issue, which has more about the finalists and a list of the nominees. 

Industry Icon Winner: Sue Harmsworth, chairman and founder, ESPA International

The Industry Icon award honors a long-time spa leader, at the spa or manufacturer level, who saw the potential of our industry and has influenced its growth and success.

Recognized as one of the world’s leading spa experts, Sue Harmsworth has devoted her life to spa and wellness since the age of 21. Her early career began in covering health and beauty as a journalist before she opened her first business, a salon in Toronto. She later opened a thalassotherapy resort in France and a health farm in the UK. Her approach was a holistic one, having therapists and medical professionals work side by side, focused on prevention as well as healing and helping people to deal with the stresses of everyday life. She eventually took this knowledge and visionary approach about what the industry should be offering and used it to create ESPA in 1993. Working with experts in natural science and incorporating traditional holistic therapies, she developed ESPA’s innovative product range, which is powered by plant actives, marine actives, and essential oils. Now one of the industry’s leading skincare brands, ESPA also specializes in the innovative design, development, and management of five-star spas in more than 60 countries. It’s no wonder Harmsworth was honored with a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2010 from the Queen in recognition of her service to the spa and beauty industry. Throughout her career, she has served as a pioneer in the industry and a global leader. From being a co-chair and board member at the Global Wellness Summit to being honored with the CEW Achiever Award, the ISPA Visionary Award, and more, her innovative, inspirational, and forward-thinking contributions have helped transform the industry. “My passion and ambition for the spa, wellbeing, and wellness industry has inspired me from the beginning and continues to do so as I celebrate my 45th year in the industry,” says Harmsworth. “It’s a privilege to be acknowledged as influencing the shape and success of such a powerful industry that I’m thrilled to be a part of.”

Innovator Winner: Annbeth Eschbach, founder and CEO, Exhale Enterprises

This award honors an inventor, formulator, or out-of-the-box thinker who has introduced a new method, technology, or product.

In 2003, Annbeth Eschbach forever changed the spa and fitness industry with the introduction of a unique wellbeing brand and business model that addresses both mind and body through spa and fitness. Widely recognized as a pioneer in mind-body transformation, she brought the Exhale brand to life. Prior to founding Exhale, Eschbach spent 12 years at Wellbridge, then the third-largest national spa and club operator, where she directed the company’s spa division and was responsible for the 50-property portfolio’s branding and marketing efforts. Today, with 26 locations in the U.S. and Caribbean, 17 hospitality partners, dozens of proprietary boutique fitness class programs and award-winning spa and healing programs, a large and engaged guest base, 1,500 associates, and most recently a partnership with Hyatt, Exhale has established itself as a wellbeing lifestyle brand, thanks to Eschbach’s guidance and innovative vision. “It is hugely validating to learn that the work we do and the emphasis we place on innovation is recognized,” says Eschbach. “From day one, we have stayed true to our belief that every improvement, new class, or program must originate from consumer demand. And we are dedicated to constantly evolving and embracing change. The one thing that never changes is that we operate in a constantly changing marketplace.”

Mentor Winner: Helga Hefner, manager of professional spa education, Aveda

Whether an educator, a leader of a group or organization, or a company head, our mentor is making a difference by serving as a trusted advisor and shining example to others.

A global trainer since 1989, Helga Hefner has spent years leading the development and education of Aveda Skin Care and Spa. Her career spans a lifetime of innovation, passion, and technical expertise. In fact, she owned one of the first Aveda Concept Salon/Spas. She also served as an Aveda distributor and developed The Art & Science of Esthiology curriculum. An inspiration to others, she received the Aveda Masters of the Arts Award and served as spa director for Ananda in the Himalayas, the first destination spa in India. She is a graduate of the Academy of Healing Nutrition and has worked as a holistic health counselor and a longevity nutrition coach. Hefner has also devoted herself to the study and practice of both Ayurveda and yoga, which she incorporates into her transformational programs and wellness retreats.  “Helga has always been and continues to be instrumental in guiding the future of the spa industry through her commitment to the wellbeing of every aspect of the human—skin, body, and mind,” says Kevin Molin, Aveda vice president, global education. “She is a passionate educator who inspires and motivates professionals around the world at all levels of their career, from student to service provider to trainer. Whether in India directing one of the top 10 spas in the world or in Minneapolis teaching a group of esthetic students, Helga is unwavering in her commitment to making a difference in the business of esthetics and the spa industry.”

Visionary Winner: Tara Grodjesk, president, Tara Spa Therapy; emeritus founder, Green Spa Network

The visionary inspires others with original ideas and a strong vision for the future of our industry as well as offers effective strategies to help achieve those goals.

As an entrepreneur with years of experience in holistic health and wellness, Tara Grodjesk is a true visionary in the industry. In addition to developing her successful namesake brand, she was also appointed chairwoman of ISPA’s first Taskforce on Greening and Sustainability and is an emeritus founder of the Green Spa Network (GSN), whose mission is to bring sustainable practices to the hospitality and spa industry. In fact, the GSN Dedicated Contributor Award is named in her honor. A certified massage therapist, a holistic health educator, an Ayurvedic practitioner, and an aromatherapist, Grodjesk has trained more than 3,000 massage therapists and estheticians and helped introduce Ayurveda to the U.S. spa industry. “It is such an honor to be recognized in the industry that I’ve been dedicated to for more than 25 years,” says Grodjesk. “I have been promoting wellness lifestyle in spas way before it was popular, and it is so rewarding to see what I have helped to shepherd in spa, such as Ayurvedic healing, personalized aromatherapy, seasonal wellness, greening and sustainability, and women in leadership.”

Rising Star Winner: Siai Faataui-Morales, licensed esthetician; CEO, Matalasi Skincare and Makeup.

The Rising Star is a newcomer to the industry. She is making an impact with her passionate and exciting ideas.

Bullied in school for having eczema, Siai Faataui-Morales spent her last two years of high school learning about makeup and working on her self-esteem. Since then, she has been passionate about providing others, especially teens, suffering from various skin conditions with makeup solutions. Getting her start in the industry in 2012, she has since been a pioneer and trailblazer in the Polynesian community. After embarking on getting her esthetician’s license, she soon after opened Matalasi Skin Care and Makeup (San Bruno, CA). There, she shares a balanced and holistic approach to skincare that focuses on supporting, repairing, and strengthening the functions of the skin. In addition to being a licensed esthetician, she is also a licensed medical assistant and phlebotomist. Owning the first Samoan-owned skincare facility in California, she is an inspiration and motivational speaker for youth and women in business. According to Faataui-Morales, her philosophy is: “Aspire to inspire, even when all odds are against you.”