Karina Stewart Named Owner & Operator Winner of American Spa's 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Announcing the Owner & Operator winner of American Spa's 2018 Women in Wellness Awards.

Back for its second year, American Spa’s Women in Wellness Awards honor the women in our industry for their contributions in making the world a better place. Nominated by their peers and chosen by acclaimed wellness journalists, these women are showing they’re a force with which to be reckoned. Making a profound impact in the industry and beyond, they are leaning in by serving on related industry boards and organizations, discovering untapped opportunities, giving back, and bringing their unique perspective to all that they do.

From September 24 through September 28, American Spa has been announcing two new winners of the 2018 Women in Wellness Awards each day. Today, discover the winner of the Owner & Operator Award.

Owner and Operator: This award honors the female owner of a spa or wellness facility who makes an impact by successfully managing with business acumen, creativity, integrity, and grace.

WINNER: Karina Stewart, cofounder, brand, and concept director, Kamalaya (Koh Samui, Thailand)

Committed to creating an environment where healing and harmonious transformation can flourish, Karina Stewart cofounded Kamalaya Koh Samui with her husband, John Stewart, in 2005. Her wellness journey began in Mexico where she was born and raised until the age of 15. There, she was influenced by her mother’s interest in natural healing and meditation, yoga, and Asian spiritual philosophies. Stewart later attended Princeton University. During that time, she took a year-long sabbatical to immerse herself in a meditation retreat under the same Himalayan yogi master as her future husband. She then attended California’s Yo San University, where she achieved a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine followed by internships in Japan and China. Stewart went on to create a health center in Kathmandu, Nepal, then collaborated on a research project in California with James Dahlgren, M.D., founder of the B Well Centre, and Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., DAOM, founder of the Tao of Wellness, to develop and test medical detoxification protocols combining modern medicine, TCM, and naturopathy. She also designed and directed medical detox programs at the Hall Centre in California. Today, Stewart incorporates her life experiences, training, and study of Asian healing traditions into Kamalaya’s integrated wellness approach, which has garnered numerous fans. “What troubles me the most about the wellness space is the rampant lack of authenticity, the cutting of corners to save a dollar and make a marketing claim, the vast sea of self-appointed unverified experts,” says Chase Polan, founder and CEO of Kypris Beauty. “This is everything that Karina and her beautiful resort are not. Karina is well educated and a passionate and persistent learner who has imbued her entire resort, its wellness programs, and unique experiences with the thoughtfulness, wisdom, and authenticity that wellness seekers deserve.” 

FINALIST: Angela Cortright, owner, Spa Gregorie’s Day Spas & Salons (Newport Beach and Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)

Deeply rooted in her Southern California community, Angela Cortright cofounded Spa Gregorie’s (Newport Beach, CA) with her husband in 1998. Since then, the full-service day spa has expanded with two additional locations in Rancho Santa Margarita and Del Mar, CA. Honored as Business Owner of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners Orange County and named an Enterprising Woman of the Year 2011 by Enterprising Women Magazine, Cortright is dedicated to raising standards for client and staff retention, revenues, profits, and retail sales in each of her spas. She is also a big believer in community service and donates generously to local charities with spa gift certificates and the Susan B. Komen foundation and other non-profits.  

FINALIST: Julie Nguyen, founder and CEO, Blu Water Day Spa, Nails, and Boutique (Kensington, MD)

Coming to the U.S. as a young teen, Julie Nguyen dreamed of opening a full-service spa. That dream came to fruition in 2012 when she opened Blu Water Day Spa, Nails, and Boutique (Kensington, MD). Her mission was to expose and heighten the expertise of other artists like herself in eyebrow design, nails, massage, and esthetics. “Julie is the hardest working entrepreneur I know,” says physical therapist Brooke Merriwether. “I’ve watched her take a nail file and a dream and turn it into a successful empire for the last 10 years with a passion for wellness and relaxation.” She didn’t stop there, though, as giving back to the community is essential to who she is and how she defines success. As a result, Blu Water Spa supports and fundraises for a number of local charities. Under Nguyen’s leadership and guidance, Arches of Love was created to provide innovative solutions to those suffering from hair-loss related health challenges. “Julie has extended her philanthropic work to her own country by building six homes for less fortunate elders in Vietnam and also fed 600 families,” says Sharan Z. Jayne, former special assistant to the director for media for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH). “Julie believes that owning a business isn’t about one’s personal success. It’s about how one contributes to the good of the world at large.” 

Stay tuned on American Spa online, as well on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for more info about the 2018 Women in Wellness Awards as well as our two 2019 Women in Wellness Leadership Conferences.


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