The Green Spa Network (GSN) recently announced the appointment of industry veteran Joanna Roche as executive director of the sustainable networking initiative for spas and spa professionals. American Spa sat down with the Massachusetts local to learn more about her history in the wellness industry, what her new position will entail, and so much more.
American Spa: Tell us a little about your background—how long have you been in the spa and wellness industries and how did you get your start?
Joanna Roche: My dad bought and developed an old estate into a hotel, Cranwell Resort and Golf Club, when I was 14. By the time I was 20, I had worked every possible job you can think of including night audit, breakfast chef, and PBX operator. Cranwell was recently purchased by Hyatt and is being rebranded as a Miraval property. After college and traveling, I went to work for Mel and Enid Zuckerman at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires (MA)—the property was four years old, and it was all hands on deck. I was fortunate to be on a young team, with a cutting edge brand forging the path to what we now know as wellness. The bonds our team created then have lasted these 20 plus years later and so many of my colleagues have contributed to shaping and leading our industry, and I am humbled to work alongside them still.
AS: What roles have you previously held, prior to joining GSN?
JR: I spent eight years at Canyon Ranch as the communications director; I've got a long–term consulting practice with luxury brands on business development and spa startups; and there was a stint as the executive vice president at Pierce Mattie Public Relations in NYC working with brands on their PR strategy before moving to Nantucket in 2012 to work as the wellness director at The Westmoor Club, a luxury private club has given me a diverse leadership and operational perspective. Most recently, I partnered with Suzanne Corcoran of Niche Wellness Group to develop The Beach House Spa at Ocean Edge (Brewster, MA) which we opened in May of 2017, incorporating several green and sustainable products and practices. I credit that with igniting the fire I feel about taking care of both the planet and our people. Alongside my career was always volunteerism—and a strong belief in giving back and making a difference. Whether it was serving as the president of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce, or on the Board of IS183 (local art school), or sitting on the Finance Committee for Lenox or now Nantucket, action and activism are important to me.
AS: Were you a member of GSN prior to becoming executive director?
JR: Yes I was a member, and followed the organization, because living on Nantucket I had developed an interest in sustainability and how to connect it to my work.
AS: What will be your responsibilities in your new role?
JR: My role, in conjunction with the board of GSN, is to inspire action—the kind of action that can regenerate the resources of our planet and our community. GSN’s greatest strength is creating connection with community, possessing the heart and soul that moves people to care more deeply about preserving our human and environmental capital.
AS: What are you most excited about doing in your new role?
JR: It’s all exciting! Working with this team and board of wise, dedicated, talented people who care deeply about elevating the conversation regarding sustainability to regeneration and making a measurable and distinct difference. We just launched our first annual action initiative, a partnership with WeForest.org to plant one million trees by next April. We’re working on launching a press event in NYC and a retail buyers field trip, as well as regional retreats across the country. We’re also working a growing our platform and influence so we can spread our message of Vital People, Vital Planet, through partnership, collaboration, and connection with a focus on positive intention—I can’t wait!
AS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
JR: Never stop learning, always be curious, don’t save the good dishes for Sundays, beauty is in everything, and the days are long but the years are short.
My Philosophy? Balance. It’s so important to feed both the left and right sides of the brain. The creative intuitive is balanced by the strategic, pragmatic realist. Learning to connect to that which brings us joy is so important. Our happiness is life comes from our journey, not from a destination. All of this work that I am passionate about—wellness activism—the strategy, the financial modeling, and leadership are balanced by meditation, yoga, making art, and writing.
Three important books to everyone should read: Drawdown by Paul Hawken, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman.