Meet Mark Walton, CEO of Voya.
What was the path that led you into the spa industry?
You could say I kind of grew up in the ‘Spa industry’ as Voya evolved from my family’s widely acclaimed family-run seaweed bathing house. Seaweed baths are not traditional spas as such; we actually struggle for a title, seaweed bath house, very much so a public amenity, rather than an exclusive resort. They first opened in the village of Strandhill in 1912 and though it was closed for many years, we reopened in the 90’s and are continued today by my brother, Neil Walton.
Kira and I, as a newly married couple, decided to create a small range of organic seaweed products and treatments to compliment the family run bath house and also to allow clients and others to experience an authentic seaweed based spa experience at home. Since then, it has been a whirlwind, 37 (at the last count) counties later, here we are.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Wow, where do I begin, this year marks Voya’s 11th year in business; I never would have thought we would have come this far, from a fledgling husband and wife start-up to a multinational company; all the while honoring our initial guiding principles of being organic and sustainable everyday and in every way. Our recent carbon neutral accreditation and packaging made form reclaimed seaweed is pretty awesome. Our constantly evolving retail offering now includes more than 50 products from advanced facial, bodycare, and a lifestyle range. Our signature ocean-inspired treatment menu is now distributed worldwide and is carried by the world’s top five star spas and hotels. Finally, within the last year we have extended our product offering through partnering with Emirates Airlines providing exclusive amenity products in First and Business Classes on flight and in lounges.
Kira and I are really proud of the committed team of professionals who we are happy to call colleagues and friends; we have one life so it helps if you can share it with amazing people. We’re very proud of what we have achieved to date and accredit this to our incredibly loyal and passionate customer base, we don’t need to ‘sell’ Voya, our ambassadors do it for us all the time.
What qualities do you look for in your spa staff?
I look for commitment, integrity, dedication, and love of the brand. I truly believe if you have genuine passion for the brand that you work for, it makes your job all that truly more satisfying. We have a saying, which became a mantra, (cringe moment its actually framed in our office), “There has to be a better way….” I suppose we challenge our staff to question the norm, to not accept what has been done before and what is possible. This ethos manifests itself in making truly effective and functional formulations, beautiful and environmentally friendly packaging, to ensure our footprint is a positive one on this planet. We look for passion, we seek passion. You can train everything else but you are born with passion. Not everyone is right for us and us for them, but it also means the people who are right are really right and genuinely love working with us.
What’s your favorite skincare ingredient?
Seaweed, of course. From a young age, I have grown up surrounded by the sea and have a deep appreciation of the benefits of seaweed. Seaweed naturally absorbs its nourishment from the sea. As a result, it contains countless minerals, vitamins, and beneficial ingredients in high concentrations that deeply hydrates, nourishes, and repairs the skin. We work with three Irish Universities and a number of international independent research facilities; we feel we are only scratching the surface of this wonderful ingredient. We are very fortunate to have 800+ species on our doorstep and we think we will continue to discover more for decades to come and the applications are varied, cosmetic of course, but also food, nutraceutical, and even pharma. It’s an extremely exciting time for us.
What new spa treatment would you like to try?
To be honest and all bias aside, I can’t wait to try Voya’s new Mindful Dreams treatment, which we have just launched. In developing this new treatment we set out to create a product and experience to calm the mind, release stress, and create the elements necessary to promote a restful and refreshing night's sleep. Capturing a perfect night’s sleep can seem impossible in this era of constant noise, technology, and stress.
The new Mindful Dreams sleeping ritual is a world-class spa treatment that uses a mixture of wellness and massage techniques to decompress and relax the body and mind, melting away stresses, strains, and tensions. Combining the highly therapeutic ‘Tranquil’ retail range and an exquisite full Voya body massage, the ritual evokes instant peacefulness and nurtures inner mindfulness, calmness, and serenity.
How do you like to spend your time away from work?
In Ireland, we are fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful coastlines mountains and lakes. If I am not walking the beach with our dog Buddy or ‘trying’ to surf a few waves (I’m not getting any younger people), generally you will find me fly-fishing. I’m blessed to live in the beautiful village I do, even though it’s not the easiest place to get to, I wouldn’t live anywhere else, well except in the winter maybe.