The Women in Wellness Awards: Innovator Winner

Graphic by Kara Magliaro

The fourth category we're announcing of our Women in Wellness Awards is the Innovator of the Year. This award honors an inventor, formulator, or out-of-the-box thinker who has introduced a new method, technology, or product.

WINNER: Annbeth Eschbach, founder and CEO, Exhale Enterprises

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.”

FINALIST: Leslie Baumann, M.D., founder and CEO, Baumann Cosmetic and Research Institute/Skin Type Solutions

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A dermatologist, a researcher, an entrepreneur, and an author of three best-selling books, including the New York Times best-seller The Skin Type Solution (Bantam Books, 2006), Leslie Baumann, M.D., was a professor of Dermatology at the University of Miami where she founded the first Academic Cosmetic Dermatology Research Institute in the U.S. in 1997. In 2009, she founded Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute (BCRI), which is recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology. She eventually went on to launch a company called Skin Type Solutions (STS), a store-in-store retail model that utilizes a patented software-based scientific methodology. Physicians use STS to diagnose the patient’s Baumann Skin Type and prescribe a skincare regimen chosen from more than 50 brands. STS is now used by 112 doctors in 88 locations in 20 states and is rapidly growing. It is one of the largest woman-run franchises in the U.S.

FINALIST: Ann Brown, founder and CEO, Saltability

After more than 20 years in spa management and being licensed in all areas of spa, Ann Brown founded the Himalayan salt-based company Saltability. She designed a patented eco-friendly warmer that heats pure, hand-carved Himalayan salt stones to be used for salt-stone massage. Winner of the 2016 ISPA Innovate Award, Saltability has since branched out to offer salt walls, saunas, and other related concepts as well as continuing education for massage therapists. “When I first saw the categories for the 2017 Women in Wellness Awards, I immediately thought of Ann, my mentor and now friend,” says Kristen Brown, midwest account executive at Sothys. “It wasn’t a matter of if she deserved the nomination but which one was the most fitting. Ann is a leader in many facets of this industry, and she is constantly driven for growth and improvement within herself, her team members, and the industry newcomers she graciously shapes. When Ann is on a project, ideas come to light.”

FINALIST: Tammy Fender, founder, Tammy Fender Holistic Skincare

For more than 25 years, Tammy Fender has served as a pioneer in the field of holistic wellness. As a renowned esthetician in Palm Beach, she is known for her legendary facials, which incorporate all-botanical formulas that she custom blends for clients. Working with sacred botanical remedies to restore vibrancy and wellness on every level—from the cellular to the spiritual—she is an authority on skin health and holistic living, and her unprecedented approach taps into ancient herbal medicinal traditions and a vast knowledge of aromatherapy, botany, chemistry, medicinal science, and sacred healing modalities. She founded her eponymous skincare collection to enrich, purify, and protect the skin. Her philosophy revolves around the idea that “all cells have a consciousness, and being that we are all made of energy and purity, so must we put the same into our body and onto our skin.”

FINALIST: Ellie Whalen, founder and CEO, Sprayology

With an eye on prevention, Ellie Whalen has spent the past 17 years working to enhance the wellness market with innovative and healthy solutions. She has long encouraged people to listen to the data their bodies provide and to treat the changes they observe naturally. Whalen is passionate about providing easy-to-use natural products that work. Her Sprayology line of homeopathic sprays blends science and homeopathy, time- honored natural medicine, to improve healing and wellbeing naturally.

Congratulations to all of our finalists and our Innovator of 2017, Annbeth Eschbach. Check back here on American Spa online tomorrow, September 22, for our final installment of the Women in Wellness Awards with the finalists and winner of the Industry Icon Award.

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