As entries open for the Professional Beauty Awards 2015, winner of Therapist of the Year 2014, Sarah Soffe of SenSpa, tells Lucy Douglas how it felt to win aged just 22 and how she’s now using the accolade
How did it feel to win Therapist of the Year 2014?
Amazing. I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion. Knowing you’ve worked so hard, then getting as far as the final six, and then to actually win was absolutely fantastic. I was so surprised, especially up against the other girls that were in the finals with me, knowing that they were a few years older and more experienced. It just proves that if you have the drive then you can succeed and reach your goals.
Who has inspired you in your career?
Lina Lotto, the spa director here at SenSpa [at Careys Manor in Hampshire], and also my manager Tina Herridge, who has previously won an award. I wanted to work towards where she is. To have her support throughout it was amazing. Also, to know I’m now a role model to the other girls has been great. Some of them want to go for the Professional Beauty Awards this year because I’ve been through it.
SenSpa, Careys Manor, Hampshire
How have you developed as a therapist?
Last year I started a management NVQ, so I can work more on the business side. I also did a retail NVQ to learn about different ways to retail to guests. I can pass that on to my team to help them with their sales. At the moment I’m learning traditional Thai massage, and now my manager is on maternity leave I have stepped up to a more managerial role. We have extra training every six months, so we’re always recapping and making sure we’re up to date.
How many therapists do you look after?
23 altogether, including all our Thai therapists and also the Western therapists. It’s good because it’s challenged me to learn two different cultures. So I’m learning how to speak and act with the Thai girls and also changing the way I act with the Western girls, to behave fairly to all of them.
We’re always educating our therapists, saying, “If you notice anything good in other industries or in other spas, then let us know”, so we can continuously improve. They get rewarded for ideas we implement, so it’s nice for them to have input into the business.
Have they been inspired by your success?
Some of the other girls are interested in entering the Professional Beauty Awards this year, so I’m helping them and mentoring them with their applications. My advice would be, “If you’re confident in what you’re doing, go for something and see how far you can get”. There’s always the chance of getting there.
I’ve been into my old college in Totton, near Southampton, as well, because they wanted to know about what I had to do to get to where I am now. A few of the students there were entering awards in the college sector, so I was able to give advice on how to prepare for trade tests and interviews. I think it helped them to hear from someone who’d been through the same pressures.
Do you think it’s tough for young therapists coming through these days?
Yes, because most spa owners want people with experience. When I started here at SenSpa, I was the first one they took straight from college, so I was a risk for them, and had to prove myself.
My advice to any girls in college is to get as much work experience as you can. If you want to go into a spa environment, get a job as a general assistant to get used to the area and what’s expected of you. And train as much as you can so you’ve got a wide variety of skills on your CV. Then you can prove yourself at interviews.
Sarah Soffe, Therapist of the Year
What makes a really great treatment?
The whole experience – from the moment you collect your client until you take them back. As soon as they walk into the treatment room I want to give them that “wow” experience. Here, we have valances that go around the bed, which make it look like it’s floating with lights underneath. Little touches like that add to the whole experience. Then of course there are the techniques that you use, and you should really focus on the client’s needs so you give them the best treatment you can, no matter how many you’ve done throughout the day.
Do you think clients have higher expectations than they used to?
Yes, especially with all the different technologies out there now, which offer quick fixes without surgery. There’s more you can do with a facial, like manual lymphatic drainage, which you can use to plump up an area rather than having Botox or going under the knife. That’s definitely changed because it used to be surgery or nothing.
What would be your dream job?
I’m happy where I am, but I would love to work towards owning my own salon. That would be my ultimate goal – designing and putting my own personal touch on it. But there are so many branches you can take in this industry, so I want to experience as much as I can first. At the moment, being quite young and working my way up to a management role has given me so much experience and knowledge in areas that you don’t think about when you first train to be a therapist.