"Crazy Concept" to Spa Consultant
years ago, everyone to whom Sarah Hazel described her business plan
thought she was "a little crazy," she says. Quite simply,
they hadn't seen anything like it; Hazel's concept was brand-new
in the spa industry - so new that she couldn't even get a business
loan, and had to start her project on a shoestring budget. Yet today
her spa concept is wildly popular - both with clients and with spas
that want to incorporate her ideas into their facilities.
was Hazel's idea? A spa that caters to an often-overlooked area
of the body. At The
Barefoot Sage, in Portland, Oregon, clients receive massage,
hydrotherapy, clay and seaweed baths, essential-oil therapy, Asian
bodywork, and rock-and-gemstone therapy - all targeting the feet.
idea that addressing the feet can have a healing effect on the body
is not a new idea; many traditions around the world have some form
of therapeutic foot-massage techniques, Hazel says, and some Asian
countries address the feet in ways similar to The Barefoot Sage's.
"But I knew of no spa that placed it at the center of its service
and placed that service in the context of a social teahouse atmosphere,"
as her spa does, she says.
love feet, and I felt they were deserving of tremendously more care
and attention," she adds.
elements of the therapies offered at The Barefoot Sage are a synthesis
of techniques stemming from many cultures.
massage techniques incorporate Chinese meridian and point theory;
the social aspect of bathing together and little things like the
brisk rubdown with towels after massage are derived from Turkish
bath houses," Hazel explains. "The essential-oil combinations
are based in part on Egyptian and Ayurvedic references, and the
Ayurvedic warm-oil bath is an adaptation of a vata-reducing
spa's alternating hot-and-cold baths are derived from Hazel's hydrotherapy
training as a naturopath. Her training also included botanical and
physical medicine. She also earned a massage license, and has studied
Ayurvedic and Oriental medicine, as well as reflexology.
Mary Roney's favorite treatment is the 60-minute Foot Zen, a combination
hot-water bath and cold-water splash followed by a 30-minute foot
love the atmosphere that they've created," Roney says of the
spa. "It's as if you walk in off the street and all your cares
are gone, from the moment you walk in, and then you sit down and
have one of the foot therapies - and it's as if you never want to
had planned to launch a marketing campaign for her spa, but found
that business grew rapidly, simply by word of mouth. The Barefoot
Sage sees between 100 and 250 clients per week, both for the foot
treatments and for full-body massage, and organizations often book
the spa for group sessions. Business owners' staff or clientele,
book-club members, birthday celebrants, couples on dates, families,
and bridal-shower parties have all booked group treatments at the
Hazel, the addition of "spa owner" to her resume has been
fulfilling, both personally and professionally.
was busy and successful [as a naturopath] in many ways, but I felt
I was missing something," she says. "I felt that there
was some element to my work that was unique to myself that I wasn't
expressing. Finally, I had a vision, [and] the whole concept came
to me in one big flash."
addition to maintaining her naturopathic practice, directing the
spa, formulating new therapies and training her staff of 30 therapists,
Hazel stays busy consulting to the spa industry, helping spas incorporate
her therapy concepts. And along with her clients, she's enjoying
the therapies at The Barefoot Sage.
able to have a foot bath and massage any time I want one is the perfect
solution to my own stress-management needs," she says. "If
[The Barefoot Sage is] different, it is simply because I wanted to
be able to have the kind of experience I was not getting when I went
to other spas. I simply created what I wanted to experience."