“When I was little I didn’t have a dream career,” smiles Lindsay Koropchuk. “My dream was a job where I could walk around in heels with a briefcase.”
Heels and briefcases are perks of the job now that Lindsay has risen to the position of Spa Manager at Sense, A Rosewood Spa at Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia. There’s also the prestige that comes from running one of the city’s most spectacular spas in what Condé Nast Traveler magazine recently named as one of the World Best New Hotels.
The Blanche Macdonald Spa School graduate has extra reason to be proud of her spa. She played a pivotal role in its creation.
“When I started working for Rosewood, the Spa and the Hotel hadn’t opened,” she explains. “When I came on board I had to take the standards of practice from all Rosewood’s previous spas and make them my own. I wrote most of the protocols for the treatments and had a hand in interviewing and hiring the staff as well.”
“Rosewood’s Corporate Spa Director has done her best to ensure that there are common threads that run through all the Sense Spas across the world, although they’re all very different. Rosewood’s philosophy is ‘Sense of Place’. We’re the first Sense Spa in Canada, so we try to use indigenous products both in our treatments and our décor. We want it to resonate that you’re in Vancouver with everything we do. Ancient Secrets is a line we use that’s made from all BC ingredients. And because Vancouver is so multicultural and such a foodie environment we decided to base our treatments around the idea of different cuisines. We created a menu of Spa Tapas – little samplers of 25-minute treatments.”
It’s hard for Lindsay to contain her enthusiasm for Sense. It’s her baby, after all. Looking back though, Lindsay didn’t always know that she’d find her niche as a high-end esthetics perfectionist. She just recognized a good opportunity when it arrived.
Anyone who is successful in the spa industry has a passion for people.
“I never went to a spa as a teenager,” she recalls. “I never had a facial or anything like that. I was a tomboy doing a lot of sport, but I was always playing with makeup, hair and fashion too. When I graduated high school I met someone who was running her own esthetics business in a private room in a salon. I liked the idea of having my own business and the flexibility of esthetics – the variety of treatments she was providing – and I wanted a business of my own.
“I visited spas around Vancouver and asked them, if you were to hire an esthetician, what do you look for and what school do most of them graduate from? Everyone I spoke to, Blanche Macdonald was the first name they’d mention. I visited the Spa School and met with a Career Director. She told me that it wasn’t going to be a fluffy course and that the science behind it was the equivalent of a first year nursing program. I thought – this is for me!”
Once she started classes at Canada’s top Spa School, she knew she’d made the right decision.
“I loved it! I was interested and looked forward to classes every day. I wanted to know why things happen to the skin and how to fix it. I did well, but it wasn’t easy. I liked the hands-on element to the program. Facials were my favourite, although I liked pedicures as well. I really enjoyed the transformation of something that isn’t normally deemed the best feature on someone’s body and transforming that.”
Lindsay had secured a job as an Esthetician at Spa Utopia in Langley before she’d even graduated. Once she was there, sure enough, she started climbing the career ladder, becoming a Trainer then the Assistant Head of Department.
“I’ve always been a people person,” she continues. “So it was a natural progression to be working with people and making them feel better about themselves. It feels so nice to perform a facial or a massage and feel the person relaxing into you. It’s still relaxing for me to see that change in a guest.
This is an industry that's forever growing.
“I liked being a part of a team at Spa Utopia. I’d always want to be doing something more. I’d be learning protocols for the spa desk about how to greet guests. I’d naturally investigate all the different departments, and Spa Utopia saw that. They were looking for a Department Head of Esthetics at Spa Utopia’s Pan Pacific location in Downtown Vancouver, and they asked me to apply for that position. Once I got the job I was in charge of editing protocols there, ensuring the Esthetics Department was following those protocols, monitoring quality control, and holding Department Head meetings. I worked a lot with the Guest Services Department. And I still had a few regular guests from Langley would come into Vancouver to see me.”
Lindsay takes a lot of pride in recalling that even when she’d risen to a management position, clients were more than willing to make the journey from Langley just to see her. She was glad to see them too.
“Anyone who is successful in the spa industry has a passion for people. It’s such a great feeling when you connect with a guest on a personal level and you can provide a better service because of that. Guests will come back to you because of that too.”
Lindsay’s career reached new heights when she became Spa Director at Casbah Day Spa in White Rock. It was there where she heard that the Hotel Georgia was reopening and that they were looking for a Spa Manager. It’s been a perfect fit ever since.
“We really didn’t know how the Spa was going to turn out when we first came into this space. Although I knew that when I was hiring estheticians the first thing I was looking for passion. Versatility and flexibility were important too. A couple of our spa therapists came from Blanche Macdonald. It was good to start with a group of people who were open to change.”
It’s such a great feeling when you connect with a guest on a personal level and you can provide a better service because of that.
Creating Sense from scratch was hard work. Now it’s up and running, welcoming guests (both visitors to our city and discerning Vancouver residents), it doesn’t mean Lindsay’s job has become any easier.
“There’s always room for improvement,” she insists. “It’s basically a business within a business here. Throughout the day I’m going to meetings, ordering product, looking at budgets. And every morning I have a daily briefing with all the other Department Heads in the hotel. We’ll talk about what’s going on through the day and what special guests, VIPs and celebrities, are coming in. Sorry, I can’t disclose any of their names.”
Lindsay laughs when she says that, but she’s serious too. It’s what running an elite hotel spa is all about.
“One of our responsibilities is to respect all our guests’ privacy. When I brief my team I always talk about our Rosewood Responsibilities. Those are so important. Seeing guests happy at the end of their visit is still my favourite part of this job. I feel even prouder seeing that now than when I was doing treatments. When I see happy, relaxed guests I know their experience was good and that their spa attendants and estheticians have been trained well, we’re using good products and every aspect of what we’re doing is working.”
Lindsay is living proof that anything and everything is possible in Vancouver’s booming esthetics industry. By the time you read this she might be helping set up a new spa in a Rosewood Hotel somewhere in the Caribbean or Middle East. Opportunities that exciting are still arriving.
“This is an industry that’s forever growing,” she insists. “It’s gone from something that was a luxury to becoming an element of people’s personal maintenance. Our guests are about 35% men here, which is so many more than there were ten years ago.”
And, as she imagined as a girl, the heels and briefcase are all part of the spa management magic.
“Wearing heels every day has lived up to my expectations,” she laughs, “but I don’t carry a briefcase much. I carry a Rosewood Georgia Hotel bag instead!”