International Women’s Day

In honour of International Women’s Day, we caught up with three of our Aqua Sana managers and Group Spa Manager, Kay Pennington, for a chat about inspiring the next generation, being a good leader and the importance of mentors.

Kay Pennington

Aqua Sana Group Manager

Kay has more than 20 years’ experience in the spa and beauty industry, including opening her own salon and working with luxury brands. She joined Aqua Sana in 2016 and has been involved in the redesign of two spas and the launch of the first Aqua Sana in Ireland. In 2020, she was named Spa Leader of the Year at the Professional Beauty Awards.

Tell us about how you got into the spa and beauty industry.

My connection to the beauty industry probably started when I was three years old! I loved my toy hairdryer, hairbrush and lipstick! At the age of seven, I was blending my own perfume from roses and tulip petals and at 12 years old, I started a skincare regime. When I was 15, I got some work experience at a local hair and beauty salon. I was absolutely mesmerised by the whole atmosphere – the body language, etiquette, the connections with clients, the luxury products, the images, the decor. I saw the pride and effort that went into making the experience special for the clients who were investing in their own self-care. In that moment, I knew I wanted to be part of this. At 19, I had my own business and set sail from there!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

There’s three great pieces of advice I’ve received - keep it real and be yourself, always think positive, and don’t give up at the first hurdle.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Always trust your intuition, embrace change and be prepared for a rollercoaster experience!

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their career?

Discover and experience as much as you possibly can. Never stop learning new skills and practicing new trends.

Laura Freeman

Aqua Sana Manager, Woburn Forest

Laura started working in the beauty industry when she was 17 years old. After working in spas across Australia whilst traveling, she returned to the UK and worked her way up to spa manager at a national brand before joining Aqua Sana in 2014 as Assistant Manager and moving into her current role in 2018.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Work hard and listen to yourself, not anyone else.

Is there someone who has acted as a mentor to you, or helped you get to where you are today?

My friend and former colleague, Donna, taught me everything I know. We worked together at Champneys and then both moved to Aqua Sana, where she was the Spa Manager. She’s really encouraged me through every stage of my career and, even though we have different personalities, we work so well together!

Who is your role model?

That’s a hard one to answer – it changes all the time depending on the circumstances! I’d probably say, my dad. He was in the Royal Air Force, which I’m so proud of, and his work ethic is the reason I always strive for more. He’s the most selfless person I know.

How important is it for younger employees to have strong female role models?

It’s great for younger employees to see supervisors and managers who have worked their way up in the company and can really relate. A lot of us were in their shoes a few years ago, so it really emphasises that with hard work and dedication, you can progress as well. In our industry, I also think it’s so important to have strong male role models too – it adds diversity to the industry and shows that gender isn’t a barrier to progression.

Kadey English

Aqua Sana Manager, Longleat Forest

Kadey began working in a small local salon where she got her start in the beauty industry. Unfortunately, when the recession hit, the salon went into administration and Kadey found herself looking for a new role. She joined Aqua Sana as a Beauty Therapist in 2010 and was promoted to Senior Therapist in 2011. In 2013, she was promoted to Assistant Manager and, in 2015, she was appointed the first Deputy Aqua Sana Manager, a brand-new role which she helped to shape.

In 2017, she was seconded to Aqua Sana Manager and, in 2019, she took on the role on a permanent basis.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Your best is always good enough.

Is there someone who has acted as a mentor to you, or helped you get to where you are today?

When I was seconded to Aqua Sana Manager it was a huge step for me and it took me a while to find my feet. I took part in Center Parcs’ Women’s Development Programme at the same time, which gave me a newfound confidence. It taught me to recognise that I wasn’t in this role because of luck – I had earned it through hard work and determination.

I’ve also been really supported by the former Aqua Sana Manager, Jay. We still work closely together in his new role, but when I was Deputy Aqua Sana Manager, he really mentored, coached and supported me. I will forever be grateful to him for that.

Who inspires you?

I couldn’t pick one person – I find it really inspiring hearing about other people’s journeys, how they got to where they are and how they overcame challenges, both personally and professionally. I think women inspire other women.

How important is it for younger employees to have strong female role models in the business?

It’s so important to have relatable and real female role models. Lots of younger employees have grown up alongside social media and might have been inspired by female influencers, but there really is nothing more motivating than seeing a strong, confident, successful woman in the real world.

Caroline Newton

Aqua Sana Manager, Longford Forest

Caroline started out in the beauty industry 15 years ago, working as a beauty therapist before moving into spa management. She joined the business in 2019 and helped open the first Aqua Sana in Ireland, including recruiting and training the new team.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Concentrate on the present and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Who inspires you? 

My team, every single day.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their career? 

Work hard, but be kind to yourself.

How important is it for younger employees to have strong female role models in the business?  

I think it’s so important for younger employees to see people who have had a similar journey to them. But I think we also all act as role models to each other, and support each other in so many ways, every day. We can relate to the same struggles and challenges, both at work and in our personal lives, and we all help each other along the way.

Have you booked a break at Center Parcs? You can add a spa session or treatment to your break here.
Otherwise, call 03448 266205.