Travel broadens the mind, they say.
Natasha Aspin would certainly agree. Travelling and working abroad helped set her on the path to self-employment as a personal holistic therapist – typically helping busy mums, businesswomen and teachers reduce their stress levels via a range of treatments.
Now she is reaping the benefits with a growing business, based at her Fixby home.
“A lot of us these days are living life at 100 miles an hour,” says Natasha. “A lot of people find that this kind of therapy helps them de-stress. They also like to feel looked after.”
Huddersfield-born Natasha grew up in Edgerton and Lindley, but attended Bradford Girls Grammar School before starting A-levels at Greenhead College – then dropping out.
“My mum said I would always be working in the caring profession, right from school days,” she says. “I went to Greenhead, but decided it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to go to university.”
Instead, she took a course in beauty and complementary therapy at the White Rose School in Huddersfield. “It was a full-year course doing beauty and holistic treatments,” she says. “From early on, I wanted to go down the ‘complementary’ side rather than beauty treatment.
“It was the healing aspect that appealed to me. It was the physical benefits of massage, for instance, to relieve stress and muscle tension that interested me.”
Natasha met Stephanie Barraclough, her tutor and mentor, founder of the Northern School of Aromatherapy, and at the age of 18 started working for her when Stephanie set up her own spa at Eastthorpe, Mirfield. She went on to gain a diploma in holistic aromatherapy. She was there for two years before the travelling bug struck. “I spent a year backpacking in Australia,” says Natasha. “I started in Perth and Broom and went on to Darwin and the Northern Territories, then to Sydney.”
She returned from Australia and spent the next five years living in Spain, working at a number of spas and hotels – mainly in Marbella, providing treatments for British holidaymakers. Says Natasha: “I knew it was only going to be temporary. Eventually, I wanted to have my own business. I wanted to provide a personal service to my clients – rather than working at a big spa where it felt like being on a production line.”
Now her dream has come true. Natasha runs her own business from her home at Fixby. Family and friends – and the bank – have rallied round to help her convert the cellar of the property into a welcoming treatment room.
“The ground at the back of the house had to be dug out to provide access so that the treatment room is separate from the rest of the house,” she says. “It had to be tanked, plastered and flooring fitted. It all started in April last year with a local builder doing the work and it opened for business in July. I had four open nights before the official launch and it has been going great. I couldn’t be more happy.”
Former clients have rallied round while new customers are arriving though word-of-mouth. Natasha is also spreading the message via Twitter and is putting together a website as well. “It is working out quite well,” she says. “I don’t want to become a big spa operation. I don’t want to have a million customers. I don’t want clients to feel rushed. I want to be totally focused on each client, chat to them and have a cup of tea without them feeling they have to leave quickly.
“There is also a counselling aspect to it. The only way someone gets the full benefit from the treatment is if I make them feel safe and they can put their trust in me. You have to have people skills in this industry and that’s something I have also learned over the years.”
“I have been practising holistic therapies for 15 years and I have wanted my own business for the past two-and-a-half years. I have worked for large companies for a long time, which has been good because it has given me experience and helped me gain my qualifications.” As well as learning from Stephanie, Natasha has absorbed the teachings of other leaders in the field, including Renee Tanner, founder of the International Federation of Reflexologists and Gerry Pyves, originator of the “no hands” massage technique.
Providing treatments such as facials, body massages, Indian head massages, back, neck and shoulder massages may relax and invigorate her clients, but its hard work for Natasha. “I get worn out,” she admits. “It is a very physical job, providing massages and back scrubs and so on. It can be quite draining.”
Natasha is also coming to terms with the humdrum “business” side of things. “I am learning about how to run a business,” she says. “I have a business plan, I have targets in mind and I know what I have to do each day and each week.”
Natasha takes justifiable pride in her achievements. “The satisfaction comes from knowing you are reaping the rewards for putting so much into your training,” she says. “Every course I have been on was privately-funded, so you are putting your own resources into it. I am so glad that I was able to know what I wanted to do early on in my life, but it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point.”
And Natasha certainly has no regrets about dropping out of college. Travel provides a great education, she says. “It really does broaden the mind,” says Natasha. “I love to travel. As a girl, my mother and father encouraged me to travel – we went to Kenya when I was a little girl – and I’ve never been frightened of going anywhere on my own. I have been to Thailand, which was an opportunity to learn about the Far East, which is where the kind of therapies I practice originated. I was in heaven. They are such genuine people – and the wisest people on the planet, to me. Their philosophy on life was a powerful message for me. I spent three weeks touring there and it opened my eyes. Yes, travel is the best way to learn.”