|Fourteen years ago Lucy Whittaker enrolled at The Frederique Academy to study a beauty specialist course. Eight months later in 1991 she graduated, and started her career by taking up a job offered by The Frederique Group, working in the salon for a few months before, on the spur of the moment, setting up The Beautiful Skin Centre in Pacific Place.|
Fast forward to the end of last year, and the airline stewardess turned director of one of the top spas in Hong Kong returned to her career’s roots in a merge between her company The Beautiful Skin Centre Group and The Frederique Group to form Paua. Pronounced ‘power’ and derived from the name of a hauntingly beautiful shell found on beaches in the southern hemisphere, the new group consists of three day spas, The Elemis Day Spa, The Beautiful Skin Centre and The Frederique Spa, the amalgamation of the two academies, The International Health and Beauty Institute (IHBI) and The Frederique Academy, which continues under The Frederique Academy name, and distribution company FrancOrientale.
“As one of our postgraduates she is a living testimony,” says Frederique Deleage, the director of The Frederique Group. “It is so exciting to see students being successful entrepreneurs and now many years later The Beautiful Skin Centre approached me to join forces and I could see right away that this would be so right for The Frederique Group and The Beautiful Skin Centre. There is a great synergy between the two companies. We are both professional with similar philosophies, committed to result-driven training and providing high quality education.”
The Frederique Group has long been playing a top billing in Hong Kong’s spa world with the indefatigable Frederique Deleage in the starring role. Starting with a beauty therapy course at the age of 21 in France she worked for cosmetics company Orlane as a beauty ambassador for eight years before settling in Hong Kong and setting up a beauty school and salon with a girlfriend in 1977. Looking back on 27 years in the making of Hong Kong’s top independent spa she has seen well over 10,000 students pass through the Frederique Academy.
Meanwhile Whittaker has grown her spa empire to include the globally renowned Elemis Day Spa and the IHBI as well as her initial career-rocketing Beautiful Skin Centre. “During the early nineties it was such an exciting industry, such a dynamic time,” she says of her beginnings. “Hong Kong is large city of people in a small area who are interested in looking good and in their personal well-being.” With The Beautiful Skin Centre running well she took on the Elemis franchise and then the academy. “It is very difficult to get good staff because the spa industry is booming, so I took the decision to open the academy. It was an investment back into the industry and into Hong Kong. Training is a very nice end of the business – a lot of fun.”
When she was ready to take the next logical stage she realised that perhaps there was another way to do it. “I was forming a footprint of Fred’s business,” she says. “I had the spa training and the skin care centre and I was about to launch a distribution company. The Frederique Group already had distribution set up.”
The creation of Paua simultaneously eliminates a powerful competitor for both companies, as well as consolidating their reputations. “In this merger we really bring complimentary strengths,” says Deleage. “We could have stayed the same and competed for a small market but instead we’ve grown bigger and faster than we could on our own. We still have integrity and healing and holistic philosophies while at the same time we are very business-head and bottom-line oriented. I believe the two together can create a great success.”
Central to Paua will be the continuing education of beauty students. The IHBI has been incorporated into the Frederique Academy and courses will run on both sites. This makes The Frederique Academy the largest in Hong Kong, offering the widest selection of professional and general interest courses in holistic health and beauty.
This is a move which couldn’t have come at a better time as the spa industry spirals out of control with the consequence that Asia, and the rest of the world, is suffering a severe shortage of manpower especially in terms of spa managers. Frequently therapists take on managerial responsibilities and duties without having gone through any official training. And as spa treatments become more and more accepted by the western medicine world as having a significant impact on people’s wellbeing the pressure on the industry is only going to grow.
“There are so many spas opening up,” says Deleage. “It’s a huge trend, and people think there is great money to be made and it will be easy, which it’s not. Also all the big hotels have to have spas now. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon.”
So instead of opening more spas the Paua Group will be working hard to help the spa situation uphold quality service not only by providing well-educated staff to the region but also by spreading their expertise. “We are going to offer a consultancy,” says Deleage. “We will manage other people’s spas under our brand name.”
Starting off with key projects for the Shangri-La Group, namely the Chi Spas at the Bangkok Shangri-la and the Mactan Island Shangri-La, it is Deleage who heads up this department of Paua. Rosemary Hamilton, group communications manager, explains, “The Paua Group offers either a comprehensive spa set up service which takes the client from concept through to post opening and management coaching or clients may pick a la carte from our services, selecting specific areas of help. As the spa industry is growing at such an exponential rate there is a void of knowledge which we are happy to fill.”
With a wealth of spa consultancy experience in Asia and projects like the Crown Casino Spa in Melbourne and the Ananda Spa, India already under her belt, the group’s reputation will soon be as well known throughout Asia as it already is in Hong Kong.