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When Bonnie Annis and Will Roderick first conceived of the L.E.A.D. Spa & Wellness Conference in 2017, they wanted to stop seeing their spa clients go out of business. The co-founders of L’Moor, a Canadian supplier of spa and wellness products, supplies and equipment, decided they needed to provide the spa industry with a vital missing piece. 

“We knew that people in the industry were talented healers and therapists, but we felt that often they were missing pieces of the puzzle, like financial literacy, marketing, branding, communications, and some human resources knowledge,” says Annis, L’Moor’s Creative Director. “They don’t learn that in school; the curriculum is so compressed.”

To accomplish that goal, Annis and Roderick lined up some stellar speakers for the first L.E.A.D. Conference event in February 2017. This year, some of those speakers returned, like Katie Dempsey of Brand Ambition, who spoke about how strong branding and engaging with social media increases your value as a spa business; and Susan Watkin, a small business accountant and advisor who taught attendees how to make the most out of their budgets. Newcomers like author, speaker and certified coach Uchechi Ezurike-Boss, challenged attendees to change their habitual thoughts to affect change in their futures. Human resources professional Sara Bibb explained the wage increase and new employment requirements that go along with Bill 148. 

Hadriana Leo, Certified Cashflow Specialist and Money Navigator at Crescendo Financial, spoke about how she uses her financial know-how to help clients achieve their dreams. “It’s not how much money you’re making, but what you’re doing with that money,” Leo says. She encouraged attendees to see cashflow problems they cannot control, like Bill 148, as an opportunity to reprioritize and innovate. Keynote speaker Barbara Stegemann, CBC Dragons’ Den winner and CEO of 7 Virtues perfume company, closed out the evening by speaking about her mission to help people make money doing what they love and believe in. “What Barb does really well is she celebrates helping people, the social good part of it, but she thoroughly embraces her entrepreneurial spirit,” says Annis. “I think that that speaks to our audience so well.” 

The 2018 L.E.A.D. Conference also saw Roderick make an emotional announcement that he and Annis would be launching L.E.A.D. Academy, an initiative they hope will bring Canadian spa owners, employees and students together for their mutual benefit. “I just hope that less people will be leaving the industry,” Roderick says. “I know that some people last year came to L.E.A.D. hoping that it would be the silver bullet that would help them turn the page and make money, but it’s not just attending one conference that’s going to do it. You need to have some type of system in place to mentor you, to motivate you, to keep you accountable.” 

Annis describes L.E.A.D. Academy as a safe community for spa business owners to work together to build the industry. “The rising tide lifts all boats,” Annis says, quoting a popular aphorism. “We want to create a place where we can lift each other up.”

Outside of its educational purpose, with its speaking sessions and its day of practical training, the L.E.A.D. Conference provided spa professionals with a unique opportunity to network with each other. “Networking was a big part of what we wanted to accomplish,” Annis says. “Being an entrepreneur can be a pretty lonely road and being able to meet people from across Canada who are in the same position you’re in can be so rewarding.”

Hermione Wilson

Hermione has a background in lifestyle and entertainment journalism. After graduating from Humber College’s journalism program, where she wrote for the school’s newspaper and various magazines, Hermione interned at TV Guide Canada, writing television reviews, and at Canadian Living, where she sampled goodies from the Test Kitchen.

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