Vicky Ellison, Marketing Director for Equinox in the UK, stumbled upon wellness after landing a job as a receptionist at a local spa and health club, fresh out of university. Fifteen years later, the industry veteran, who is now at the height of her career, has worked with high-end brands including Third Space, Matt Roberts, Bliss and Elemis.
Her role with Equinox has seen her launch and grow new markets for the brand, including London and Vancouver, as well as launching luxury sub-brand E by Equinox. Her equally impressive side-hustle as a regular columnist for both Welltodo and Lucas Hugh has helped put her on the map as industry expert and thought-leader.
Having gone through a long journey of discovery, Vicky knows only too well that the path to success doesn’t happen overnight. But thanks to her agility, ambition and thirst for development, her persistence paid off.
Here Vicki reveals her highs and lows, how she switched wrong turns into right moves, and why working in the wellness industry is so rewarding………….
What inspired you to want to work in wellness?
For me, it wasn’t a conscious decision to work in wellness. I took a receptionist job at a local Spa and Health club after university to save money to go travelling, once I started that role though, I was drawn in by the industry. While many friends were working part-time in pubs and bars, I was working in a beautiful club with access to a gym and pool, making friends with people who pursued healthy lifestyles and getting to know members who were coming to our club for all sorts of positive reasons – it was infectious. I had been quite overweight before starting that job, and in that role I started to get fitter and healthier – it had a positive impact on me in so many ways.
What’s your main piece of advice for anyone out there who’s thinking of making the leap into wellness?
I found the industry appealing from the start, but the natural progression at that time was to go into club operations. I became an Assistant Manager and then Spa Manager. I realised though, that while the industry was right, the roles weren’t what I wanted to do.
My advice to anyone considering moving into the industry is to give thought to the role and the work you’ll be doing, as I think that’s probably more important than the industry itself. I’ve seen people who love yoga become teachers for example, or trainers that want to progress moving into management – and then realising that the reality of those roles is quite different to the work they were doing before.
I would also suggest trying to look into the company structure and culture to make sure it suits you.
A few years ago I moved into marketing and took what I thought would be a dream role, but the company working style was very corporate and didn’t allow for the creativity that I need to feel satisfied in a role. The more you can find out ahead the better, as it’s not just the brand or the job title that will matter once you take a position.
What were the crucial steps you took that got you to where you are today?
When I started to realise the operations side of the business wasn’t the avenue I wanted to pursue, I started to talk with friends and contacts about other areas. I was lucky enough to start working on some elements of marketing within an existing role and then went on to do a postgrad in my spare time.
It took time, I was very boring for a year, working in my room every evening – but it paid off. Putting in the work is worth it.
I also think that now more than ever, it’s possible to try new things and if it’s not right you can learn and move on. There isn’t the same expectation that people will stay loyal to a job for 10+ years like there used to be. Sometimes, taking a role that doesn’t work out can be as valuable as those that do, because learning what isn’t right for you can be a really helpful step to discovering what you ultimately want.
How long did it take you to transition your career, and what did that journey entail?
I’ve been in the industry for over 15 years now. I worked in front of house and operations positions for a few years before gradually transitioning to a role in marketing.
It took 6-7 years for me to discover the area I really wanted to work in, and that experience in the business gave me a helpful perspective. I was fortunate that interview processes weren’t too long, focussing on transferrable skills can help.
I was lucky enough to meet some great people who turned out to be mentors at various times so I would recommend speaking to people you admire whenever possible – remembering that people are busy, so if you have a chance to ask questions, try to be focused.
What were some of the key challenges you faced along the way?
Starting off in the industry felt intimidating. As I mentioned I was very unfit and overweight so I felt very self-conscious coming into an industry with an aesthetic focus. I sometimes still can’t believe that happened – but I’m grateful that I managed to take it as positive motivation.
I realised I’m not in the industry because of what I look like, it’s more about skills for the job and a passion for the industry and what I do, I remind myself of that if I ever feel a sense of doubt.
I also felt very challenged within my first marketing role, which made me feel quite out of my depth. I was stressed in that job initially but I decided to do a postgrad course and gradually became a lot more confident in the job.
How have you upskilled throughout your career?
I did a geography degree, which gave me some very useful skills, but when I made the decision to work in marketing I ended up taking a job that I didn’t feel fully equipped to do despite some work experience. That was a really hard point in time, feeling out of my depth and overwhelmed – but it spurred me on to read more and sign up for a postgrad course to upskill myself.
In addition to the postgrad, I’ve taken a few short courses at various times, and I continue to read a lot – marketing books, Marketing Week and Campaign. I think you can always keep learning, especially in an industry that moves and changes so quickly.
Have you encountered any myths or misconceptions about working in the wellness industry, that you’d like to debunk?
I often get comments from people about how much fun it must be to work out and take classes all day. It might sound obvious, but working in the wellness industry is still work – and it can be very hard work. In a service business especially, the peak hours can be anti-social so I think it’s important to be cognizant of that.
Someone recently asked me if my job was all about glamorous influencer dinners and travel. Social media shows the fun side – but it’s important to remember that at the end of the day it’s still a business. Again this might sound self-evident but like any business, there are spreadsheets, budgets and targets – the bits that don’t make it to Instagram are the majority of the work.
It’s rewarding for sure but being aware of what a role entails before you go into it will help you decide if it’s the right direction to take.
And last, but not least….what do you love most about working in the wellness industry?
The part I love the most is seeing our team and members achieving something. Coming into our clubs or events, and leaving feeling better. To know that I play a small part in making that happen is so satisfying. I’m lucky to work with a passionate team of very talented people, all with a focus on improving people’s lives – that’s a pretty special position to be in.