Stephanie’s Spa Retreat at Sofitel

By Virginia Muzik

After 14 years in business, Stephanie Shepherd has always had salons and spas with her name included in the title. Through this branding, says Spa Manager, Prue Howe, Stephanies has become synonymous with exceptional spa therapies and has set the standard for spas in Brisbane. “It is an extremely recognised name and gives guests the confidence that no matter which Stephanies they visit, they will receive the ultimate in beauty and spa therapy,” says Prue. “When Stephanies Spa Retreat opened in June 2007, it was a natural progression for the spa to include Stephanie’s name and continue the high standards that Stephanie has spent her life achieving.”

Owner, founder and CEO of Stephanies, Stephanie Shepherd, has a total of 25 years experience, including time as a therapist, teacher and mentor. Stephanie brings to her businesses a need to continually evolve, grow and excel in all aspects. “It has always been a dream of Stephanie’s to have a five star hotel spa and when the opportunity arose for Stephanie to consider placing her dream spa in Brisbane’s most prestigious five star hotel in Brisbane, Stephanie considered it a perfect fit,” says Prue.

Prue brings ten years of experience in both spas and salons. Originally starting in the industry as a beauty therapist, Prue soon realised that it was the management and administration side of the business that was her forte. She has been with Stephanies for two years.

With seven boutique style suites, a twin suite equipped with a private bath, an award-winning Traditional Opal Rasul Steam Temple and an opulent sensory spa lounge, the retreat is an invitation to decadent relaxation. Every detail was given serious consideration, from energy efficient lighting and multi-channel music selections to recycling of 40 per cent of the spa’s water.

The retreat offers guests the choice of Payot and Thalgo products with all Stephanies’ staff comprehensively trained in both product ranges so they can provide guests with in-depth consultations and recommendations.

“The reason Stephanie chose Payot and Thalgo as her preferred products is simple – working together with quality product suppliers is a combination of long-term relationships, support and training; immediate results to the skin and body, advanced research and development, business development support, and strong partnership-based relationships that allow freedom and growth and working to the one business goal.”

With the Traditional Opal Rasul Temple, private tranquility lounge and twin suite, the retreat has capacity for large group bookings that can cater to corporate functions, bridal showers, hens’ parties or just a great excuse to get together with your friends – which Prue feels sets Stephanies apart from other spas.

Being part of the Sofitel Brisbane allows the retreat the opportunity to welcome Brisbane residents as well as tourists and hotel guests. With its extensive range of treatments, guests can experience new treatments each time they visit, in addition to specific treatments that cater for travellers; providing much-needed relaxation and travel-specific treatments that can assist guests to recover from travelling and jet lag.

Like any astute business, Stephanies Spa Retreat, welcomes client feedback – both positive and not so positive. “We want to know that we are living up to and exceeding our guests’ expectations. Stephanies runs a guest feedback survey through our website that allows guests to rate certain aspects of their experience, treatments and to add any additional comments,” Prue explains. “We analyse all feedback surveys and pass all information on to our staff for training and coaching purposes. Stephanies is all about giving guests everything but also learning from experience – good and bad – and evolving.”
The retreat doesn’t have just one signature treatment, because, as Prue says, Stephanies is all about creating an experience which clients won’t have anywhere else. Their most unique treatment is the Traditional Opal Rasul Temple, which incorporates ancient detoxifying techniques with the most modern technology.

Stephanies also offers signature body treatments such as the Four Hand Massage and the Tibetan Sacred Ritual, signature hand and foot therapies including the Exotic Sole Ritual and unique welcoming and awakening rituals that instill a sense of calm and prepare clients to face the world.

In addition, Stephanie has designed a range of signature body products including scrubs, muds and massage creams that are used in signature treatments to really ensure that the client will not experience anything similar at another spa.

The retreats most popular treatments are the Traditional Opal Rasul Temple, Signature Skin Treatment, Exotic Sole Ritual and their essential massages. “All of these treatments are signature treatments, and even having a one hour massage is conducive to total relaxation as it is not just a massage, it is a total sensory experience,” Prue says. “At Stephanies, we embrace new technologies, respect ancient rituals, step away from the ordinary and create breathtaking treatments.”

Time-pressed clients are catered too as well, with a range of therapies that includes 30-minute hand and foot therapies, 30- and 40-minute massages and mini facials. These treatments are designed to give the client the relaxation that they need and treat any specific concerns and still get the guest back to their busy schedules as quickly as possible.

As with any salon and spa business, retail sales are the backbone of Stephanies. Prue feels it is a therapist’s responsibility to recommend home-care to guests so they can get the best results and ensure that they continue the work at home that they start in the spa.

Another benefit to being part of a hotel is that the retreat can offer spa cuisine to guests.

“Spa cuisine is a very important aspect of the spa experience. We are very fortunate to have the support of the hotel chefs and kitchen who have helped us to create an amazing menu to offer a large range of fresh, healthy menu options,” Prue explains. “As we are a retreat, having spa cuisine really allows us to encourage our guests to spend the whole day with us, and we can cater to their every need. We are able to serve them lunch while they relax by the pool or a beautiful high tea in our Sensory Spa Lounge while they are enjoying their treatments.”

The menu includes herbal teas for digestion, relaxation and invigoration; fresh fruit and vegetable juices; seasonal fruit sorbets; fruit salad; sandwiches and prawn Caesar salad

Part of the experience at Stephanies Spa Retreat is down to their staff. So, naturally, the retreat seeks passionate spa therapists to be part of their team. “We look for loyal, eager, flexible staff that also want to learn and grow within the business. Stephanies has incredible opportunities for job advancement and we are always looking for people who want to succeed and make their mark in the industry,” Prue says.

“The spa industry is a very rewarding industry but at the same time it can be a physically demanding job. You really do need to love the industry to be able to last, so when recruiting, we really need to connect with therapists to ensure that they understand the vision of Stephanies and know they are passionate about their treatments and guests, and are committed to providing amazing treatments every day to every guest.”

Despite her success, Stephanie Shepherd is not one to forget her humble beginnings in the two-room beauty salon she started 14 years ago, which has evolved into the amazing two spas she owns today. Her company’s future is definitely strategically well planned and Stephanie plans to develop and grow within the hotel and resort industry. Stephanie also plans to roll out her own signature retail range.

Speaking personally, Prue Howe is very positive about the future growth of the Australian spa industry: “I think one of the most important areas of change we need to look at is alternative ways of driving our business to protect our future regarding our social responsibility towards self-sufficiency and becoming carbon neutral, and further developing and enhancing our treatment procedures to ensure a minimal impact on our environment and surroundings.

“I believe we also have to always be prepared and have a positive recruitment plan with regards to the industry skills shortage of experienced therapists. We will all need to think outside the box to motivate, train and constantly work on staff retention and work in a positive direction to create balance and a win-win scenario for business owner and employees.”

Stephanies Spa Retreat is located at the Sofitel Brisbane, Level 3, 249 Turbot Street, Brisbane. Phone (07) 3221 8800 or visit

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