Hands-on business turns 20

International flavour: Judi Sneddon, bottom row, centre, with some of her 20-plus international staff

Former riversurfing guide Judi Sneddon, who’s celebrating her award-winning day spa’s 20th birthday this month, tells Philip Chandler why it’s become successful and why she’s made some major changes.

Spas proliferate around Queenstown these days, but the first got going only 20 years ago.

South African-born Judi Sneddon had been getting busier doing massages at a local gym, but as a single mum with a child didn’t want all the night work involved.

So, aged 35, she bravely opened a day spa in Man Street “so I could be home and be with my child in the evening”.

“But it never quite worked out like that, and I was and still am working 24/7, just about.”

Sneddon says the name ‘Body Sanctum’ came when a tradesman doing the interior went up a hill one day and meditated.

“He came down and said, ‘this name’s come to me, you’ve got to have it’.”

When she read that her Man St building was to be bowled for a carpark building, Sneddon moved to premises in Warren Cooper’s building where Nadi Wellness Centre now operates from.

A week after signing the lease, she was offered nearby premises in Athol St.

A few months later, she took those over, and for a while ran two CBD spas.

In 2010, she added a more locals’ outlet, The Beauty Lounge, in Frankton.

Sneddon says a major reason she’s won so much kudos – the latest honour is World Luxury Spa Awards’ ‘best luxury urban escape in Australasia’ – is her hands-on hiring policy.

“I have this joke that they have to pass the ‘Judge Judi’ test, because I was a massage therapist and I was pretty good at it.

“So when people give me a massage, I can tell within seconds whether they’re going to be good or not, and not everyone passes that test.”

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