Kate Mearns


People here thought we were crazy, that we would leave Ohio for New Zealand, when our friends were beginning their careers. But it challenged our minds and our preconceptions in a unique way that cannot be valued. I would recommend it to anyone.
Real change means breaking down borders and barriers that are, more often than not, self-imposed. That’s just as true in the business world as it is on our personal lives.

Principle consultant, 5 Spa Consulting

Real change means breaking down borders and barriers that are, more often than not, self-imposed. That’s just as true in the business world as it is on our personal lives, where real change only comes about when those walls are removed. Borders, in one way or another, have been a theme that has run through Kate Mearn’s life.

Few people have seen more change in the spa industry than Kate. Over the course of a career spanning 25 years, she has witnessed at first hand the spa world move from a relatively small number of resorts and destinations to the multi-billion dollar, multi-national business that we know today.

More importantly for Kate, the industry has become not just a sound financial investment but one that has incredible moral value – an industry that does more than just make money, but an industry that improves lives and positively impacts people in every community in which one operates.

“The greatest change I have witnessed is the spa industry breaking down the barriers it imposed upon itself. I remember sitting in on ISPA director meetings years ago, when we restricted ourselves to a small number of services and even removed the word “fitness” from our name. It felt like the barriers were solid and impenetrable. Over time those barriers have become semi-permeable, we offer myriad services and it really feels like anything is possible.”

While we’re on the subject of borders, Kate is also a firm believer in travel’s ability to change lives. She has traveled extensively, and in fact it was a travel experience that brought her into the spa industry.

“When I was in the sixth grade we went to Mexico City as a family and my jaw just dropped. To see another part of the world that was so different from my own little part was a life-changing experience. My grandfather told me that travel is an experience that nobody can take from you. You can lose your home or your job, but you can’t lose your travel memories.”

As a young wife and new mother, Kate’s husband was offered the opportunity to live in New Zealand for six months. Not in Auckland, the country’s bustling, modern city, but Chamberlain’s Island, a place where children only wore shoes to church, where drinking water was collected from rooftops and, back then, truly was the edge of the world.

“People here thought we were crazy, that we would leave Ohio for New Zealand, when our friends were beginning their careers. But it challenged our minds and our preconceptions in a unique way that cannot be valued. I would recommend it to anyone.”

When she returned to the US, Kate embraced the outdoors way of life she had been a part of in New Zealand and became a personal trainer. At that time, the industry was in its infancy, as was her family. By the time her fourth and fifth children arrived – twins – she decided to take a break from physical training and ended up running the spa. She has never looked back.

Another thing that she hasn’t ever looked back from is the travel bug. Once it bit, Kate has never shaken it off. She has taken each of her children, as adults, on adventures that she believes will give them that same jaw-dropping experience – to places like Machu Picchu, Vietnam and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

She even dragged a few ISPA staff members on one of her travel adventures. “We were at an ISPA conference in Phuket, Thailand, which itself was an incredible experience. After an intense conference and the chaos of Bangkok we were invited to trek in the Khao Sok National Park. Our guide got lost and we encountered some extreme tropical weather. I laugh about it now, but it turned potential disaster into an incredible bonding experience, a lesson in trust, strength and personal triumph.”

You may laugh about it Kate, but the ISPA staff who shared that experience are still in therapy!


People here thought we were crazy, that we would leave Ohio for New Zealand, when our friends were beginning their careers. But it challenged our minds and our preconceptions in a unique way that cannot be valued. I would recommend it to anyone.