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Exclusive interview: CEO and PA team at The HVN wellness institute


Our Editor met with Muriel Zingraff, CEO at London’s most exciting and forward looking wellness institute – The HVN in Knightsbridge, and her PA Katie Aldworth. The HVN is all about improving the way clients live, look and feel, all under one roof…with some of the words most prolific, experienced practitioners on site. The centre even offers great treatments for over-coming jetlag – worth knowing about for those frequent flying execs. We discovered the success behind the smooth operational success lies to a large part in the CEO and PA team and their way of working together…


Muriel Zingraff

Muriel, can you explain how The HNV differs from today’s medispas and other wellness centres?

Our aim at The HNV is to help someone feel better and improve their overall wellbeing.  We have a really unique and extensive programme, all under one roof, offering over 42 different treatments. These can be combined together from heritage therapies, such as acupuncture and some Ayurvedic based principles, and to the highest levels of technology using body contouring and laser.

So our philosophy corners on the belief that we don’t need to exclude one or the other. It’s about combining the old wisdoms with new techniques. We actually launched a treatment a couple of months ago called Aculaser lift. It’s really a combination of acupuncture and laser, as per its name, and gives a wonderful facelift. It’s non-surgical, using really the best of both worlds. The acupuncture part uses needles to activate the strands of collagen in the skin. Then the laser helps the collagen develop even more. Laser is also great for resurfacing of the skin, resulting in a beautiful and glowing complexion.

A clients journey with you starts with a health assessment. What else, besides aesthetic treatments, do you offer?

Medical aesthetics is a big part of what we do and feeling good about our looks has been proven to elevate overall wellbeing and happiness.

As well as offering aesthetic treatments, we also cover functional medicine, which is very important. Hormone replacement therapy is a good example of this.

We really cater for ‘360 degree wellness’ and encourage our clients to first undergo our start degree 360 degree consultation. It starts by us building credibility with our clients. Most book just one treatment first and little by little add more treatments. Our goal is to build a long lasting relationship with our clients as quick fixes don’t necessarily provide long lasting solutions.

Gut health is one area we address with functional medicine, starting with testing and monitoring progress every three months to see how client is doing.  If kind of methodological, longer term, approach isn’t within the time scales and budget then we can also offer special packages instead.

Do you offer special programmes or terms to corporates?

We have treatments for jet lag that would suit corporate clients who travel a lot. Flying is probably one of the most ageing things for our bodies. I worked for Heathrow Airport for a number of years and I did a lot of studies on that.

And unfortunately, being an air stewardess is probably the most ageing profession you could do. It’s actually really not good for you on so many levels.

But the reality is a lot of business people have to travel quite a lot. We have put together a package of two or three treatments, one after the other, that can be completed within an hour to an hour and a half.  This includes things like the hyperbaric chamber, for oxygenation and re-energising. It counterbalances the harmful effects and is also anti-ageing.

Also to relieve water retention, and that’s true for men as well as women by the way,  especially long haul flights. Adding IV to this, either vitamin C based or other energising vitamins and minerals. This works really well even as a one off treatment, even better to do three in a row, one after the other. This really is a wonderful way to help a healthy body recuperate from the negative effects of travelling, and that includes a lot more than just jet lag.

How is mental health benefits incorporated into your offerings?

We are focused on two things that impact our mental wellbeing massively and these are stress and sleep.

Because if we don’t sleep well, your mental wellbeing is going to be impacted. There isn’t a quick fix for sleep problems but it’s so important and it’s important in the long run. We know now very clearly that it is routing factor illnesses such as Alzheimer’s for example, people now have made the link of sleep is super important.

I read the other day an article that said sleep is the new luxury. It’s not about looking younger, it’s sleeping well. It’s the new luxury, the thing you’re going to boast to your friends about, whatever your age. Our body and brain can restore its functionality during sleep. So we have a sleep programme.

Regarding stress, it’s important to measure stress. The test is very simple and easy, not invasive, and measures your level of cortisol. It can be done by a saliva test, or it can be just a urine test, taken at different times of the day, which will measure how your cortisol evolved. So for example, one thing that we see happening a lot in, in our modern lives, is that normally around 5 or 4 o’clock, our bodies are trained for the cortisol levels to naturally go down, because we have to prepare for sleep and our bodies take some time to unwind. What happens a lot in our lives is that instead of going down, our cortisol levels go up when we finish work. We get back home, we watch TV, we’re on the computer, we’re doing all the things that are not helping the body go into a more sedate kind of state naturally.

But how does the body cope with that? It’s very difficult. So that’s the first step is understanding how individuals react and then you can pinpoint to those times during the day and understand why you’ve had for example, problems sleeping. There are things that you can do in terms of lifestyle changes. They’re not easy because our lives are really not destined to make the best of our own physiology and biology as human beings. We’re going against the grain more than we’re doing with the grain.

Our philosophy at The HVN has been built on sharing knowledge. We have committed to sharing 50 hours of knowledge which will be free on our new YouTube channel. It’s just starting in the next few weeks, and we’re going to share 50 hours of wellness and wellbeing knowledge. Subject specialists will be giving tips to help people do sometimes very simple things to understand what to look for, and where, who to turn to in order to help improve their wellbeing.

The non-linear career of Muriel: What’s your career path been like?

“I’ve had a long career, starting at L’Oreal in Paris. I also worked at Harrods where brand identity was everything. Most of my career has been developing brands, like at  Harrods, which is a retail outlet, but first and foremost it’s a brand. I learned to do that at L’Oreal when I worked in Paris at the head office. We used to create brands and products for over 50 different subsidiaries already in the late 90s, early 2000s.

And I’ve taken that knowledge and applied it to what I’m doing.

And when I worked at Heathrow I run a huge programme about sleep on planes. So, in many ways I was doing wellness before it was even called wellness.  That included doing a lot of work around travel even when I briefly joined Aromatherapy Associates. We supplied British Airways First Class aromatherapy products. You know the lovely little bags you get when you pay six or ten thousand to fly.

And the whole idea was really to try and alleviate, as much as possible, some of the negative effects of travelling.

Today, the wellness industry has become huge and encompasses things like beauty and wellness at work as well as mental health.

My nonlinear career has helped me evolve. I even tried FinTech at one point. And I don’t believe that I could have done that if I hadn’t, very early on cultivated some agility and looking at markets and looking at society with quite a forensic eye and had a very analytical approach. I’s say that I understand macro and micro trends well. And I think after a while when you do this kind of constant reading of where the society is going, you’re able to be just be one little step ahead. Not that I can predict the future.

I think that The HVN is probably a good two years ahead of anything that’s been done, which doesn’t make it easy for us commercially. We are proposing to our clients and patients what people are going to want to get into in a couple of years because everything in society indicates that wellness is going to be the big, big subject of the next 10 to 15 years.

And it’s touching all generations as people are embarking on a new journey in their 60s as they are in the 20s. There’s a much more finer understanding of wellbeing now.

Katie: The CEO and PA team at The HVN wellness is a great example of team work.

What’s your career journey into the wellness industry been like?

I have been a PA for about the last 10 years now, and similarly to Muriel, have worked in a lot of different industries.

I’ve worked in the property industry and in construction. I’ve done a little bit of retail too, as a PA always.

I’m fairly new in the wellness world and only came into it last year when I joined The HVN.

Katie: What attracted you to the industry?

I would say over the past four or five years I’ve become a lot more aware of wellbeing in general and looking after myself a little bit better.

As a kid I’ve had quite a few health complications, but recently I have been learning a little bit more about everything and throw myself into it.

What are your working days like? Are you a ‘right hand woman’ or do you cover more of the admin support side of things? Primarily I provide support to Muriel. We work very closely together.

I also look after the rest of the team every now and then but Muriel is my priority.

Would you say your role within the CEO and PA team extends into running the office as well?

Yeah, I oversee all that sort of thing in the office as well, such as our move to new offices soon. I’m pleased to say that we will stay in Knightsbridge.

Muriel: “Katie found the offices that we’re moving into.  She did all the viewings too and just presented me would a couple of options. This is an example of the specific projects that Katie does.

What about events?

Katie: Absolutely.  We do, especially with new products. We have just launched one and have a launch event coming soon. At some launches I’m very involved in and organise the goodie bags catering too like at our opening in October.

I feel that we are very much a team here at HVN and I have had a lot of new experiences

as well. Previously I worked mostly in companies that are very male dominated. I was given tasks to do them more than here where I can get a lot more involved in things. Build a relationship with Muriel than I previously have with my other bosses.

Muriel: We’ve already ridden quite a few storms together as it’s not always been plain sailing.

At the moment for example, we’re working on a plan where Katie is very involved. At the beginning she didn’t like working with numbers, but she is now comfortable with that and can handle the figures with ease. I want her to be involved because we are going to be managing that budget together. I don’t want us to present a budget and say this is it. It’s much better for her to understand what underpins the numbers so we can base our decisions on facts. I think that understanding the purpose of what you’re doing is really important, and being part of part of a team is hugely important.

Essentially it makes it a lot easier when you can understand things more fully and have clarity. So you know what is expected of you and this is what you should be contributing.


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