Club Industry will give its 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award to Annbeth Eschbach, founder and CEO of Exhale Enterprises Inc., New York City. Eschbach created the exhale brand 14 years ago after working for a variety of health club companies during the past 30 years.
Eschbach will receive the award on Oct. 13 at the Club Industry Show, which will be held Oct. 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
Eschbach, the second woman to receive the award from Club Industry, is being honored for her pioneering efforts in the health and wellness industry.
"Annbeth began her career in the fitness industry 30 years ago, showing tremendous dedication to this business and contributing to some of the changes the industry has seen in ways that may have gone unrecognized by some," said Pamela Kufahl, director of content for Club Industry.
While leading marketing efforts at the New York Health & Racquet Club (NYHRC) in the 1980s, Eschbach developed some marketing techniques that, while common today, were unique at the time, including targeted marketing, according to Rick Caro, president of Management Vision. As part of her targeted marketing for NYHRC, Eschbach used direct mail, buying subscriber lists to New York magazine and American Express cardholder lists based on a variety of criteria.
"That is no big deal today, but then it was," Caro said.
Eschbach's experience in the industry includes 12 years at Wellbridge, then the third-largest national spa and club operator, where she directed the company’s spa division and was responsible for the 50-property portfolio’s branding and marketing efforts. While there, she oversaw the launch of the Peninsula Spa in the Peninsula Hotel, the AWAY Spa in the W Hotel and The Spa at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California.
She also served four years as president and COO for Cardio Fitness Centers, a 10-unit chain of executive fitness centers and on-site corporate fitness centers in New York and Chicago. While there, she used an economic basis to get company owners to pay for health club memberships for their employees before this was common, Caro said.
Her experience led her to develop her own brand, exhale, which revolutionized the industry with a new business model that integrated boutique fitness and spa under one roof. The brand addressed both mind and body back in the early 2000s before it became more common in the industry.
She also looked beyond the traditional fitness space to expand the exhale brand into the hospitality space with prestigious partners, creating one of the few national lifestyle brands that can play in three industries: spa, fitness and hospitality.
Today exhale has 29 properties in the United States and the Caribbean, 1,300 associates, 12 proprietary spa programs, nine branded boutique fitness class programs and a large engaged guest base.
Eschbach also served the commercial club market in her role as president of IHRSA in 1999. She was the first woman to be elected to that position. Since then, two other women have served in that role.
“Annbeth is a pioneer who saw the potential to create a new category in the health and wellness space and who had the expertise and drive to build a successful business out of that idea, a particularly difficult accomplishment in the crowded and competitive New York City market where the brand started,” Kufahl said. “She is a great example to men and women in this male-dominated industry who want to create a business of their own. We are pleased to honor her accomplishments with this award.”
Each year, Club Industry gives its Lifetime Achievement Award to someone who has positively affected the health and wellness industry or their community. This is the 14th year Club Industry has given the award. Past recipients have included Joe Weider of Weider Publishing; Joe Gold, founder of Gold's Gym and World Gym; Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of Cooper Aerobics Center and Jack LaLanne, fitness TV personality. The other woman honored with the award was Judi Sheppard Missett, founder of Jazzercise, who was given the award in 2005.
Profiles of these recipients and the other eight recipients can be found here.