Meet Kate Percival, founder and CEO of Grace Belgravia, the women-only club that’s transforming members’ lives.
Grace Belgravia, the women’s only health and fitness club based in West Halkin Street, is changing members’ lives. For proof, look no further than founder and CEO Kate Percival’s own daughter.
A successful lawyer, Kate’s daughter regularly worked 60-hour weeks, leading Kate to reflect that nothing had changed in the work-life balance equation for working women in the 35 years since she had had her own children. Today, two years on from joining Grace Belgravia, the club has helped Kate’s daughter to establish a healthy balance between work and family life. She now runs her own business, giving her the flexibility to spend more time parenting while also prioritising her health. She even manages to visit the gym or play sport two to three times a week.
That transformation is thanks to Grace Belgravia’s holistic approach to health and wellbeing, which sees lifestyle as an important contributor to health. In addition to a gym, 120 complimentary exercise classes and a spa, the club offers members a range of fresh, seasonal and nutrient-rich food, created by the club’s head chef and expert nutritionists. There is emotional and intellectual nourishment too, through a programme of lectures and workshops on anything from fitness to art, culture and current affairs.
Alongside this, members can register with Grace’s private medical practice, run by Dr Tim Evans, Apothecary to HM The Queen and The Royal Palaces. The Care Quality Commission-registered practice offers a range of complementary medicines from cosmetic and laser treatments, vitamin drips and acupuncture, through to functional medicine, psychotherapy, osteopathy and physiotherapy.
The genesis of Grace
Kate set up her first business, a property marketing company, in 1994. Almost twenty years on, she was ready to do something different. That coincided with her turning 50 and realising she was going to have to start looking after her health and wellbeing.
The ‘something different’ was a Master’s degree in luxury brands and services. Kate’s thesis, which was awarded the University Thesis Prize, focused on the convergence of medicine and the global spa industry – the idea for Grace Belgravia was born.
“What I was beginning to realise was how important preventative medicine was and if we wanted to age well we really had to look after our health and wellbeing,” says Kate.
Finding the West Halkin Street location for Grace Belgravia happened by chance. Kate, who is a Belgravia resident, was on a visit to the nearby Waitrose when she saw the ‘To Let’ sign going up. She was looking around later that afternoon. It was perfect for her vision for Grace Belgravia; discreet on the outside but with 11,500 sq ft of potential on the inside.
Around the same time, Kate was introduced to Dr Evans, who was also interested in the integrated approach to health and wellbeing. They became partners.
Members start with an extensive health and nutritional consultation and DNA tests, including a telomere test, that tells you the difference between your biological and chronological age. The consultation also identifies which foods and exercise are best for your genetic make-up to achieve optimum health results.
Kate says: “The telomere test is very interesting as a benchmark to see how you are improving the quality of your lifestyle. When that gap is too wide, it’s a real wake-up call to people to ask themselves: ‘I may look quite young but is my lifestyle right? Am I getting enough sleep and eating the right foods?’
“Most people don’t realise that genetics only accounts for 30% of their health outcome; 70% is about their lifestyle. We’re looking after people right from the outset and working with them to help them take control of their health. Most of us don’t have the time so we put our health on the back burner. Our aim is to free people up to give them the time to do that.”
In fact, freeing members up to take care of themselves is partly why Kate chose to make Grace a women’s club.
“I just felt women historically are always the last in the queue,” she says. “They’re always juggling jobs and children and family. They don’t look after themselves well enough and they feel guilty about allocating time to themselves.
“But if you don’t look after yourself the wheels start to fall off and you’re no help to anybody, so preventative medicine and leading a healthier lifestyle is important.”
Kate’s aim is to create a sanctuary where members can take a break from their busy lives to recalibrate, re-energise and manage their health in an uncompetitive and unpressured environment. It helps them, she says, to cope with all the things that life throws at them.
That said, it’s not an entirely man-free zone. Members are encouraged to invite male friends and relatives to the club before 9.30am and after 6pm, and they can attend any of the lectures and workshops for a non-member fee. The medical practice is also open to male and female non-members.
Since opening in 2012, Grace Belgravia has attracted a sorority of likeminded women, the majority of whom are professional. The club boasts 60 different nationalities and an age range from 21 to 80. Around 60% of members come from the target areas of Belgravia, Chelsea and Knightsbridge. Others come from as far afield as Hampstead and Holland Park, because Grace offers so much more than a gym.
For members who are new to the area, the club has helped them to become a part of the community. Kate and her 100-strong team help newcomers to find their feet in the area, pointing them in the right direction for different services and putting them in touch with other organisations. But Grace is also a place where members can make friends locally.
“People come to treat it as a home away from home,” says Kate. “Although it’s a beautiful club, it’s not stuffy. All the staff and members are very friendly we’ve really worked hard to make it a very non-judgemental place where people can come and relax.
“A lot of people who come here are going through changes in life, whether that’s aging, suffering from lack of sleep or stress, wanting to have a baby. These are all things that affect everybody and they shouldn’t feel that they are alone in coping with them.”
Kate has exciting plans for developing the Grace Belgravia concept. This year sees the launch for the Wellness in the Workplace Awards. Organised with a number of partners, the awards will recognise employers of all sizes that are making wellness in the workplace a priority. And plans are in the pipeline for the launch of a second site in 2018.
As the club expands, she hopes more and more members will experience a similar transformation to that of her own daughter.
“She’s taking time out and not feeling guilty about it,” says Kate. “I’ve seen other people do that as well. Habits are beginning to change and I think if we can be responsible for that, whether it’s through the club, through the awards or giving talks and workshops, we can get people to start realising that being a slave to the job doesn’t do anybody any favours and you’re so much better at your job if you’re feeling healthier.”