My Life’s Work | Kate Percival, CEO and Co-Founder, Grace Belgravia
In this weekly series, we meet a Walpole member chief executive to discover what makes them tick, how they define success, and what keeps them awake at night. This week Kate Percival, CEO and Co-Founder of Grace Belgravia, London’s only Health, Wellbeing and Lifestyle Club for women, discussed her passion for preventative medicine and how, despite having a hugely successful career, her big break came when she gave it all up to study for a Master’s degree.
Kate has extensive board level experience in the communications and marketing industries and was Chairman of the Creative and Marketing Services division of Chime Communications from 1997-2001. Over the following ten years, Kate continued to advise clients in marketing and branding. In 2009 she then studied for a Master’s Degree in Luxury Brands and Services, for which she won the University Thesis Prize for her paper on The Convergence of Medicine and the Global Spa Industry.
In 2012, based on the central proposition in her thesis, Kate, 57, co-founded Grace Belgravia with Dr Tim Evans, 61, Apothecary to HM The Queen. As a business woman and working mother, Kate is passionate about supporting women in getting the very best out of their lives. She is a champion of preventative medicine and ageing well, which is at the heart of the Grace Philosophy.
What does British luxury mean to you?
Luxury is about offering the best of the best in everything you do, with integrity and depth of knowledge. This applies as much to offering medical services by a team of leading health experts, spa treatments in a beautiful space or sourcing the best quality produce available to create deliciously healthy food.
What’s your vision (for the company)?
Grace has become a sanctuary and safe haven for busy women, giving them the opportunity to take stock and give them clarity of mind to deal with everyday issues from running their businesses to looking after their families and making time to enjoy their friends. We now have proof of concept and we would like to extend the brand to other major cities around the world, possibly bringing in a male element to complement the already mixed medical practice in Belgravia. We are also extending some of our club-only services to a wider audience and expanding our Grace Healthy Home Delivery to offices and homes across London – people love our healthy fine dining for breakfast and lunch in the office. We are also looking at a Medical Concierge Service and the Grace Wellness Spa as a stand-alone brand.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I enjoyed a successful career, building and selling two businesses before creating the Grace concept. Grace has undoubtedly been the hardest task I have ever undertaken, so for pure stamina alone, this is my greatest achievement – to have made a success of it and looking to build on that for the future.
How do you define success?
Grace is all about supporting and empowering our members to be the best possible versions of themselves in whichever way is right for them. Knowing that we have made a difference, however small, to their lives is hugely rewarding. Seeing a marked difference in someone’s physical, mental and emotional health makes everything we work so hard to achieve all worthwhile for me.
What’s your greatest extravagance?
Clothes and shoes and wonderful holidays – these are the rewards for working really hard.
What do you like most about your job?
I genuinely enjoy meeting so many interesting people – not just club members, but all the people I come into contact with who are involved in this “movement” – of promoting a healthy lifestyle and the positive energy that engenders.
Sometimes it is difficult to get people to truly understand what integrated health is all about and how important preventative medicine is in leading happy and fulfilled lives.
What has been your greatest regret?
My saddest regret is missing out on my first grandson’s early years as I just was not around to help with the stresses of early motherhood for my daughter as well as the joys.
What inspires you?
There are so many amazing women at Grace doing so many different things with their lives. They continuously inspire me to keep going even when the going gets tough!
What was your big break?
In 2007 I decided upon a career change and began studying for a Master’s Degree in Luxury Brands and Services and my thesis was on The Convergence of Medicine and the Global Spa Industry, for which I won the University Thesis Prize. This provided the basis of the business plan for Grace Belgravia.
What is your guiding principle?
True grit! Every day you have to get up, with a smile and renewed energy and be positive and lead from the front.
Which living person do you most admire?
My amazing husband and business partner who is both a mentor and dear friend. Having someone who always has your best interests at heart and can stand back and help you see the wood from the trees!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I used to be accused of saying “It’s a two second job”….
With Grace has come patience and I realise that not everything can be done in two seconds especially when you are creating an environment where people are coming to recalibrate, regenerate, get some head space and escape the speed of everyday life. The job still gets done, just as efficiently, but in a calmer, more serene environment.
What keeps you awake at night?
Setting up a business is not for the faint hearted and you have to have true grit! This is 24/7 commitment, 12-15 hours a day for a long time and whilst I have a great team around me, as for any entrepreneur, it is hard to let go. I know that I have to for the growth of the business and for my own health and emotional stability, and let a very capable management team now take the reins. I still worry at night though that everything is being done right!
What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty and empathy of course, but I have a wide range of friends and I like them all for being different! Some make me laugh, others I have to support, and some give me advice, others I give it to them. Diversity is the spice of life for me, I love how varied all our lives are and how different our experiences, that’s what makes interesting friendships.
In a parallel life, what would you be doing? (fantasy job)
I would have loved to have been a Master of Wine! There is something about the history, the provenance, the story that goes with wine – and of course the taste! Different flavours for different climates, parts of the world, moods, and experiences. A bit like friends, I love the diversity!
What piece of advice would you give someone entering the luxury industry now?
Being a luxury healthcare provider is not an easy business – it is complex and requires the highest levels of rigour and professionalism at all times and that it is hugely dependent upon employing the right staff and professional team.
Find out more gracebelgravia.com