A husband and wife team from Kintore have launched the north east's first salt cave.
Donna and Jason Orton, who have been helped by Business Gateway Aberdeen City & Shire, opened the doors to their unique business in Abercrombie Court, Westhill, just over a year ago. Since then customer numbers have soared, with up to 200 hour-long sessions now running each week.
Clients, who suffer from a range of respiratory issues, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and allergies, spend their time relaxing in one of two treatment rooms where the walls and floor are clad in salt. A specialist machine then finely grinds medical grade salt that is released into the air at prescribed concentration levels for the duration of each session.
The therapy, also known as halotherapy, dates back to the ancient Greeks who sought the benefits offered by naturally occurring salt caves for improved health and wellbeing. Providing a 100% natural and drug free complimentary treatment, halotherapy, derived from the Greek alas, meaning "salt", is believed to loosen mucus and reduce inflammation making breathing easier.
Donna said: “We were increasingly aware of the vulnerability of the oil and gas industry, and although we both had good jobs, our working days were getting longer and more stressful which began to impact on our family life, so the timing seemed to lend itself to a total lifestyle change.
"My mum and grandmother are regulars at Salt Caves in Inverness and Edinburgh, and both had seen a significant reduction in their respective symptoms and an upturn in their general wellbeing. My grandmother, who’d had to give up singing due to breathing problems a number of years ago, is now back performing with her choir and she says that’s thanks to The Salt Cave.
“Their positive experiences coupled with our desire to change career direction, led us to research the industry. When we realised there was a local Salt Cave franchise available we jumped at it. It hasn’t been an easy journey, and securing the right premises was difficult.
"It was at this point we met with Business Gateway. Our adviser undertook a property search on our behalf and provided invaluable information on commercial leasing and the documentation we needed to provide to secure it. Since then we’ve had help with our business plan, HR, marketing, and have attended workshops on sales and customer care. Having access to impartial advice like this has given us greater confidence in our own abilities.”
Carron Taylor, Business Gateway, said: “Deciding to take a new career path can be a gamble but it’s one that is paying off for Donna and Jason as their enterprise has proven to be a hit. The couple have always had a clear vision of what they want to achieve, and have used our support to establish the franchise in Aberdeen. Continued support through our European funded Business Boost programme will help them access additional advice to grow their customer base further.”
Having worked in the nuclear industry in Caithness, Donna moved to Aberdeen in 2014 where she took up a position in commercial leadership in North Sea brownfield and decommissioning while Jason continued to work offshore while studying for a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Knowing first-hand the strain that long hours and stress can have on people’s health, the couple are now focusing their attention on attracting clients from the corporate world for whom salt therapy can offer relief from health issues and aid with stress management and relaxation.
Donna added: “We know from experience that work, more often than not, comes before taking care of ourselves. That is why we want to encourage more people to make the time to visit us and have recently introduced lunch break sessions to compliment the traditional working day.
"A drop-in session in one of our treatment rooms will bring numerous benefits – from better sleep, enhanced mental clarity and improved sporting performance due to increased blood oxygenation. Skin conditions, including eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis have also demonstrated significant improvement following a course of treatment.”