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Annbeth Eschbach, MBA '90

President and CEO, Exhale Enterprises, Inc.

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When Annbeth Eschbach set out to revolutionize the spa and fitness industry, she turned to NYU Stern. With the help of her MBA degree, she explains, “I was able to birth not only a new brand and company, but a business that is directly in the path of progress.” Prior to enrolling at Stern, Eschbach, founder and CEO of Exhale Enterprises, Inc., worked for a high-end athletic club and spa conglomerate operating more than 50 spas and athletic clubs in different markets with different names, sizes, programs, and positioning. That experience, she recalls, “led me to dream of creating a singular brand and business from the ground up to fill a void in the market for a brand experience that delivers the kinds of powerful life-changing results that are achieved at destination spas – without having to travel from home and disconnect from your daily life.” Exhale was the first spa concept to depart from the traditional spa orientation of pampering and luxury to a more holistic approach of transformation and healing.

Eschbach characterizes the structure of Stern’s Executive MBA program as “genius,” elaborating, “It was not possible to take time out from my work or career to go to b-school. I had to do it simultaneously. It was the best lesson in multi-tasking in the world. And the intensity and richness of being in school with a small group of people who have already been working and who can share their life and career journeys with one another brought the program to a whole other level.” She believes that the emphasis on group learning dovetailed perfectly with the cultural shift toward collaboration in the workplace and that, in her experience, the Executive MBA students exemplified this by “focusing less on competition and more on learning for learning’s sake.” It was through her experience at Stern that Eschbach affirmed her desire to become an entrepreneur, after listening to her classmates share their experiences about work in large corporations and the energetic maneuvering that it would take to get things accomplished. “Besides giving me confidence, my Stern degree gave me all of the basic building blocks to start my company – drafting a business plan, creating a five-year model – when it came time to do it, nothing was a mystery,” she says.

Today, exhale has grown from a dream, set of financial projections, and a business plan to an award-winning well-being brand with 23 properties in 11 markets, dozens of proprietary programs, a large and engaged guest base, and 2,000 associates aligned around the brand vision and mantras. Exhale is rapidly growing; demand for the brand is at an all-time high from real estate developers and demand for the programs from consumers is at an all-time high. “We are opening three new properties this year, another four next year, and have several more in the pipeline.” The company’s growth has been fueled by its unique ability to satisfy hotel and commercial real estate developers’ need for a comprehensive well-being offering that can attract both property guests and the local community. In today’s urban markets, it’s no longer enough to deliver just a spa or gym experience, and as a lifestyle brand that encompasses spa, healing, and relaxation treatments, as well as boutique fitness classes, exhale has been well-positioned. Constantly innovating, Eschbach spoke excitedly about exhale’s newest proprietary class addition, Core Fusion Extreme, a high-intensity interval training class that has taken New York City by storm. 

Reflecting on exhale’s measurements of success, Eschbach says, “We are just as metrics-focused as we are people-centric and program-centric. Our quantitative metrics are absolutely as sacred as our ‘soulful’ metrics. It’s a nice cultural balance.”