San Antonio entrepreneur Heather O'Neill and her boutique-style studio bridge holistic wellness and modern innovation to create a unique wellness experience.
These days, the ability to bring wellness into our lives is easier than ever before. Navigating the realities of a post-pandemic world involves exploring the tools and resources available to become healthier and find better ways to practice improved self-care. With a multitude of choices and promises out there, however, it's easy to get bogged down about the direction to take on the path to wellness.
In honor of International Women's Day and throughout the year, Texas Innovators celebrates women-owned and led businesses that create meaningful change in the community. This week's feature spotlights San Antonio entrepreneur and small business owner Heather O'Neill who combines expertise and innovation to offer the community a unique wellness experience that transcends expectation.
Experience Leads To Exciting Opportunities
Talking to O'Neill, you get the sense she's a woman on a mission. Having worked as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor previously, it's evident health and wellness rank high on her list of priorities. In 2016, however, an unexpected injury changed the trajectory of her ambitions.
"I tore my meniscus, and a friend of mine suggested I try cryotherapy," O'Neill said. "I thought at the time, I was teaching about 12 classes a week, so I didn't have time to be injured."
Surprised by how well her recovery was advancing with the cryotherapy treatments and not one to be sidelined by obstacles in her path, O'Neill explored ways to make this particular treatment option available to wider audiences.
"I was blown away by how much it helped with inflammation in the healing process, that I approached the owners of CryoFit and asked if they'd be interested in franchising. I was their first franchisee in 2017."
Revolutionizing Ancient and Traditional Healing Methods
In 2018, O'Neill's Alamo Height's CryoFit studio was outfitted with an infrared sauna that quickly exceeded its popularity expectations.
"The sauna was being used about 90 percent of the day, and I had to stop taking memberships. Which then led me going to the east and west coasts and trying out all these amazing infrared modalities and things that complimented infrared. So, those were the legs of the idea for Sweat Equity."
An infrared sauna is a type of sauna using light to create heat. Traditional saunas use heat to produce warm air to warm the body, whereas an infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air surrounding you. An infrared sauna uses lower temperatures than a traditional sauna to elicit the similar effects of moderate exercise, including vigorous sweating and increased heart rate.
Infrared saunas offer many benefits. According to health experts, it can aid in treating chronic health problems; for its part, "Sweat Equity's infrared technology revolutionizes ancient and traditional healing methods to provide clients with modern solutions to everyday problems."
Combining infrared sauna technology with traditional wellness offerings lends to Sweat Equity's allure. Beyond infrared saunas, the boutique-style studio offers clients a wide range of infrared sweat sessions, including infrared yoga/Pilates/deep-stretching virtual classes, Full-Spectrum Infrared Sauna cabins, private "MIRROR" personal training to complement the sauna session, Infrared Cocoon Pod, and a myriad of services and activities.
A Platform to Advance Awareness
O'Neill's commitment to wellness extends beyond her dedication to the studio as she seeks to create greater awareness in the community for the benefits of self-care, especially in a post-pandemic time.
"I really honed in on the message of self-care and what that really is. I think before the pandemic, self-care really was more of a vague term. It could be anything from getting your nails done to going to the gym. So now, I'm really on a mission to teach all my clients and empower them with the tools and the knowledge, so they really understand what their self-care needs are and how to help themselves."
"We have a lot of people that come in with all kinds of health conditions, autoimmune disorders, or people that can't figure out what is wrong with them. People whose cancer is in remission and people with anxiety."
Working in tandem with community partners, O'Neill looks to spread the word about how vital prioritizing health and wellness is within each of our lives.
"We're very community-focused, and every first Wednesday of every month, we host a sound bath. The space is open for the community to come and experience it and for anyone who would like to put on a community event at Sweat Equity. We ask them to keep two-thirds of donations that were given and then choose a nonprofit or charity… to pay it forward. It's about going out into the community and saying, hey, we're here to support your needs."