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Start-up wellness scheme SweetNest put to the test by Ukrainian Oksana Spaska

13:37 20/11/2022

An innovative wellness scheme conceived during lockdown aims to rapidly reduce the stresses and strains of modern-day living for Brussels residents.

SweetNest offers a pampering wellness service in the comfort of your own home that hopes to consign to the past, the mad dash to the beauty salon after a fractious day at the office.

Brussels entrepreneurs, Marcus Nicolas and Charles Frederic, found a creative solution to the nightmare faced by professionals in the beauty and hair industry who were forced to close their doors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The resourceful duo founded one of the first technology platforms in Belgium to link professionals with clients, who can now get beauty and health treatments in their own living room. From a quick hair trim to a lengthy yoga class, the pampering can be sorted with just a couple of clicks on the SweetNest application.

It’s an initiative that’s also designed to aid beleaguered professionals seeking ways of cutting costs by launching their own start-up schemes. Finding shops and premises for newly-formed firms can prove hugely expensive and time-consuming, especially with energy bills soaring. Many are discovering the appeal of a mobile business.

SweetNest already has 2,000 clients signed up in the Brussels area, who can connect with around 50 hairstylists, fitness trainers, yoga teachers, massage therapists, manicurists and pedicurists. And the number is rising daily, it says.

Each of the practitioners is vetted before being permitted to join the site to guarantee a safe and reliable service. Nicolas and Frederic say they intend to cast the net wider and expand to other Belgian cities. They’ve also offered a tailored version of the app to employers to treat their workers to a group yoga session, for example, either during lunchtime or at the end of the day.


Ukrainian Oksana is treated to a home massage

The Bulletin paired SweetNest with 54-year-old Ukrainian refugee, Oksana Spaska, so that she could try out a personal treatment at the home of her host, Alex Walters. Experienced massage therapist, Gaetan Swennen, arrived with all the equipment needed for an efficient service, from the comfortable massage bed to the soothing relaxing music, especially important for first time clients.

Swennen carried out a 60-minute Swedish anti-stress massage on Oksana, but customers can book a lengthier or shorter session and choose from a wide range of massages. He says clients come from all types of backgrounds, and that he can modify the strength of the massage depending on the body type and the profile of the client. “Age is no barrier, I have younger clients, but I also have two customers in their 90s,” adds Swennen, who also offers a massage service for wheel-chair users, people suffering sporting injuries or those living with cancer and chronic diseases.

Oksana is a much-loved adopted family member in the Woluwe-Saint-Pierre home of Alex, who bonded with her after visiting the Solidarity with Ukraine (Belgium) Facebook page. The women are both proud owners of lively Yorkshire Terriers, Kato and Gucci, with the latter pooch proving a trusty travelling companion for Oksana.

Her distressing journey from war-torn Ukraine to Belgium via Romania, Poland, and Ireland, together with the damp northern European climate, has collectively taken its toll on Oksana’s body. She also suffers from arthritis in her knees and the pain intensifies in wet weather. Consequently, Swennen opted to apply some intensive pressure on her muscles and joints to maximise the positive impact of the hour-long massage on her body.

SweetNest massage

Did she feel apprehensive receiving her first massage in her adopted country? “No, on the contrary, I felt confident that I would get a good service,” says Oksana. “I did have a massage therapist in Ukraine, but arriving here as a refugee, I was like a bundle of nerves as all my muscle joints and my head ached a lot.”

Coincidently, Oksana’s only daughter is a massage therapist so the procedure was familiar to her and the treatment evoked thoughts of her child. The pair were forced to part after fleeing Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, where they had been holed up in a basement. While her daughter opted to seek refuge in Turkey, where she spoke the language, with a heavy heart, Oksana declined to leave Europe. Despite her deep resilience, this separation has also had a negative impact on Oksana’s physical and mental well-being.

The wellness treatment proved to be perfectly timed and much-deserved. “During the massage I could feel the heaviness being removed from my muscles from all of the trauma I have been through.” She also found that her blood circulation felt a lot better, and for the first time since the war, she had a peaceful night’s sleep. “In fact, I slept through the night for the first time in nine months. I would definitely, with pleasure, have a massage again.”

Written by Kim Revill