Women's History Month Spotlight: Katharin von Gavel

Katharin von Gavel
Katharin von Gavel
Courtesy of Katharin von Gavel

Footlogix founder Katharin von Gavel discusses the importance of the health of feet and provides several tips on how women can support other women.

  1. What inspired you to join the professional nail industry?
    “When I started my career in the early 1970s as a medical aesthetician and podologist, very few people were getting facials or pedicures. That was only for the rich and famous. I decided to specialize in foot care as there were always people who needed help with their feet, more so than needing a facial. When clients would move and need a new foot care technician, they could not find one, so I decided I needed to start a school to teach a European style pedicure. I founded the North American School of Podology, and it is still operating today although I am no longer directly involved.”

  2. When and how did you get started in your career?
    “I went to a cosmetology/esthetics program in Germany and received my qualifications in medical chiropody. I returned to Canada and set up a medical spa in Toronto that offered advanced foot care.

    “My vision was ahead of its time. Aesthetics and feet were not a hot trend during the ’70s.  Pedicures meant getting your toenails buffed and polished. But, I knew how important healthy feet were to overall well-being, and I wanted to change the quality and safety of pedicures. I persevered and eventually grew my spa into a network of medi-spas and clinics in Canada, the USA, South America and Europe—all with advanced foot care services. After 25 successful years, my career took another turn. While researching what was going on in the overall wellness field, I noticed = we were seeing many more patients with skin and nail issues of their feet. The products we had used for years did not seem to fix or cure the problems, so it was a lightbulb moment for me after I read an article in one of my German podiatry journals in early 2000, with the headline ‘what we have been doing for decades with heavy greasy creams, doesn’t work anymore.’ That confirmed what I had been seeing.

    “The conclusion was we have had extreme lifestyle changes over the last 20-plus years. The fast-paced, high-stressed lifestyles, combined with modern technology has made us a less mobile and a more sedentary society. It is these incredible lifestyle changes that directly affect our feet, and what was learned was that heavy, greasy, creams, lotions and balms were not effective anymore. What was needed was to find a way to bring moisture into the skin and not just occlude the surface of the skin with a greasy cream. This is how I uncovered what would lead to my concept of founding Footlogix®.”

  3. How can women support other women in this industry?
    “a) Make it a habit to build other women up! If you see your co-worker doing a great job, give them credit.
    “b) Support women-owned businesses as much as possible. It is amazing to be part of a group of women who want you to be your very best and actively help you succeed.
    “c) Mentor a younger woman in business to empower women entrepreneurs. Just giving advice to your mentee, sharing your own experiences or introducing new opportunities to her will make a difference.
    "d) Do not let generational divides divide you.
    “There is a difference between business-minded competitiveness and self-defeating competitiveness, and it is time to know the difference. We should feel inspired by the women who have succeeded ahead of us, and we should be encouraging those who can learn from our own successes. When one woman succeeds, she breaks another gender barrier, and that is a win for all of us. We are better together.” 

  4. As a female leader/professional, what are some obstacles you experienced, and how did you overcome them? Have you confronted gender-related roadblocks in your career?
    “I have seen how the business world has slowly changed over the past 45 years for women, but there are still clearly gender-related biases. In those early years, many businesses were predominately run by men. In those years, convincing male bankers, suppliers and fellow business associates that I could be successful was a big challenge. I overcame these challenges by learning to adapt some of the traits men use in business, like keeping emotion out of the equation but never losing my femininity.”

  5. Tell me about another woman who has inspired you.
    “My mother. As a single mom, a new immigrant and an entrepreneur working as an electronics engineer in the ’50s and ’60s, I learned from her how to never give up, no matter how hard things get. She taught me that it was OK to ‘fail.’ She always said, fail hard, fail fast then get up and keep going because you will never experience success unless you have experienced failure. It is the yin-yang principle of life.”

  6. What is one thing you know now you wish you would known when you started in this business?
    “Focus! As a young or new business, we often take on way too many things trying to keep positive cash flow and be everything to everyone. It is very easy to see another opportunity or get sidetracked easily with something interesting. Unfortunately, it often takes us a few years to realize we cannot be everything to all people, so be clear on your strengths and what makes your product or service different. Then FOCUS on that even if things do not move as quickly as you want. If you do get sidetracked and take on too much, remember to FOCUS."

  7. What other key learnings and practices do you wish you to share with other professionals?
    “Never think you know it all—no matter how many years of experience you have. Never stop learning; never stop growing both personally and professionally. No matter how successful you become, always keep your ego in check.”


Related: Women's History Month Spotlight: Linda Nordstrom

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