Jean Kolb


Every decision we make in life is a learning opportunity. Everyone who has made a success of their life has dared to fail. Dream big.
Every decision we make in life is a learning opportunity. Everyone who has made a success of their life has dared to fail. Dream big.

Owner, Well By Choice

What connects chocolates with plumbing? Or rather, what connects Hershey’s with Kohler’s? A surprising amount, as it happens. Both are iconic family businesses stretching back well over a century, still headquartered in eponymous small towns. And both companies love the spa world - almost as much as we do. Jean Kolb, now owner of coaching and wellness consultancy Well by Choice, spent 37 years at Kohler’s before going it alone. A long wait, considering that when she started there as a secretary she didn’t envision spending more than a couple of years at the company.

Starting out at Kohler as an 18-year old secretary, Jean had also (according to her) spent most of her life on a wellness soapbox. Eventually Kohler gave in and allowed her to oversee the health club, but despite being a multi-billion dollar company the facilities weren’t exactly blue chip. “We had four tiny treatment rooms, literally converted broom closets. I thought to myself this is not how we are going to do spa. So I put together a proposal and business plan, took it to Herb Kohler, and he bit.”

The spa opened for business the same week Jean began a business degree – not bad timing, as it happens: “I had to ask the accountant what ‘P&L’ meant! I am sure he thought Mr. Kohler had lost his mind, putting me in charge. But I knew the product and I knew the business, and that I could sell memberships, treatments, and food and beverage.” Jean must have done something right, because Kohler Waters Spa has now been an integral part of Kohler’s hospitality business for nearly twenty years.

Jean began her own entrepreneurial journey less than a year ago, sharing the leadership skills she practiced while spending three years as Chairman of ISPA (we have to claim some credit!). “Kohler gave me a wonderful life but it was also a security blanket I needed to throw off. People think that being an entrepreneur is a young person’s game. But my children are grown up, I have time to focus on what I want, and I feel like setting out on my own was something that shouldn’t be restricted by age.”

Everyone needs an inspiration, and for Jean it has been her mother. “When I grow up I want to be just like her! She is 88 now, and still enjoys many activities that people younger than her give up. It just doesn’t occur to her to stop because of her age. She broke two ribs while fishing (!) a while ago, just before my son’s wedding. I asked her how she would dance with broken ribs. She replied that she dances with her feet, not her ribs!”

Whatever the inspiration, Jean certainly lives up to her personal motto, ‘dare to fail’. “Every decision we make in life is a learning opportunity. Everyone who has made a success of their life has dared to fail. Dream big.” That’s advice we can all get behind – no matter how long the wait.


Every decision we make in life is a learning opportunity. Everyone who has made a success of their life has dared to fail. Dream big.