Kristine Huffman


Working for myself and using the skills I had learned to help other businesses to improve their guest and staff experiences didn't seem like a risk to me. It seemed like a natural next step.
Coming into an industry in its infancy and under the guidance of a great leader was like being one of the first to work with Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

Founder, Huffman Hospitality Concepts

From Methodist Mission school in Swaziland to the world’s most luxurious spas and resorts: as far as career (and life) journeys go, there aren’t many of us that can beat that. Kristine Huffman, Founder of Huffman Hospitality Concepts, didn’t intend to get into the spa world, a world that must have seemed a million miles away when she spent three years teaching in Africa as a member of the Peace Corps.

“After college, I wanted to see the world from a different perspective and the Peace Corps seemed like a great option. I also thought that teaching non-traditional education back home would be a breeze after all the challenges the kids in Swaziland faced.” Only it was far from an easy transition, moving from kids in Swaziland who were a delight and desperate to learn, to kids that were mostly their polar opposite. “I was burned out within a couple of years, and although it’s now 30 years ago my admiration for people who do that hasn’t changed. It’s an incredibly tough job that gets almost no recognition.”

Kristine might have felt burned out, but in some ways teaching was also incredible training for a life in hospitality. And as luck would have it, when Kristine was looking for an alternative career, Canyon Ranch had just opened in Lenox, Massachusetts. “I honestly can’t remember what I said to get the job, I just knew was that if I could deal with a classroom of angry teenagers, I could deal with pretty much anything!”

At Canyon Ranch, Kristine worked under the guidance of Mel Zuckerman, the chain’s co-founder and one of the most revered people in spa. “What great timing, to get involved in an industry that was in its infancy and to come under the guidance of such a great leader. It really was like being one of those first employees to work with Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Mel inspired everyone he came into contact with, and I learned so much from him – not just about the guest experience, but about the staff experience too. You can’t love your spa stay if the staff doesn’t also love their work.”

Kristine spent the next 16 years at Canyon Ranch, a period in which it was named “Best Spa in the World” by Condé Nast Traveler. She then was bit by the entrepreneurial bug. “Working for myself and using the skills I had learned to help other businesses large and small to improve their guest and staff experience didn’t seem like a risk to me. It seemed like the natural next step.”

Even with her experience, that next step is still taking Kristine to new places. “I’m helping a natural health products start-up, and the science behind it is fascinating. I’m also helping an island destination resort, learning amazing things about its culture and ecology.” The learning experience that began in Swaziland is still going strong.


Working for myself and using the skills I had learned to help other businesses to improve their guest and staff experiences didn't seem like a risk to me. It seemed like a natural next step.