Balancing the Grind with Freya Berwick, Founder of Sense Of Self

In our chat with Freya Berwick, founder of Sense Of Self, we get an intimate look into how a unique spa experience was born from a mix of ecology, hospitality, and a master’s in entrepreneurship.

Freya discusses the spa’s philosophy, the influence of Mediterranean Brutalism on the guest experience, and the choice to keep the space phone-free for deeper disconnection. She also touches on how her time in Norway has woven into her personal and business life, especially in fostering a connection with nature and the power of a cold dip.

Freya, you’ve blended your scientific background in Ecology and Hospitality with a Masters in Entrepreneurship to create a unique spa experience. Can you share how these diverse areas of study have shaped the philosophy behind Sense Of Self?

Alongside my studies, my professional career has spanned across both hospitality management and the start-up industry, with the common theme of bringing people together and establishing a connection to time and place through physical design and customer service. 

Our mission at Sense Of Self is to create and serve places of belonging by bringing a new standard of wellbeing to our customers and our team, and to build a business that champions genuine hospitality, great design and is value-led at its core. 

The concept of Mediterranean Brutalism is intriguing. Could you describe what this aesthetic brings to the experience of your guests and how it aligns with the mission of the business?

One of the primary goals of the physical space here at Sense Of Self is to help people get out of their heads and into their bodies, and the carefully considered aesthetics and design are a big driver of this. 

“Mediterranean Brutalism” is what we call our style to define a space that both holds and challenges people. The Brutalist aspect demands presence from people, while the softness of the Mediterranean palette and materials ‘holds’ people through their bathhouse and spa experience.

In an era where digital disconnection is increasingly valued, Sense Of Self is a phone-free zone. How do you find this approach enhances the guest experience, and what has been the feedback from your clients?

A phone-free space was always our intention. If we want to create an opportunity to unplug from the everyday, then digital devices cannot be part of the equation. 

We are also asking people to disrobe and feel safe and comfortable in their bathers, which for many is a very vulnerable thing to do, so we need to ensure there is privacy. Most of our guests welcome this but if they forget, our friendly team will gently guide them to put their phones away and in the provided locker. 

Reflecting on your time in Norway, what aspects of the Scandinavian lifestyle have you found most beneficial to incorporate into your personal routine?

Norway is very nature-focused and living there really cemented the importance of spending time in nature for my personal well being. And as such, a lot of my leisure time today here in Melbourne is oriented around getting out of town and into nature. The second thing Norway taught me was the power of a cold dip after a run, walk, sauna (of course), or even when you just need to feel alive, so I try to get into any body of water I can, even just for a second.

What are some challenges you faced in the initial stages of your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome them?

When Sense Of Self was starting out there were very few bathhouses or similar concepts out there here in Australia, so communicating our vision was challenging, but like all challenges I think it was a blessing as it helped us really distil the concept. 

We also launched during the pandemic and were living with strict Melbourne lockdowns, which meant we had to change our go to market timings and launch the Sense Of Self massage studio before the bathhouse could open.

With wellness and self-care being such personal experiences, how does Sense Of Self cater to the individual needs 

Self-care is so personal and we would never expect to be the one and only answer. Instead of telling people what is good for them or what they might need, we position ourselves as an option (among many!) for tapping into a deeper sense of wellbeing or self-connection. In this sense, we welcome all people to come as they are and take what they need and we have a range of facilities so guests can do what feels right for them, in that moment. 

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.