Sangeeta Sharma is president of the NIWE Academy in Calgary.
What is the National Institute of Wellness and Esthetics? And what does it do?
Sharma: National Institute of Wellness and Esthetics is actually now known as NIWE Academy. NIWE Academy is a vocational school where students learn the essential theory and skills to engage in the beauty and wellness industry.
We offer diplomas in esthetics, clinical esthetics, nail tech, hair styling and massage therapy.
When and why did you start it?
Sharma: I immigrated to Canada in 1992, and like many immigrants I faced a lot of hardships. In India, I pursued cosmetology and also attained a bachelor’s degree in education, but these were not valid in Canada at the time.
So I started off here working as a housekeeper and a dishwasher in a hotel. But I wasn’t satisfied and wanted to follow my passion. I decided to go back to school and pursue the beauty and cosmetology industry.
Soon after, I opened my first spa in the basement of my house. After that, I never looked back.
In 2012, I decided to open National Institute of Wellness and Esthetics. Being in the cosmetology and massage industry for the last 30 years, I’ve noticed a great demand for highly-qualified practitioners. There are also a lot of benefits in working in this industry. Beauty and cosmetology is unique in that it allows a person flexibility in where they want to work – you can easily work at home with the right skills and equipment.
Back in India, I noticed a lot of women pursued this field so they could provide an income for their families. I feel it’s very important for a woman to have the ability to provide for herself, and if a person has at least one skill under their belt, they will always be able to take care of themselves. That being said, you don’t have to be a woman to enjoy working in this industry.
Can you give me a sense of how many people come through the institute on an annual basis and what are the most popular programs?
Sharma: Among all the five courses offered by us, clinical esthetics, hair dressing and massage therapy tend to be the most popular programs. Each year, we have around 100 graduates.
What are your plans for the business?
Sharma: The beauty and wellness industry is a multifaceted billion-dollar industry. Unfortunately in Alberta, many of the fields in beauty and wellness are not regulated by a governmental board. This results in poor teaching, improper and potentially harmful treatments and many other conflicts. We’re working diligently with different industry leaders to enhance the standard and regulate the industry.
This year, NIWE Academy is going fully digital and creating a paperless academy. This is one step closer to our environmental goals – creation of a green academy.
What’s your sense of the mood in Calgary these days when it comes to business?
Sharma: The beauty and wellness industry is practically recession proof; it’s an ever-growing industry. Because, if you think about it, beauty never stops growing.
Nobody wants to look old, people need to look smart, bold and beautiful.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business