FoundHer: Michal Cohen-Sagi, 58 South Molton Street
Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Michal Cohen-Sagi has proven that it’s possible to swap a successful corporate position for a niche passion project, and not look back. As a business development manager at Microsoft for 16 years – and part of the team that launched Windows 95 – Michal was one of few women climbing the tech corporate ladder in the late 1990s. She traded it all in for her newly adopted son from whom she didn’t want to parted, and put her business skills into a wellness and therapy centre she named 58 South Molton Street. It’s a sophisticated and serene oasis in London, a “House of Experts” across a spectrum of disciplines, including psychology, beauty, nutrition, and alternative therapies. With this wealth of wellbeing knowledge on her own doorstep, it’s not surprising that Michal says she feels - and looks - better than she has done in years.
Working at Microsoft was very male dominated. I was 25 when I joined, and it was an amazing journey with the good and the bad, the politics and the corporate, the travel and the friendships. I loved it. My job was to find people, enable them, coach them, mentor them and grow them into their positions. I was kind of a tomboy when I grew up in Israel. I had 9 brothers and sisters and grew up in a tribe; I played football and always had friends who were boys. I was comfortable around men so I never felt intimidated - I felt accepted. I never tried to be a man at work or take their place, and I never played the political game.
I convinced my boyfriend (now husband) Noam to join Microsoft. He’s a brilliant marketer. We then found ourselves at home, sitting and working in bed, sending messages to each other and the team at Microsoft; but after a year in corporate he gave up, it wasn’t for him. We’re completely different, and like yin and yang, we complete each other. He wanted to treat people, so he became a psychotherapist and he encouraged me to move to London with him. He believed that therapists are by definition lonely people: that they see clients but they don’t have colleagues. His vision was to open a place where therapists work alongside one another, seeing clients together in something of a goldfish bowl.
I took a three-month sabbatical from Microsoft and helped my husband set up Kingyo Therapy Suites – ‘kingyo’ means goldfish in Japanese. I’m a real ‘do-er’: three months later we had four therapists specialising in massage, acupuncture, psychotherapy and counselling. Together they covered 360 degrees of wellbeing. The advantage of our business was that a client seeing the psychotherapist for something like addiction might be referred for treatment to the acupuncturist, too.
Despite many rounds of IVF, I couldn’t get pregnant. I had been diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 24, and it was very rare then – only a 1 in 2 million chance. Now it’s 1 in 5, which is interesting considering it’s a condition caused by lifestyle – stress, bad food choices and unhealthy living. I changed my lifestyle and habits, but by the time doctors said I could probably get pregnant – when I was 44 – I couldn’t face any more IVF. We had started the adoption process.
It took three years to adopt my son Elai. On the day we started the process I remember the adoption worker saying “There will be a child at the end of all this, but I can’t tell you how long it will take.” With IVF I had a 17 – 23% chance of having a baby and with the adoption route my chances were 100%. It was worth the three years of interrogation; social workers went through our lives in great detail - and that of our friends and neighbours – and they really got under our skin. Elai came from Russia and he was 9 months old when we met him (he’s now 10 years old). The stress of the process took its toll on my body and I shrank to a size 6.
After maternity leave, I couldn’t face working at Microsoft anymore. I went on a work trip for two weeks to Seattle from London, and I was in pain leaving Elai behind. I left Microsoft and joined Kingyo – we needed to grow so it was the perfect time. We took the original building in South Molton Street where Molton Brown had been a hair salon before it evolved into the personal care business. It was exciting to move into a place that had fostered wellbeing principles and lifestyle choices. We called the business ‘58 South Molton Street’ after the address, and it’s now a thriving community of 500 therapists.
I look younger now than I did six years ago. When we opened I immediately tried all the treatments we offered at the therapy suites. I detoxed, cut out sugar and I felt so good. I was more mindful and within myself, and it was the combination of a sports nutritionist, a hypnotherapist and a cranial osteopath who made that difference for me. These experts changed my life. At 58 South Molton Street, we have access to all the disciplines, from wellness, healing and treatment, to holistic and alternative therapies.
I launched 58 Lifestyle Products to complement the atmosphere at 58 South Molton Street. I wanted a calm and relaxing scent for the place, and it had to be natural. Our aromatherapist created a combination of fragrances from my childhood, with notes of geranium, jasmine, coriander, green mandarin and ylang-ylang. The scent reminds me of the geranium in our garden in Jerusalem, my mum cooking with coriander and the jasmine I would pick on the way to school every day.
We are working closely with the Allbright Club in London – Britain’s first women-only private members’ club. My 58 Lifestyle Products – the hand wash and cream, shampoo and conditioner – are offered in the Allbright Club in Fitzrovia and will also be available in the new Allbright Mayfair opening in May 2019. We are also working with them on their new treatment rooms and have recruited 10 female therapists from 58 South Molton Street to offer their expertise at the Club. It’s very exciting to bring our therapies and lifestyle products to the women at Allbright.
For more information on the therapies available, visit: www.58southmoltonstreet.co.uk