When Julia Murray of My Retreat met Aaron Phillips of Ocean Fit on the stage of Whitley Bay Playhouse back in 2012, little did they realise they’d be sharing a different kind of stage five years later as major winners at England’s Business Awards last week.

Julia and Aaron became friends in 2012 when Julia was choreographing West Side Story and Aaron was playing one of the Jets. They’ve since kept in touch and remained firm friends, supporting each other during times when they’ve both taken radically different directions in their careers.

Julia moved away from her dance teaching career to open My Retreat from her home in Cullercoats. She offers a sanctuary from the real world, providing luxury spa therapies to a loyal and wide-ranging customer base. Her business won Tyne and Wear’s Best Beauty Salon Award at the award ceremony at the Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel.

“Winning this award has been huge for My Retreat. We offer something slightly different from most beauty salons in that we’re based from my home and offer an all-round spa and holistic therapy experience rather than focusing wholly on beauty. So, to win the Beauty Salon category in amongst such illustrious company is even more of an achievement,” explained Julia. “I’m thrilled for Aaron too – I know how much hard work he’s put in to building up his business, so his award is a real pat on the back for him.”

Aaron set up Ocean Fit, a private training studio, in 2016 to help the people of Whitley Bay and surrounding areas to achieve their fitness dreams. Previously, Aaron ran a stage school called Xpress Urself before taking time out to travel the world. His business, Ocean Fit, won the Best Business in Whitley Bay Award.

“I’ve known Julia for a long time and we’ve always kept in touch, comparing notes on business and supporting each other along the way,” explained Aaron. “It was so lovely to be up there, sharing our business successes and receiving our awards together – we’ve both come a long way since meeting each other through the theatre so it was all the more special.”

My Retreat and Ocean Fit will now move on to the Grand Final of England’s Business Awards, to be held on 23 June 2019 at York Racecourse.