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‘Best thing I ever did’: Kiwi beauty therapist leaves stresses of NZ behind

Saturday 25 February 2023 | Written by Joanne Holden | Published in Local, National

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‘Best thing I ever did’: Kiwi beauty therapist leaves stresses of NZ behind
Beauty and massage therapist Pip Hansen has moved from New Zealand to the Cook Islands to operate new business Pippilou’s Mobile Beauty. 23022437

A Kiwi beauty and massage therapist with more than 10 years’ experience has escaped the stresses of life in New Zealand to share her skills with her ‘happy place’.

Pip Hansen is the face of Pippilou’s Mobile Beauty Rarotonga, a new business taking its beauty and massage services to every corner of the island.

“This was the first tropical island I ever came to. It was nearly 20 years ago. I’ve returned multiple times since,” Hansen, 37, says.

“I’ve been to all the Pacific islands – bar Tahiti, it’s on the to-do list – but I keep coming back to this one.

“I see it as my healing place. It’s somewhere where I feel very at home, relaxed, and I’ve had a really hard couple of years, so my friends suggested I step away from some of those things and go over for a bit.

“Best thing I ever did.”

Hansen decided to make the move to her “happy place” after experiencing a marriage break-up; her father being diagnosed with a “very high-risk” terminal cancer; the sudden deaths of multiple friends; and the stress of Covid-19 on her eight-year-old business in Masterton, Pippilou’s Beauty Boutique.

“It was just a compounding thing. I felt like I was at breaking point and needing to do something drastic – to step away, recharge, reset, and find some happiness again.”

The week she decided to fly over to the Cook Islands to suss out job opportunities and accommodation, Rarotonga was hit by a king tide – devastating the resort where she was staying.

“This island has a way of looking after you, because that day I had managed to acquire a cottage for when I moved over. The people were amazing, and they said: ‘Don’t even worry about it, just come stay at the cottage now.’

“That was a pretty full-on night but people just stepped in to help, without even knowing me, and I just knew I’m going to be looked after here. I’m not going to be on my own, even when the worst occurs.”

She officially moved to Rarotonga in July last year, attached to a six-month working visa with Ariki Adventures in Arorangi.

“I was in their café and tour office and things. It was a little bit different than what I usually do, but I just wanted to come over to work and live and experience that,” Hansen says.

“I loved it so much. I didn’t want to leave.”

Hansen returned to New Zealand when her visa expired, but with a drive to come back to Rarotonga and share what she was most “passionate” about with her new island home: beauty therapy.

Cook Islands permanent resident Lee Horton has given her an opportunity to do just that.

“Pippilou’s here is not owned by me,” Hansen says.

“When it was set up, it was just Mobile Beauty Rarotonga – but when I got employed, Lee liked the name for my business back home. I already had the logos, the format, everything was already set, and he thought it was a really nice fit.

“Since I’m the face of the business, it made sense to just keep using the name and I was happy for him to take that.”

Now, Hansen is on a 12-month visa and two-year contract with Horton which began at the start of this month.

“I don’t see myself going home. I will stay as long as they will have me,” Hansen says.

The business offers “a whole range of beauty therapy and massage” and uses some Cook Islands skincare ranges, including Vaerua, the owner of which Hansen was working with to develop a couple of products specific to Pippilou’s. She also used Rito products.

“As much as I can, I want to tap into some of the local products and there’s some amazing ingredients they have over here,” Hansen says.

“You’re in the salt air all the time, the water all the time, outside a lot more than in New Zealand, and all these things do have an effect on your hair, skin, and nails. So, it’s been really good for me to learn about some of the healing balms and things that the locals use.”

Hansen says a mobile beauty business fills “that perfect little gap in the market” where she could team up with accommodation providers who did not have an on-site spa, travel to people who were pressed for time, and bring her services to sporting and other events.

“I get to enjoy different parts of the island as well,” she says.

“I’ve been fortunate to be put into a role where they’ve given me the space to see what I can do to grow it.”

Apart from building up the business, Hansen’s goal for this year is to “be brave” and immerse herself in Cook Islands culture.

She has already signed up to learn how to sail a vaka, and was looking into classes for the Maori language and cultural dances.

“I just want to absorb as much as I can,” she says.

“I just feel so incredibly grateful to be here.”

Hansen’s business in New Zealand is still “ticking”, despite being hard-hit by the pandemic – a blow she managed to survive by working at a supermarket through lockdown.

“New Zealand still has a lot of issues from Covid, and now I think there will be a flow-on effect with the cyclone,” she says.

“There’s not a lot of money going spare at the moment in New Zealand, and it’s making it really tough on small business regardless of what industry you’re in.”

She grew the New Zealand business from “a little room in my rented house” to a salon with five employees over eight years.

“I’ve got some good girls running it now. One of my best friends has that under control,” she says.

“I will keep it running as long as it’s viable.

“I just felt it was a good time for me to step away.”