Zhiqin Schultheis, who goes by Z, was born and raised in China. When she was 27 she had a great job as an electrical engineer at a radio station in Tianjin. But when she visited the United States for the first time, she fell in love with it. She saw two cities, Detroit and Wichita, and that was enough. She knew she wanted to work toward a future in the states. Now she’s the proud owner of Yuan Spa in downtown Bellevue and Bellevue Massage School in the Crossroads area. Yuan Spa is known for blending Eastern and Western healing philosophies to treat clients. But beyond that, it’s the product of one woman’s courageous success story. Here’s what she had to say about her journey.
Q: Tell us a little about your life in China.
A: I was an electrical engineer in China working for a radio station. And then I went to (Wichita State University) and tried to learn computer science, but I didn’t graduate because my son was in China at that time. I just missed him. He couldn’t come here. So I immigrated to Canada. (Her son, Gary Tao, joined her in Canada at the age of 9.)
Q: How old was he when you left?
A: He was 6 years old. He was very little. That was so hard. When I left (China) at that time I didn’t know the next time I was going to see him.
Q: What did that feel like?
A: Most of the reason (I left him) is because I wanted to give him a better future. I had a great job in China. But I said, “OK, everything is great in China. I have a great life. But I want my son to have a better life. More freedom.”
Q: What made you want to get into the spa business?
A: At the very beginning I was just interested in the spa and beauty business. But gradually when I really got involved in this business, I noticed that all my clients would leave the spa happy after treatment.
Q: For you, why is a spa important?
A: Your body will always tell you before you get really sick. People, they don’t listen to their body … The spa here forces our clients to disconnect with society. To just go in there and soak and think about yourself. And listen to your body’s needs.
Q: Do you use any of your skills as an electrical engineer in your job now?
A: I’m always thinking: How can I make my treatment better? How can I make people feel better after visiting our spa? I always keep thinking.
Q: What was it that made you fall in love with the United States?
A: I think the United States is the land of opportunity. As long as you work hard and find opportunities and pursue them and then keep doing it, then you’ll be successful. There are always so many opportunities out there. I don’t want to criticize China, but I feel there are so many things here that you cannot confuse them.
Q: What’s your son up to now?
A: [My son] wants to work with me in the future but not now. He says, “I want to pursue my own career. In the future I might work with you.” (Gary is now 25 and works for UPS in Redmond.)
Q: How do you feel about the 425 area?
A: I just totally fell in love with the Eastside. I’m not going to move anywhere. Because the more places you go, the more you want to stay here forever.
Q: How are you involved in the community?
A: We work with LifeWire to contribute our spa treatment for many single moms who were abused. They come here for spa treatment. Some of them are so sensitive to being touched, especially when we’re doing the massage and skincare. They train us on how to contact (abused women). It’s amazing. [LifeWire is a nonprofit that provides domestic violence services on the Eastside.]
Q: Do you get a massage often?
A: I get a massage every single week — but not here. [Because it’s important even for her to disconnect from work.]