How To Transform Your Wellness Brand Into A Multi-Million Dollar Retreat Business – With Janine Hall

March 31, 2021
Keri Pfeiffer (she/her)
8 min read

You want to create and grow a wellness business that you love. One that is successful and allows you to make a living from doing what you are most passionate about.

We recently met with just the person to help you achieve this.

Janine Hall, Founder of Escape Haven, is a serial retreat entrepreneur and one of the pioneers of the industry.

After quitting her corporate role in New Zealand and following her dreams to Bali, Janine has created a number of highly successful and accoladed retreats, serving busy, successful women who seek balance and want to unplug in a luxurious, transformational women-only sanctuary.

Since she started in 2008 with only $10k in her pocket, Janine has hosted over 10,000 women and created a multimillion-dollar business.

Drawing on her own experience and expertise, Janine shares advice to help entrepreneurs launch their brand and make a success of it.

Wonder What's Missing From Your Wellness Business' Marketing Strategy?



How To Transform Your Wellness Brand Into A Multi-Million Dollar Business

The First Step Is To Work Out Your Why

Keri: I would love to get a little background on what your journey has been like professionally and personally. Going from corporate and shifting to a retreat and wellness role, what led you there?

Janine: I had always thought I wanted to be a corporate CEO. My path led me to hold a number of senior marketing roles for different large retailers worldwide, but I just wasn't happy.

It was on holiday in Bali while I was taking a wellness break where I had that original idea, which ignited the spark.

Wellness retreats weren’t around then, only wellness resorts. During my stay, I did yoga for the first time; I did meditation; I did Ayurveda. Being in the sanctuary in a kind of bubble on my own for a few weeks did incredible wonders.

That's when I thought, ‘I love what this has done for me as a busy, successful corporate. Imagine what it could do for others if I added the elements of a smaller, luxurious sanctuary where women come to really just fill up their cup.’

It took me three years to get into action. I sold everything I had and set off to Brazil, hoping to hit it off there, all for it to flop before it really began. I lost all of my life savings, apart from $10,000, and that's when I came to Bali not knowing a soul.

Nyepi Bali

Lay Down Solid Groundwork

Keri: Amazing story. I love that it’s come full circle; you weren't happy, and now your title on LinkedIn is Chief Happiness Officer.

Let's go back to the basics for a minute.

You came to Bali and decided to make this complete change. You had $10,000 in your pocket; did you have support to get your idea off the ground? Especially seeing as starting a business as a woman is a whole other challenge in itself.

Janine: Great question, and to answer it, no, all I had was the ten grand.

I knew it would give me a few months of living expenses, and I also laid down five weeks at a luxurious villa that was to be host to the sanctuary.

Back then, this was a new category of travel. So, I decided to put my money into PR. Whenever you're in a new category, you've got a job to do around education on that new category and why there’s a need for it. PR was a great marketing lever to do that.

I also knew it was important to have a great online presence and be found easily. So, I bought myself the book, SEO for Dummies, read it cover to cover, and got a digital agency to create a website for me.

On top of that, I had done some market research. I'd spoken to my target customers before I'd left and established through qualitative research groups what the hierarchy of importance was in terms of retreats.

So that's what I built my retreat around. The other thing was to make sure that service delivery was absolutely key in any decision I was making.

Groundwork For Wellness Business

Purposeful Marketing Can Produce Amazing Results

Janine: So, the PR: I put together a press release because, as you know, this was a new idea. Publicists and journalists love things that are new and newsworthy, making it really easy for me to get some traction this way.

Getting a referral from a trusted source, like a media publication, gives you such a huge leap forward.

The news got picked up by a wonderful editor in Australia, and my trickle of leads coming through with the five weeks fast approaching turned into, honestly, thousands of emails. The press release had become the lead travel story in Australian papers.

The five weeks fully sold out, and I added on another 20 weeks. Within a few weeks, I'd sold up the 25 weeks. Then CNBC called, and I was flown to Sydney to be on Channel 10, and it just snowballed from there.

I think every business owner should be able to go, ‘okay, what are the best levers that will push my business forward?’ Then, you need to understand those levers.

Tell Travel Stories

Build A Network and Team That Understand Your Value System

Keri: I love that. At this point, how did you find the people you wanted to partner with for your retreats? What was your mindset when choosing the teachers, suppliers, and team?

Did you seek them out as someone who’s doing something really well and matches your values?

Janine: Yeah, absolutely. I think you're right in terms of looking at this from a value perspective.

Once you've got a really good understanding and feeling about what your business truly encapsulates and what you want to put out there, talk about it. Communicate, and you will attract the right tribe.

From there, you can talk from a value-based perspective when you are entering different business partnerships or agreements.

Also, I think it's crucial to have contracts in place right from the beginning. It's something I learned after skinning my knees a few times. Often, people have different ideas of how retreats could look or how they could be run.

As I mentioned, one of the things that's been instrumental to our brand success is making sure that our customer is queen. All our decisions are customer-centric, so it’s imperative that the suppliers and our team share and understand that.

At any point in time, there is no need for any of our staff to escalate any issues that come up because they understand the things we do in terms of solving customer issues.

And I think when you get to that point, that's when you know that you're able to live by your values.

Team Work

Balance Is Critical When Scaling Up

Keri: That’s so well said and a good pivot into my next question. Can you give us an idea of some of the challenges you experienced and overcame in the beginning?

Janine: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the key things was being a bit of a perfectionist.

At the start, I was working around the clock. I was so determined not to go back to my former corporate life and to make things work.

However, I took it to the extreme and would be across absolutely everything from table decorations to team transport.

I was doing this while business was scaling at the same time, and it sort of threw in this consequence that my life didn't have balance.

Here I was, stressed, again, although doing what I loved.

I was very lucky to meet the love of my life in my early 40s and have two babies following that. It meant changing my habits to allow myself to have that balance of life.

Part of this was dropping some of the perfectionism. With that, the company grew even more.

Growing A Wellness Business

Have Guiding Processes and Systems In Place

Keri: How did you handle taking that step back while scaling? Did you have all the right people and processes in place?

Janine: Yeah, for sure. I had systems in place, which I think is one of the most important things when you're scaling. Then, be really clear about what you can automate in your business.

It’s also crucial to make sure you've got the right people in the right places who are there for the long haul. You want to spend time and focus on ensuring that you've got an engaged, high-performing team that enjoys what they are doing.

Treat Your Team As You Would Family

Keri: I would imagine then that this comes back to having a really good team culture?

Janine: Absolutely. We definitely do what we can to keep spirits high and the culture high as well.

During the pandemic, for example, we've done things like made sure we come together a lot, either to do yoga or meditation. Or one of the staff will lead a fitness class.

We’ve also kept on all of our staff, supporting them and their families during this pandemic.

Wellness Business Tips To Succeed

Identify A Niche, Make It Your Specialty

Keri: The next question is, do you have any advice for new entrepreneurs or professionals looking to take their business to the next level?

Janine: Absolutely, we deal with a lot of new entrepreneurs in our Retreat Academy. During the pandemic, we pivoted to teaching yoga instructors and wellness practitioners who want to create their own retreats, which has been so much fun.

Something we see that is so common is wellness entrepreneurs tend to focus on a product. They'll perfect this beautiful retreat, which will look fantastic and have a magical offering.

But, they forget to choose a customer; to understand and define their niche and identify strategies to bring customers to the retreats.

I think that people often want to serve everyone and cast the net wide to capture more clients.

If you do that, you will have so many people slip through your net because it's too wide and you're not specialized.

And when you're not specialized, you're not talking directly to someone, and you lose that relevance.

Retreats that do well position themselves as go-to experts in their niche, whatever that niche might be.

And so our mission has been to talk about all of these banana skins to stop this from happening. The world needs retreats right now; wellness has had such a watershed moment in the last year, going from luxury to necessity.

There's this huge pent-up demand and rise of people wanting to travel for wellness. The global wellness Institute did a forecast spend of $900 billion on wellness travel for next year – that’s crazy. If you're thinking of retreats, my advice is to do it.

Focus On Wellness Industry

Win Over Customers To Get Repeat and Referral Clients

Keri: In the spirit of creating a community, how do you get repeat business and loyal customers? Is it just about giving a great experience on the first retreat?

Janine: Approximately 30% of our customers return and refer us. It's incredible when you think about it; we don't have to acquire 30% of new customers because our existing customers do that for us.

The way we make this happen is to ensure clients are wowed when they get there. We provide some surprise and delight moments, and I think that's really key.

On top of that, we go the extra mile to understand customers’ needs, wants, and goals before they even arrive. Then, we have a person dedicated just to them who does daily check-ins to make sure they get everything they need.

Outside of the retreat, we have all sorts of programs in place. For example, when borders shut, we organized a huge virtual retreat and put out lots of PR around it. It was billed as the first virtual retreat in the world when the pandemic happened, which was wonderful.

Since then, we’ve created and nurtured this beautiful global community inside a private Facebook group. It's our way of staying connected and supporting our customers in their time of need.

There are other Facebook groups for our alumni too, where we'll do things like share recipes, have yoga classes, share blog posts, set mindset workshops, etc., to keep that conversation going.

Bali Wellness Retreats

Keep Looking To The Horizon

Keri: I am officially sold; I would love to go on one of your retreats!

So, in addition to the Retreat Academy you've launched, what else features in your business plan for the coming year?

Janine: The Retreat Academy is a big focus for us. We want to help as many budding entrepreneurs as possible to establish profitable, sold-out retreats around the world.

Before the pandemic hit, we had just launched beautiful boat-based retreats, which has been my dream for so long. We ran two of those, and now we’ve got dates lined up to do more.

In Bali, we're looking at different offerings in line with trends that we're seeing come through.

So, those are the key things on the near horizon, and yeah, we're excited.

Final Thoughts

We are so grateful to Janine for her insights on how to build a successful wellness brand. With the wellness travel industry expected to reach new heights when we emerge from the pandemic, there really is no time like now to begin piecing together your dreams and ideas.

As you progress along your journey, embrace the moments of getting to know yourself better. Dig deep to discover what excites you, where you can add value, and what you have to offer. Importantly, remember that no woman is an island, so choose your team and network wisely.