How these two friends started a Yoga & Surf retreat business together

January 23, 2017

Hey ladies.
Please welcome to the 2nd Blog of the GirlBoss series. Why do these blogs exist on a Monday morning? To hopefully inspire you to follow your dreams and live life on your own terms. Mondays can be long and boring, and we want to share with you successful GirlBoss stories from around the world, which will hopefully bring you a positive feeling. If your Monday mornings are already awesome, you are doing great job, and YES you can still benefit from these blogs.
Today, we have 2 very special guests - the founders of To The Sea retreats. It's a brand new business and the girls are sharing with us their journey so far. Have you been thinking to start running your own retreats but you're not sure where to start? Do you wonder what it takes? Read this Q&A and hopefully you can find the right answers. 
Please share This Blog with your friends, as it is here to inspire you & help you move in the right direction with your dreams. 
Please tell us more how did you guys meet?
We (Jodie and Anna) met whilst living in Bali. There’s a large ex-pat community in Bali, and we lived in Canggu, home of great surfing, alternative lifestyles and healthy living. We were both working remotely (as most ex-pats in the area do) and, after answering ads for room in a share house, quickly found ourselves doing everything together - morning surfs, coffees, yoga classes and more. 
How did the idea of starting yoga & surfing retreats come about?
I (Jodie) have always had the vague dream of having an ocean-based venue where people can holiday and connect to the water. I wanted to be based closer to family, so Europe was the obvious option. As a yoga instructor and scuba diving instructor, I’ve always felt an affinity to the way the water makes you feel. Discovering surfing was the perfect combination of both, and has a lot fewer overheads than diving! So the dream morphed into a surf and yoga retreat. Anna would speak to me of wanting a physical career, one that made people happy and connected her to nature (rather than an office). One day I spoke to Anna of this vague dream and she had the brain wave of doing it together. Anna had connections to an amazing villa in Portugal and within a day had secured us a great deal on the villa. And so it began…
To the sea retreat in Portugal
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Villa in Portugal
What has been the biggest challenge while setting up the retreats?
Our biggest challenge has been finances, logistics and budget! We started with no budget to speak of, so had to market ourselves very specifically, and really think hard about every minute of the retreats, everything that could go wrong, and how to cope. Luckily I (Anna) work in digital marketing and Jodie does copy writing, so our marketing has been ok. The numbers part takes a lot of concentration from both of us but it’s all just practice.
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Have you actually relocated to where your retreats take place?
We haven’t relocated yet as our retreats don’t take place until March 23rd, but from then on we will be mainly in Portugal until the end of the summer.
How do you both stay fit?
Surfing and yoga of course! We also both like HIIT workouts, and we firmly believe that staying active is a lifestyle. Cycle or walk where possible, go for walks, take the stairs instead of the elevator, dance when you’re out, and just move as much as you can.
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Take us through a day at your retreats and also what kind of food do you serve?
A typical day starts with an outdoor yoga practice. There’s something so special about practicing yoga under the morning sky, drinking in the view ays connect body to breath. After the practice, a Bali-inspired breakfast is served. We offer smoothie-bowls (our daily Bali breakfast!), delicious local Portuguese breads, eggs, fresh fruit, ham, local delicacies, and have vegan options available too. After Breakfast our guests can go for a swim or hang out on one of the terraces, in a chill-spot, by the pool and many other places, until we get picked up and taken to the surf spot for the day. After a lesson, we have lunch on the beach - a selection of healthy, filling salads, rolls, etc (e.g. quinoa, chickpea and almond salad), and we relax by the sea and explore the area for a few hours. When we get back there’s another yoga practice to relieve tired surfing muscles, and then guests are free to relax for the evening. Most of the time we all go out to the great local restaurants, or cozy up at the villa around the fireplace if it’s cold enough! 
Food at To The Sea retreats in Portugal
On a scale of 1 to 10 how hard was it to set up your brand?
6/10. It takes work but is not impossible.
Where did you qualify as yoga teachers? Would you recommend this school to others?
I (Jodie) qualified at the home of yoga - Rishikesh in India. It’s an incredibly spiritual place on the banks of the Ganges, at the foothills of the Himalayas. I went with the Vinyasa Yoga Academy, and I would definitely recommend them to anyone!
What would be your top 3 locations for holding yoga & surf retreats?
Portugal, Bali, Costa Rica.
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How do you find working with a partner and do you think that it could be a one person business?
We both have different strengths that work well together - Anna made the website which I could never have done, I write the content and the emails that Anna finds really tricky, things like that. We love having each other to lean on and support, and someone to share the good times with and motivate each other to keep going. You can dare to do so much more when there’s someone else with you. Logistically it would be hard to run a retreat solo without getting a lot of outside help, and we would much rather know the quality of it all ourselves - e.g. the yoga instructing, the food. It could be a solo venture but you would need to be a pretty special person to tick all the boxes, or have a bigger budget to outsource everything. If you have the dream, don't let the fact you’re alone stop you.
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What advise do you have for someone who wants to start a business but has no idea what kind of business to get into?
If you have no idea of what kind of business you want to start, look to your experience - what do you know about? Do a lot of market research, and don’t aim too high to start with. Small steps are great to begin with. Think about what makes you happy, and go from there. 
If you could get into any other business what would it be and why?
J: I’d love to do property developing some day… I like the fact it’s a project and something you can put your own stamp on, and the satisfaction of selling it or renting it out for profit. I love anything that has a final end, like events, courses, projects. 
Surfing and yoga retreat in Portugal
How do you stay motivated and grounded to work for yourself? Do you get distracted often?
That’s one of the best things about having a partner - you can let yourself down but you can’t let your partner down, so you keep going and motivate each other that way. Distractions are a nightmare - social media is the worst! It’s best to work in short bursts - do 30mins of emails, do something else. Only have a few things on the daily list and ensure they get done. If your head’s not in it don’t fight it, leave the laptop and do something active, and come back later. And be strict with yourself - have a routine, and if you’re better working without music, don’t have it.
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And last but not least, what would be your top 5 key tips to staying sane when starting a brand new business. We know this can be a very stressful time for someone who is brand new to the whole entrepreneurial world.
a) give yourself at least 1 full day off a week - no emails, no updates, just a day to recharge
b) don’t bite off more than you can chew - start small, think of your deadlines and add some leeway, everything takes longer than you think
c) remember every overnight success has about 5 years of planning, hard work and tears before it - things take time to gain momentum
d) it’s ok to ask for help. Outsource if you need to, take advice, and be flexible. 
e) people will let you down, problems will occur, and it might seem that nothing will fix it. It’s ok to fail a bit, learn from mistakes and grow from them. And always, always be nice. Reputations are small business’ salvation


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Thank you ladies for sharing this amazing story with us. I hope you all find some useful information from our GirlBoss series and I hope that you can relate to each story in one way or another. If you need any help at all, or have an y questions - don'r be afraid to reach out either to me (Ina) or the amazing girls at ToTheSea - Jodie & Anna. We know how difficult it can be to set up a business, and I remember perfectly looking for someone who can give me a few tips on how to start. It all started with a dream, so don't be afraid to dream big and believe in it. It will become true.

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