Entrepreneurs' Blog

22 Feb, 2011

Business In The Spotlight: Renaissance Retreat

Posted by: Bev James In: Branding|Business In The Spotlight|Interviews|Marketing|Mentoring|Millionaire Mentors|Tips For Success

Business In The Spotlight: Renaissance Retreat

This month,  Bev James interviews Paul & Fionnuala Sen of Renaissance Retreat, business owners in our Business Growth Programme.

Tell me about your business

Located in Javea, on the Costa Blanca, Spain, Renaissance Retreat provides residential Fitness & Wellbeing packages and Weight Loss programmes with a focus on lifestyle change.

Initially named the “Renaissance Weight Loss Academy”, the retreat was created to provide a safe, friendly and “supportive” environment where guests could learn about food, exercise and staying healthy and at the same time lose weight at a safe and maintainable rate. Guests were offered residential packages ranging from one to eight weeks.

When we started out in January 2007, there was very little in the way of residential courses apart from boot camps in America and Spas in the UK and Far East. Within a year, Fitness camps were popping up all over the UK and Europe. We knew we’d hit upon a good idea. Staying ahead was the new challenge.

Initially, our market was largely UK based, but in September 2008 the increasing strength of the Euro started to make our holidays more expensive by comparison. We were forced to have a rethink.

At the beginning of 2009 as the economic crisis became more evident, we rebranded and became the Renaissance Retreat with the emphasis now on Fitness & Wellbeing. As the year progressed we shaped the programmes to deal with the ever-increasing stress levels amongst professionals and found NLP was becoming a major tool in helping people move forward. Package length was changed to a maximum stay of four weeks and the focus was now on maintaining health in stressful times. Our market went global.

When did you set up your original business?

In late July 2006 we launched the website www.weight-loss-holiday.com to see if there was in fact a market for residential courses. Having spent nearly six months researching slimming clubs, gym membership and all media related to weight loss, we believed there was one.

We were very lucky to be in the position to create the website without having to make an investment first as the property was family owned and it was a perfect location for a retreat. The team members were already living in the area and were ready to join us as soon as the Retreat idea became a reality.

Once Google moved us out of the sandbox, the enquiries started to roll in. Fi spoke to every enquirer and started to take bookings for January 2007. As it was obvious there was a demand for this service, we took out a loan to start the business.

How did you come up with your BIG business idea?

We identified a need by chance and created a product to meet that need.

Paul was working as a Personal Trainer with expat clients here in Spain. They were living a holiday-maker’s lifestyle and couldn’t understand why they weren’t losing weight as quickly as they thought they should be.

When Paul reviewed someone’s food diary and looked at her in frustration, she quickly retorted with “Well if you took me home for a week and fed me and didn’t allow me access to wine, then maybe I would lose weight!” and so the seed was sown.

At the gym, everyone had ticked the Weight Loss box as a goal regardless of their shape or size. We decided we would create residential courses offering a supported environment where guests had nothing to focus on except their goals.

The decision was made to bring people in from outside Spain as locals/expats would try to find reasons to go home; it was also a transient market on limited budgets.

To take people out of their normal environment and offer them a holiday in the sun, would surely see better results.

What is your unique selling point (USP)?

Just as James Caan has advised, we too decided to “Observe the masses and do the opposite”.

The US Boot camps and UK Fitness holidays are about large groups sharing one or two trainers and “One programme fits all”. Ours is a more personalised service.

We are different because:

  • The maximum number of Guests is 6, ensuring Individual attention
  • All training, treatments and therapies are provided in-house
  • The sessions are largely on a 1-to-1 basis
  • Our Holistic Approach focuses on the person as a whole. Mind, Body & Soul
  • Our Expertise allows us to work with adults of all Ages and Levels of Fitness
  • We offer 1 – 4 week stays
  • Guests come to us with differing needs. We focus on what is important to each
  • The Retreat offers a friendly, family atmosphere in which guests can relax
  • We have a proven track record of success in providing Health, Fitness and Weight Loss solutions

Our team includes a Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor, both of which are Corrective Exercise Specialists; a Doctor, Physiotherapist/Osteopath and an NLP Practitioner and masseuse.

What has been your biggest business challenge to date?

Growth without affecting our ethos. We want to maintain the personal approach given to our guests but at the same time we have to find a way to expand the business.

The choice was growth through perhaps franchising or creating product extensions. We have opted for extending our Fitness & Wellbeing programmes by creating a new “Head to Toe” Detox break and a “dance-fit” break from near-by locations. The team members are also now in the process of developing a “Renaissance Retreat in a box” kit to sell online.

Our next dancefit date is 17th March!

What element of the business do you enjoy the most?

Paul: “I love the fact that by listening to the client’s needs, it opens a springboard of creativity that can be pumped into the next idea for the business.”

Fi: “The people! Dealing with enquiries by phone allows me to understand the client’s needs. We want every guest to have the best possible experience so I listen to the description of the journey that the person is on and can guage whether the time is right for them to join us and if we are right for them. Seeing someone arrive looking tired and withdrawn and leaving revitalized and positive with a new zest for life, gives us great job satisfaction.”

What is your favourite motivational quote?

We find people procrastinate and spend forever analyzing the best way to get fit / lose weight instead of taking action.

So “Just do it” – Nike, gets used a lot.

What personal attributes do you think contributes to success in business?

Having a vision and staying focused
Self-belief and persistence
Passion about what you are doing
Maintaining a positive attitude
Ability to listen and filter what is being said
Knowing when it is the right time to change
Being flexible and able to adapt to change

How important is social media to your business?

It is of growing importance as having a Facebook page and being followed on Twitter allows us to talk to people we are not yet acquainted with. Anyone looking at the website can click on either of the above to get a better feel for what the Retreat is all about and in some cases social media persuades them to make the booking.

What one piece of advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business for the first time?

Make sure the business you choose is something you are passionate about and enjoy. Then do your homework. Join the EBA and save yourself a lot of headaches!

Why did you join the EBA?

We are at the stage where we need expert advice on areas such as Branding. It’s also all very well having lots of ideas, but we need a strategy and that is why we need a Mentor.

Being based in Spain we found it impossible to find this expertise, so we joined the EBA.

We are pleased with what we have achieved to date alone, but we have found that by being part of the EBA you are made to look at the bigger picture and know that this is the only way we can move to the next level and beyond!

Where did you hear about the EBA?

We follow James Caan on Twitter and saw his Tweet.

What have been the core benefits so far?

It’s early days for us with the EBA but already through the initial Total Business Mastery Seminar and Business Growth Day with Nic Rixon, we have become more focused and have taken action on ideas that we had been considering for months before joining.  As a result our revenue has increased.

The EBA also provides access to so many like-minded individuals who are not afraid to share their knowledge with you or offer support.

What would be the main reason you could recommend the EBA to date?

Where else could you find access to a team of Millionaire Mentors and experts? The EBA is handing you and your business, the potential to be something greater than you ever imagined.

Paul & Fionnuala Sen
Renaissance Retreat
Fitness and Wellbeing holidays
Detox breaks
dancefit breaks

www.renaissanceretreat.co.uk
www.weight-loss-holiday.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RenaissanceRetreat
Twitter: http://twitter.com/RenRetreat

Tel (International callers) +34 96 646 1216
Tel (UK callers) 0843 207 6053

IN SUMMARY

Bev James comments “There has indeed been a surge of interest for this type of retreat over the past few years. It’s clear the business matches both of your styles really well – this is as key as the big idea. It can be tough to differentiate a business like this but with your minimum numbers and the focus on the mind, body and soul of your guests, I feel this does indeed represent something quite different. dancefit sounds superb!”

James Caan comments “Health and retreat resorts are now a big market, and like true entrepreneurs you spotted the opportunity early. It was great to hear about your business journey and the authenticity of how you approach the business and the delivery of services.  I wish you every success with the future of Rennaisance Retreat.”

7 Responses to "Business In The Spotlight: Renaissance Retreat"

1 | Tweets that mention Business In The Spotlight: Renaissance Retreat | Entrepreneurs' Business Academy Blog -- Topsy.com

February 22nd, 2011 at 11:36

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[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Renaissance Retreat, bevjames and Renaissance Retreat, Entrepreneurs BA. Entrepreneurs BA said: Business In The Spotlight: Renaissance Retreat – http://bit.ly/dFrzrP #ebauk [...]

2 | Penny Power

February 22nd, 2011 at 16:11

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Fabulous to read this case study and the vision you had. I guess like all business owner it is the vision that keeps you knocking over the obstacles. I shall look for you on Twitter and hope to be able to Follow you. I would be interested to hear how you collaborate with people within Social Media to build your ‘social capital’ for me that has been the critical aspect for growing our business. Good luck, hope to come to your retreat one day (for 4 weeks).

3 | Gill Fielding

February 23rd, 2011 at 14:54

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People are always asking me about the secret formula or secret of success and without a doubt its understanding myself and what I do and making sure that I concentrate only on what matters rather than all the peripheral stuff. I

ts also about the balance of mind and body and understanding that I don’t work very well in my business unless I feel right, and I learned very early on in my career (whilst still a teenager in fact) that when I was physically fit I was mentally fit too!

So the Renaissance Retreat is a perfect business as it enables successful people to really take care of themselves and place them in a better position for any challenge they face.

The Retreat facilitates the personal and business growth of its customers and once again by helping others be successful the Renaissance Retreat is creating its own success – well done!

4 | Fionnuala Sen

February 25th, 2011 at 14:30

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Penny thank you for your comments. We’d love to see you at Renaissance one day!

We are sadly only beginning to understand the importance of Social media to businesses and realise we have a long way to go.

I only learnt yesterday for example from Guy Levine about using Tweetdeck. Up until that point we’d either been wasting time trawling through tweets unnecessarily or not bothering to read them at all.

A few lessons in the use of Social Media platforms would not go amiss.

5 | The Market, April Issue, Now on Sale! | Entrepreneurs' Business Academy Blog

April 6th, 2011 at 09:55

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[...] Renaissance Retreat – one of our business delegates – Q&A with them [...]

6 | The Market, April Issue, Now on Sale! | Entrepreneurs' Business Academy Members

April 12th, 2011 at 22:27

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[...] Renaissance Retreat – one of our business delegates – Q&A with them [...]

7 | Renaissance Retreat | Entrepreneurs' Business Academy Blog

July 13th, 2011 at 11:43

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[...] Renaissance Retreat provided 1-4 week residential Fitness & Wellbeing packages in idyllic Spain, with a focus on lifestyle change. [...]

Comment Form


  • Morgan Grage: I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up. "No man is wise enough by himself." by Titus Maccius Plautus.
  • Derek: Brilliant article Bev, thanks for sharing. coincidentally the kilimamjaro example used is on my 2014 to do list! Ps thanks for the tips you gave me
  • jackson: thanks for your great article about developing your business idea to great business Jackson mutebi

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