Q&A: The wellness “retreat” that comes to your door

This week we chat to Kate Williams, founder of Retreat Yourself Box, a wellness subscription box which started out as a micro start-up that is forecast to turn over $2 million next year.

ISB: What was the idea behind the founding of Retreat Yourself?

KW: After many years of volunteering, working and traveling around the globe I went into the corporate sector. Because of the things I’d seen and experienced in my travels, I had a different way of viewing life, and I couldn’t believe how stressed out and unhealthy people were. I decided I wanted to do something to change this, so I came up with the idea for Retreat Yourself – a “health retreat in a box”, that would encourage people to “retreat” from their everyday stresses without spending $1000’s of dollars or taking time off work.

ISB: Coming from the corporate world, what was the biggest challenge you faced in making the transition from “salaried employee” to entrepreneur and how did you overcome it??

KW: The biggest challenge was the fact that I actually knew NOTHING about business and finances when I started. I didn’t even know what a cashflow forecast was, so I had no idea when money would be coming in. During this time I worked a part time job so that I had some form of consistent pay. It was a pretty tough period and, to be honest, I think blind optimism is was what got me through. After about a year, I started to learn about forecasting and the numbers and took control of where we were headed. This gave me the confidence and foresight to scale the business to a point where I could pay myself a proper wage.

ISB: What criteria do you use in choosing the products that go into the Retreat Yourself boxes?

KW: They must be from Australia or New Zealand to start with (supporting local!), and health/wellness/beauty focused. Then we begin to look at what the brand stands for – are they natural/organic/cruelty-free etc. We also look to ensure the products fits into/supports one of our 10 “retreat” pillars; mind, movement, nutrition, love, fun, self-care, sleep, environment, purpose or me-time.

ISB: Please tell us a little about

how the business has developed beyond the boxes into a “community” that empowers people to make lifestyle changes?

KW: Consistent, personal communication with our customers has been an integral part of this, ensuring they feel like they’re personally connected to the brand. The Retreat Plan and Wellness Magazine in every box have all sorts of wellbeing tips and info from both the brands and wellness experts, and we actively encourage our customers to implement these into their daily lives. They then share their experience in our Facebook community.

We also run complimentary wellness challenges, in conjunction with the boxes – getting our customers engaged and talking with each other.

ISB: What do you think is the secret to Retreat Yourself achieving 300 per cent growth in the last 12 months?

KW: A huge part has been knowing the numbers – this has given full visibility and more control over where we’re going and what we’re doing to propel forward, allowing us to strategically decide where to use our money in order to grow. Secondly, nurturing our community – this gets our customers spreading the word and also helps to improve our retention rate. And thirdly, we make sure our product (the boxes) ALWAYS exceeds expectations! Marketing will only get you so far – the product needs to do the talking.

ISB: Finally, what is the #1 piece of advice you’d share with those who are looking to bring their ideas to life as a viable business venture?

KW: This is hard, there are so many things I’d like to say here but I guess if I had to pick one practical piece of advice it would be learn your numbers! If you know how much it costs to acquire a customer, what their lifetime value will be, what your cashflow is predicted to be like, how much money you’ve got to spend on marketing, what the ROI will be etc. you can use this information to dictate your growth and make strategic decisions well ahead of time. But not only this, you’re also able to predict tricky patches, too. When you know your numbers, you’ve just got so much more visibility to control where you’re headed.

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