With things slowly coming back to normal and a new year ahead of us, business owners now have more options on expanding their offerings and thus their business. In today’s episode, Lesley Logan shares how creating retreats can be a great way to scale up your Pilates business. Lesley is a certified Pilates teacher, mindset coach, and Founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com. She joins Catherine Kontos to share the value of having retreats as part of your offerings and how they can positively impact the client experience. Lesley also shares tips to help you dip your tips and get your retreat legs going. Stay tuned!
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Creating Retreats To Scale Your Pilates Business With Lesley Logan
We have Lesley Logan a certified Pilates teacher and a mindset coach who is the Founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com. Welcome, Lesley.
Thanks, Catherine. It’s good to be here. It’s nice to meet you.
It’s nice to meet you too. I love the fact that you have this online program and you seem to be quite popular with the Pilates world and retreats. I want to get to know your world and introduce you to our audience as to what you do, how well you do it because you are doing well with this business, and let them get to know you.
I have been teaching Pilates for many years. I can’t believe that. Sometimes I’m like, “That’s not what I thought I would do when I grow up.” We started doing retreats. Our first one was in 2016. My husband and I were like, “How do we take people to this place that we love so much?” Since then, I started OnlinePilatesClasses.com. It was in 2018 when we started that as more of a way because I was traveling to teach many retreats. It was like, “Here are your workouts because I’m going to be gone.”
I focus on habits and mindsets because those things are what help you show up for your Pilates practice. When I take people on retreats, I see that as a way to get them out of their routines out of the life that is keeping them from showing up the way that they want to show up. We focus on how they prioritize themselves on a retreat, and then they can go back and take that with them. It’s quite fun. It’s a little bit more than just doing Pilates the whole time.
You didn’t start as a Pilates instructor. You started as something else. What made you go into that world?
I was a manager of a high-end jewelry store. It’s very different. I thought I was going to run boutique jewelry stores. They’re super fun. They’re a high fashion. That’s what was trending with purses and jewelry at the time and the recession hit. It hit while I was training to become a Pilates instructor. It was in 2008 and I was only going to teach Pilates so I could pay for my obsession with it. I was like, “I’ll teach you a couple of classes and I’ll pay for my private sessions with my teacher,” but I got busy teaching Pilates. I was doing two jobs and that was not my intention. I started to notice that the retail business was changing in a big way, not just because of the recession but because of the way things are going more online.
I made the decision to leap and go all-in on Pilates. That was in 2010 when I went full-time into it. In 2009, I started it more halftime and the rest is history because it snowballed. What I realized is even in a time where it seems like people would not be buying especially something like Pilates, when there’s a recession. If you’re passionate about what you do and you solve people’s problems, they will pay you to do that. That’s how I got there. Who knew that you could go from retail to Pilates, but you can.
You could do anything you set your mind to. When social media came into the picture, I find that especially the fitness industry could take advantage of that. I see you have a lot of followers on Instagram. You’re doing well there. How did that get introduced into your business and how did that lead you into becoming so popular?
If you’re passionate about what you do and you solve people’s problems, they will pay you to do that.
I was a very reluctant social media person. I’m an elder Millennial. I’m like, “People are paying attention to this.”
I feel the same way. I am very reluctant.
It’s like, “How much do you want to know? Do you want all of that? Do you want to see what I look like in the morning? Because this is it.” When I started with Facebook, I started off using it for my fitness business. I wasn’t using it as, “This is who I am personally.” I got my feet wet a little bit. YouTube, even though it’s not social media, it’s a search engine tool, that’s what propelled me forward as far as getting known and popular. I had started one of my Instagram accounts, but you can only do so much.
There was a time when I was getting very known for business coaching in the fitness world. I took a pause on my personal Instagram, which is looking back probably the worst time to have done it because it was when Instagram was growing. I focused all in on my business coaching for Pilates and fitness instructors, and grew that into over 17,000 followers. I do retreats and I do online Pilates classes because I have to go back to social media for myself.
I had to grow that from scratch because I had been quiet for so long. What it’s done is allowed me to have a connection with people all over the world. Because I was already prepared for virtual and on-demand before the pandemic happened, it set me up so that I can talk to people in Poland who are interested in Pilates. I do have connections with my Australian clients and members.
It has made the world a smaller place and allowed people to find teachers that resonate with them and get to know them on a different level than they ever would. When we go on a retreat, it’s not like they’re just learning about me and my dogs. They already knew it. We are fast friends already. It’s a little weird but also a lot of fun because it takes you into a better relationship much quicker with someone.
You get to know people a lot on social media. At least the ones that want to get to know you, and then when you do meet them, it’s as if you’ve known them forever.
My favorite thing anyone has ever told me when I was in Australia, I was in a car with the host that brought me out and another teacher and they said, “You’re exactly like you are online in person.” I said, “That’s how it should be,” but I don’t think that as a massive compliment because that’s what I try to do. I might have pretty pictures but I’m the one writing it. I’m the one engaging with you and I try to be honest about what I am doing. If there’s something going on with my life that I don’t love as I solve it, I’ll share that solution with you. I feel like I don’t go through trials and issues by myself and for myself. I feel like once you’ve gone through them, it’s important that you pass that information on to the next person going through that has an opportunity to learn from that.
That is a beautiful gift you’re giving to everybody. You’re showing up with your vulnerabilities, not only your good, your bad and everything. Not too many people want to go there. It takes a lot of courage for you to do that.
Thank you. I’m like, “Messy action. Here we go. Let’s see what happens here.”
Fast forward a little bit. When did you feel like you had to go on a retreat and why did you choose that way of doing business as well. Not everybody in your business does retreats, which is a mistake.
It’s 100% of an error. It’s weird. I never saw Pilates retreats happening. That’s not what I saw. I had friends who are yoga teachers and it was the thing. Every yoga teacher has a yoga retreat. They’re all going to Tulum or they’re all going to Ojai. I was jealous of it. I was like, “I want to do that. How do you do that,” but no one was talking about it. When my husband and I were on a honeymoon, he wanted to go to Cambodia and I was like, “That’s not exactly what I thought about as a honeymoon. Can we go to Thailand while we’re there? What does that look like?”
We ended up going to three countries in a little over two weeks. When we were in Cambodia, I loved it the most. I love every place we went to. The people are kind, nice and beautiful. I was a little sad about my initial reaction to the country. I was like, “Can we go to Thailand? I bet you so many other people have that too, and so many people are afraid to travel here alone.” It’s a far place to travel to. Especially if you’re a female traveler alone, you’re not going to go to that country. You might not even go to Bangkok. Maybe you’ll go to Japan or someplace that’s very touristy. You go into Europe but people aren’t thinking that.
When my husband and I ended up in Japan, we’re sitting having coffee in this cute little place in a fashion district. I was like, “I want to take people there. How do we do that?” We thought about it like, “What do we want them to see and experience? How do I want them to feel when it’s over? How long do we need this retreat to be?” You’re traveling far away. This is not a four-day retreat. How do we do that?
We emailed the tour guide that we fell in love with from Cambodia. We said, “Do people do this? Who should we look to? What’s some information we should have?” He’s like, “Check out these places right here. They’ll let you rent. They do yoga retreats there. I’m moving but here’s my favorite tour guide for you to use.”
We relied on some things, and then I talked to my clients when I came back. I said, “I had the best honeymoon. I’m going to do a retreat there. Would you want to go?” They were like, “Yes. When?” I picked a date a year in advance and I said, “We’re going to go on this date. You got to reserve your spot though. I need this much money from you.”
We sold out our first retreat based on my own existing clients, and because we went out there on a honeymoon, so they were excited. That’s how we started doing it there, and that’s how we chose. I can’t believe our first one was international. I don’t know that I teach other people to do that, but I’ve been there before. I felt a little more like I could trust doing a retreat there because I’ve been to all the places where we’re taking people.
Every retreat has its own unique experience.
At that point, did you have your followers?
No, I did not at all but I probably had 1,000 followers at that time. It was not a ton. It was my own clients and then their family members that they brought. Because of Facebook and at the time, the way the algorithms were working, I had announced I was doing a retreat on my Facebook page. One of my friend’s followers had shared it and her client saw it. It was like, “I’ve always wanted to go there,” and so she signed up. I had one random person sign up for my first one. After I did two retreats, I have been more intentional with growing my following to make sure it was people that I wanted to grow up with. It grew quickly. My last 4 or 5 retreats, most of them all sold through social media.
It’s your followers, right? Is it random people?
They are my followers. They’re random to me and I didn’t know them yet, but I wasn’t random to them because they’ve been following me for so long. We’ve had one person find us through Google. Otherwise, it’s always been social media.
People need to understand that usually, people don’t go international on their first retreat. They’ll even do a one-day thing to see how that goes, then they’ll go into a weekend locally. Maybe then at that point, they’ll feel a little more confident. That was courageous of you.
It was courageous and maybe a little crazy. I 100% co-sign. If you’re reading this and you’re like, “I want to do something,” do a day retreat or do a two-day locally. Get your retreat legs going. Luckily, I had the clientele that could support that retreat, and the margins at the time were very reasonable. I could price it at a point that was pretty easy to say yes, and I could still profit and make money. When you do your 2nd or 3rd retreat, now you’re relying on people who may not already trust you yet. They might not be people who are clients.
They’re going to be people who are random. Those were a little harder to sell because they are people looking for consistency and social proof. They need to get to know you a little longer. After our third retreat, it became much easier to sell retreats out. The first one was easy because we knew them, and then the second and third were a little tricky. It was like, “Google is great,” but it’s not necessarily people are like, “Let me go on this retreat here and let me see what’s happening.” They pretty much go on retreats because they like the hosts.
Did you learn on the fly? How did you know what to do at the retreat?
After we decided to do one, we went on two retreats locally with people that we love. We went on them and I use them purely as like, what do I like and what do I don’t like. I’m sure they’re more wonderful than I would have given them credit for, but I was looking to understand the organization. How did things make me feel more on a research base? I knew how I wanted to make sure our clients felt. I wanted to make sure that every retreater knew exactly what’s going on. They felt very safe and secure before they took off. They knew we were waiting for them. There’s a lot more communication that I wanted to have there.
I did a lot of research from going to a couple. As far as we’re on the fly, there were a few things that we learned on the fly like, “What happens when your chef cancels the day before?” People do that. They go, “I’m not cooking anymore,” and you’re like, “I have to feed an entire retreat and I have seven hours to figure this out. Got it.”
My husband who does all my retreats with me was the COO of a skincare company. He knows how operations work, Gantt charts and all of that organization stuff, and then he was a general manager of multiple startups. His experience as far as taking something, breaking it down into little parts of organizing it is key. He took my vision, mapped it out, and had all the moving parts.
There was a lot that I couldn’t have done on my own. I’m sure you know it’s hard to do a retreat with a partner because you’re splitting the profits and the margins can already be tight. The fact that my partner is my husband makes it a lot easier. All the money still goes in the same bank account. It’s not necessarily doing an international retreat your first time, especially if you’re going to do it alone, but we did learn a few things on the fly. A few things were taking experience from your past jobs and bringing it in and making it an event.
What would you advise somebody that is thinking of starting a retreat or is in the retreat business, but is still a beginner and is maybe not doing it the way they should be doing it to make a profit and to transform?
Think about how much money you want to make at the top first and then work your way down. A lot of people, what they do is they find out all the costs and expenses and then they add a certain percentage on. This is what I was also told. An event person was like, “You get all your costs. You add 30% or whatever, and then that’s your price.” It’s like, “What if you don’t sell out?” Not every retreat will sell out but I want my retreat to be profitable if it didn’t sell out. I don’t think retreats are paid vacations. That’s also something that I tell people all the time, “This is not a paid vacation. You’re working your butt off. You are not relaxing.”
When I go to my retreats, I go a few days before and I stay a few days after. That’s because that’s that time that you’re on. I would focus on making sure that you can be profitable even if it sells 65% and things like that. See what things you can do. Start more locally than you may. It’s not sexy but your existing clients want to go anywhere with you. Your existing followers trust you. They’re going to go somewhere more locally with you already, and then ask them where they want to go. “Where would you like to go? How long would you want it?” Just so you’re not making guesses. You’re not like, “I don’t know. It should be a week. It should be nine days.” Who knows? Ask them.
“If we went to Mexico, how long could you get away for?” That’s going to help you decide how things should go, and then always focus on how you want people to feel when it’s over, and that’s going to help you say yes and no to things. There are a lot of things we could do. We do a retreat to Cambodia when the borders are open. We go two times a year for retreats. There is so much more we could add to that retreat but I don’t want them to be overwhelmed. I want them to be able to choose some things.
We give them free time on purpose and a whole suggested list of things. Some people do want to learn to cook. Some people want massages or pottery. That’s because I want them to take what we’ve learned in the retreat and apply that to making decisions on how they want to feel on their vacation. That’s all. That’s a lot of things. It’s not just one thing but those are all things I would consider. It’s going to make your life much easier and you’re not going to be paying for things or putting things on that aren’t necessary for the outcome that you’re looking for them to have.
That’s exactly what we teach in our courses as well. You’re on track there. I’m not surprised.
Pilates is the best way to prioritize yourself and to keep connected to yourself.
We’re doing a good job.
How had retreats changed in your profit margins? How has it increased your business financially, but also with your clients’ loyalty, following and all of that? How has it impacted you?
Shared experiences are the things that people remember. Maya Angelou says, “People will always remember how you made them feel.” What you can do with people on a retreat, how you can make them feel the lifelong impact and memory you have with them is priceless. The people who are on our last retreat when COVID was happening, we still connect. They still do brunches together. We do family dinners and we’d get on Zoom. That reminds me, we should schedule one. It’s been a little while since we’ve all caught up and one of them is having a baby. Our retreaters are still connected.
What I’ll say is adding retreats to our list of products, as far as our business goes, enhance the connection that we have with some of our members. It catapults their sharing of who we are and what we do with their friends. They’re like, “This woman, I spent a week with her and they do feel like family.” In fact, one of our tour guides calls us family. It is like a family. Pre-pandemic, our retreats were a large portion of our profitability in our business. When the pandemic happened, we had to switch gears quickly and focus on creating more income through other streams.
What’s cool is taking that year to focus on those things when we get to bring retreats back in. It’s more icing on the cake. We see retreats as they can be different for every business. Our business retreats were great for people who’ve been following us and wanting to get to know us but had not yet bought into any of our memberships. Once they spent a week with us, they ended up in 1 of our 2 memberships. Another way that they work and probably more normally for people is that they come into your mix, list and business, and they work their way up into a retreat.
What’s cool with my coaching business, we finally have added an in-person retreat. People are working their way up into that retreat spot. That’s a unique little extra thing we can do with them. I don’t think that there’s one way to make them work. What I will say is they can be a big distraction for your business if you don’t have systems in place. When you go on the retreat, you’re no longer in your business. You have to make sure you have systems in place that things are still running and working so you can enjoy and fully immerse yourself in that experience, and be there for the people who joined you.
What was the craziest thing that ever happened to you?
Besides my chef quitting the day before, the craziest thing is going on a retreat and starting on March 8th, 2020, and not having enough information from anyone in the world as to if we can go on this retreat. They’re letting us in so I guess we’re going. We couldn’t cancel the week before because it’s not like they can get their flight money back because no one was canceling anything yet.
We call the holistic doctor up. We call up everyone, “These are the supplements you need to take. Here are all the precautions we’re making. We’re retreating from the world right now.” We went to Cambodia. Being there on March 11th, 2020 when WHO announced it was a worldwide pandemic and had all these people’s lives in our hands. There was an immense responsibility.
There was this interesting thing like, “This is a very unique experience. There are not many people literally on a retreat right now.” We decided to enjoy ourselves as much as we could because we were in a space that at the time did not have any outbreaks. We could continue to enjoy and do the retreat and take it in. We were at these temples with nobody. No one was there because no one could get in. We left after our retreaters left. We knew they all got into their home countries and they made it home. It was different because normally, we don’t worry about people making it home. That time we were like, “They have to quarantine. What do they have to do? Are they going to be let back in?” No one knew anything.
A lot of borders closed.
We were hearing like Americans can’t get in and I was like, “What happens? Do they sit on the tarmac? We’re going to get on this plane and find out.” That was the craziest thing that has ever happened. What you have to learn is that there are so few things that are in your control. You have to own what is and do your best and trust. We all made it home okay. It was weird because you’re watching things on the news, and then we landed and literally walked on in and went home, and no one checked.
I was like, “This is the most bizarre.” Every retreat has its own unique experience and you can plan everything as best as possible. There are times when people don’t show up the day before and you’re like, “I got to work with that,” or you have to scramble and find a new cook the night before, but everything is figureoutable as long as you know like, “What is the experience I want people to have when they’re here?” It makes it easy for you to decide like, “What do I need to fight for? What do I need to let go?”
For us, I wanted everyone to have this very unique life-changing experience. That retreat will forever be the one I remember out of all the retreats because of the unique experience that it was. We all got to know each other way better than any of the other retreats because you couldn’t go hang out with random people. You had to stay in your pod. It was very special. That one goes down as the craziest.
You got a lot of gifts out of that craziness as well. Usually, that’s what happens when there is a bit of chaos, drama or whatever it is. There’s a gift that comes out of it and a lesson to be learned.
One hundred percent being in the moment and trusting. We had to do so much trusting. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, you want everything to go a certain way. We had to trust, “We know all the information and this is the best we can do. We’re going to trust that information and we can’t worry.” You have to make the decision. Those were unique gifts to learn at that moment.
What’s next for you?
We have our first in-person business retreat. We’re doing it locally. First one out of the gate if we’re going local. We live in Las Vegas now. We moved during the pandemic. It’s an easy place for people to come. It’s a great place for us to do an awesome business retreat because there are so many spaces that we can take up. We are waiting to see if we can get back. We have a retreat house in Cambodia. That’s why we go there so much because I have a twelve-bedroom guest house that other people can rent for their own retreats when the country is letting us in.
People now know, more than ever, that you do need to choose the people that you’re going to spend time with in your life.
We are in a little bit of a hiatus as far as where our next retreat will be for our Pilates and mindset ones, but I fully intend to have at least one in 2022. I’m waiting until the New Year comes around and seeing which countries open up and where we can go. I truly do like to take people to a unique space that they wouldn’t maybe go on their own. That’s what’s next.
How can people reach out to you? How can they find you? Where can they connect?
I love Instagram. I’m all over there. You can find me @Lesley.Logan. You can also find us at OnlinePilatesClasses.com. If you’d like to listen to the sound of my voice, you can find me on the Be It Till You See It Podcast. If you’re on one of those things, you’ll hear about what we’re doing next. You’ll know how you can get on our list to be the first to know about things.
Is there anything you have to offer by any chance to the readers? Are there any special offerings?
You all should go to OnlinePilatesClasses.com/free and that will give you a free 30-minute Pilates workout. I know we didn’t talk a lot about Pilates but here’s the deal. To me, Pilates is the best way to prioritize yourself, keep connected to yourself, understand who you are, and do it anywhere. That workout that I give you, you can do on a retreat, in a hotel, at the airport or at home. You just need to have enough room to lie down.
I’m someone who travels with a thin blanket that I even throw on an airport floor doing Pilates practice. I am a weirdo at an airport. If I have to fly international, you can better believe I’m doing my Pilates in an airport terminal because you can’t sit for that long. It’s not good for you. I take a thin blanket, almost like a sheet-like thing, and I lay it down. I do a whole mat work. That free class you could do anywhere, as long as you can log into the internet.
Did you ever scream out, “Everybody, join me?”
That would be hilarious. I travel to Asia. Most of the time, I’m the only Redhead-Caucasian woman in the airport. I already stand out like a sore thumb.
You’re doing Pilates there like, “She’s crazy.”
What’s interesting is on some of those flights, they do seated Tai Chi. They’re more intrigued than like, “She’s being odd,” but I haven’t done that yet. That would be fun. Probably because I’m like, “This is my me time. It’s my only time to be by myself and not sitting close to a stranger.” I hope everyone enjoys that. If you do download that class, it does put you on our list. You will hear about anything we have going on. Please let me know any questions or takeaways you had because it does bring me joy. I know that if you tag this show, it’ll bring them so much joy to know what they got out of this show. I’m so excited about this show for you.
Me too. I’m excited to have interviewed you and eventually, maybe one day meet you. You never know. Everything is going to open up. 2022 is going to be insane as far as retreats are concerned.
It will and people are ready. When I put my in-person business retreat up, I said, “I’m doing this. Who wants to come?” It’s sold out in seven days. I have never had a retreat sell out in seven days. It’s because people have been wanting something to look forward to. If you’re reading this, don’t wait. If where you are, you can do a local in-person retreat, do it because people want something to have on their calendar to look forward to.
They want to connect again but connect for a purposeful reason. There is a lot of stuff that happened. People need to figure that out.
Also, people now know more than ever that you do need to choose the people you’re going to spend time with in your life. What happens on our retreat is that like-minded people do get together. If you like the retreat host, you’re probably going to like most of the people who follow them because they’re going to be like you.
It was such a pleasure interviewing you. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you. This is great. Thanks, everyone.
Good luck with everything.
Thank you. You too.
- @Lesley.Logan – Instagram
- Be It Till You See It Podcast
About Lesley Logan
Lesley Logan, a certified Pilates teacher, and mindset coach is the founder of OnlinePilatesClasses.com, the first free online catalog of Pilates exercise tutorials, where you can also find weekly Pilates classes and workshops. Teaching Pilates since 2008, she has run multiple studios, has trained hundreds of people to become teachers themselves, and has taught thousands of students. When not teaching from her studio in Las Vegas, Lesley she’s hosting her podcast Be It Till You See it or traveling the world leading Pilates retreats