Mercedes Sieff is co-founder of health and wellbeing retreat, Yeotown, as well as a Vinyasa Flow yoga instructor and Lululemon ambassador. She shares her valuable advice on setting up a retreat, the key components for success and how to boost your publicity.
Can you introduce us to Yeotown and how it all came about?
Yeotown is a healthy lifestyle retreat based in North Devon – and we’re the recent winner of the 2016 “Life Changer” Tatler Spa Award. Our signature weekly five-day programme is called “The Yeotox” and is a modern day approach to cleansing and rebooting the system in both body and mind.
Yeotown was our much-loved weekend country home away from London and five years ago, we decided to throw open our farmhouse doors to create a unique haven of health – something we felt was missing from the UK spa market.
We decided to throw open our farmhouse doors to create a unique haven of health – something we felt was missing from the UK spa market.
A far cry from a weight-loss, fasting retreat, bootcamp or chilled spa weekend, The Yeotox focuses on offering a sustainable approach to better health and wellbeing – and is sure to focus on both physical and mental health in equal measure.
Think vigorous, life-affirming, stunning coastal hikes… energising morning Vinyasa Flow yoga sessions… evening restorative stretches, mindfulness meditation sessions, and other fun, inspiring activities such as coasteering, archery, cycling, cooking lessons and fitness training. Then imagine topping off each day in our wood-fired, outdoor hot tub overlooking the fields, followed by a delicious deep tissue Shiatsu or Thai massage – and you have an effective, inspiring recipe for optimal health and wellbeing!
What do you believe are the key components to a successful wellbeing retreat?
The team is definitely key. Not just the therapists or trainers but the whole team. Everyone from housekeeping to the office staff to the chef, yoga teachers – even our gardeners, etc. They all love what they do and are really, really good at it. The guests always remark at the high calibre of people we have at Yeotown and how everyone is not only so great at what they do, but they are also super personable, friendly and happy. They are always asking Simon and I how we have managed to find such great people!
How do you go about putting your programme packages together?
We are constantly asking for feedback from guests and have really fine-tuned the programme over the last five years. Playing around with everything from its length, activities, the order that the sessions are presented, timings, menu, etc. We really take on board what people like and what they feel could be added or taken away.
What advice would you give for retreats who are in the start-up stages?
Comparison kills creativity! Find out what you are passionate about offering and start with that. It’s tempting to want to look to see what others are doing and compare that to your offering or to look at what has been done before – but like anything in life, you will always succeed further by putting forth your own unique stamp on things.
Comparison kills creativity! Find out what you are passionate about offering and start with that… you will always succeed further by putting forth your own unique stamp on things.
When we first started out we advertised ourselves as a ‘health retreat’ that was committed not just to working on physical health and the weight of the body, but equally mental health and the weight of the being. The press had no idea how to write us up and often would just refer to us as a bootcamp or weight-loss retreat, despite our objections and protests that it wasn’t what we were!
Bootcamps and “fat farms” were de rigueur at the time and it would have probably been quicker to fill spaces initially had we called ourselves such, but we stuck to our beliefs – and, only two years after opening, we won our first big award from Conde Nast Traveller for ‘Best Spa Retreat UK’. Growing authentically and organically paid off.
How do you go about marketing and publicising Yeotown – and what strategies have you found work well for you?
We developed a really good relationship with the press early on, offering stays in exchange for reviews – so that was a huge help in the initial days to get our name known to a wider audience.
Your repeat business will be your loyal base and will get the word out there better than anyone.
We also have a high guest return rate and great word of mouth so, again, I recommend focusing on your offering and making sure it is the highest quality possible to ensure people keep returning for more with their friends and telling everyone they know about it. Your repeat business will be your loyal base and will get the word out there better than anyone.