Hello Jess! Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed by The Retreater, can you start us off with telling us a bit about yourself and HIFE retreats?
Hello, my name is Jess, I am the founder of HIFE Retreats… I am also an Osteopath, Yoga Teacher, Pilates Teacher and Personal Trainer. I have been interested in the wellbeing world for a long time, even as a child / teen I was active, sporty and intrigued by health. Knocked back by medical school (I am sure lots of you can relate to thinking your A- Levels were the be all and end all?!), I got a job and earnt some money to go travelling and re-sat exams before deciding that I was actually better suited to studying the body in a more holistic way. This led me to Oxford Brookes to study Osteopathy and I LOVED my degree, whilst I don’t clinically practice anymore it has certainly made me the ‘hands on’ ‘alignment focused’ teacher I am today.
HIFE wise.. I ran my first 20 Retreats under my own name, with no real branding, simply propelled forwards by a love for what I was doing and the support / encouragement of returning guests. I rebranded for two main reasons - one more heart felt and one more business minded. Quickly with the business minded one as it may interest those of you starting out as a retreat host; I wanted to be protected should anything go wrong on a retreat, also prior to Covid-19 who would have ever imagined the world could close over night but now I think that is something we need to protect ourself and our business’ against. From the heart… I wanted a brand that guests could really relate to, I wanted it to mean something and I wanted guests to be part of a community appreciated and celebrated life.
Jess, Founder of HIFE retreats
What does HIFE stand for?
To be high on life; to appreciate all the intricacies of life. Both the simplicity of its beauty and the complexity of its journey. Marvelling at the path it takes us on, how fleeting it can be and how much it must be celebrated.
I think / hope that the energy and love behind HIFE shows. After qualifying and before setting up my own retreats I worked for a number of beautiful 5 start luxury wellness resorts - so I know what money can buy, I know what ‘the best’ looks like. But from my time in these resorts I know money doesn’t actually buy you all of the best experiences. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot I have taken from some incredible spas and it is part of my journey I would absolutely not unwind because I learnt so much and maybe that’s actually what makes HIFE Retreats unique? My experience.
How did you get into creating retreats? Did you have a previous career beforehand or was there a trigger?
My first job out of university was as an Osteopath and Yoga Teacher in an incredible Health and Wellness Resort in Saint Lucia, so whilst this was a hotel and not a retreat venue you could say there was a lot of overlap. From here I worked with AMAN, ANANTARA, SONEVA, SIX SENSES.. all the big boys in the luxury wellness world. It was a massive privilege. Not only did I live rent free in paradise, I saw beautiful yoga studios, I worked along-side amazing practitioners, I was managed by fantastic GMs and I also met incredible guests from all over the world. To this day a large proportion of my bookings are these guests.
This would be a learning point for those wanting to set up their own retreats… know where your clients are going to come from / connect with everyone you can because you never know if they will be a guest or they will share your business for you.
I really love to connect with new people but I know for some people that can seem quite intimidating. In my opinion if you aren’t willing to shout from the roof tops and sell your own services no one else will… maybe now with social media / advertising and help from amazing companies like The Retreater you probably don’t need as many clients early on but for me that was really important.
My first retreat was actually a bit of a gift. A very good friend asked me if I would like to host at their guest house, and of course the answer was yes… but also of course I had very limited money to put in the pot. In the week leading up to the retreat I prepared the majority of the food, I taught the classes when we were there of course, I gave guests their massages because I didn’t know if we would have enough money for a therapist and I made the meals because paying a chef was certainly out of the question. And then I sold the retreats very cheap to friends and family, really just to prove / test it worked. I even sold a place to be to my now fiancé who at the time attended with a surgically repaired shoulder.. I was taking any bookings I could get!
It carried on at this pace for a while. Doing a lot but not necessarily making a lot, however I was getting my name out there and loving it. Then (dare I say it, because it sounds very cliche but…) we are organically. I had more money in the pot from bookings to take on bigger venues, to pay staff and to make the experience better.
Now we are in an exciting place where I can think even bigger and I hope make things even better for guests.
Jessica, teaching on a HIFE retreat
What retreats do you have coming up this year and next?
There are some retreats we have that have been running for 4/5 years now and I think they will forever be part of our calendar, they are weekends in the Lake District and they’re just super wholesome, relaxed and often attended by the same guests year on year. They’re fully booked for the remainder of 2022 and 2023 but as soon as I have new dates I will be sure to share them with The Retreater.
We have a really exciting brand-new BRIDAL RETREAT. I am getting married in December and my wedding planner also recently got engaged, during one of our meetings we thought what would really help brides in the run up to their wedding? We came up with this Retreat and we hope you are going to love it. Yoga, Pilates, support with the planning of your big day, help and advice from a skin care expert, Guided Hikes, time for yourself to unwind and relax plus so much more! You can see more about this one *here*
In 2023 I am also going back to host a retreat from first resort I spoke about in my journey, to this day it is the one resort that has probably had the most influence on what we offer at HIFE so that’s really huge! And there will be lots more so please do make sure you are signed up to The Retreaters mailing list and keep your eyes on both their socials and mine.
Do people have to have yoga experience to come on a HIFE retreat?
Not at all, I always invite guests to take a free month of live classes before joining us on a retreat so that they get a feel for the practice.
Retreats are actually great place to start because you have TIME - you are not rushing off from class to pick up kids or avoid a parking ticket, you can ask me questions both before and after classes plus we make time to discuss the most commonly asked questions in a workshop setting whilst we are away together.
Note - it isn’t just about the practice either. Some guests may dip their toe in the yoga but they may really be there to enjoy the company, the massages, the yummy food or the walks. Take what you need, always.
Retreat Venue, Melmerby Hall
What would you say to someone who has never been on a retreat but is curious to try it?
I really believe life is about visiting new places, looking after your body, talking to new people, learning things and trying great food. I also massively appreciate how stunning the Lake District is, how much of an impact seeing a beautiful sunrise has on your day and how magic it is to do yoga in a studio that looks out over the alps.
I could keep going with those lists but if they speak to you then I think you would enjoy HIFE Retreats so please reach out to me, I am on socials at @jessicarlambert or find me through The Retreater and I will happily help you find the perfect retreat for you.
Any questions on the article above or want to get in contact for some free retreat inspiration? Get in touch here!