- Ranby established her luxury weight-loss retreats in 2012 after recognising a gap in the market
- The retreats include a nutritionist, a stylist, a personal trainer and are 3-21 days in length
- Ranby’s accounting background has given her a detailed understanding of the intricacies of business
Overweight and overwhelmed? You are not alone. The biggest barrier to weight loss for women is expecting too much of themselves, according to Joelene Ranby CA from Resolution Retreats, New Zealand’s only live-in, luxury weight-loss, health and wellness retreat provider exclusively for women.
Managing director and programme coordinator, the 30 year old is well-qualified to support women battling to lose weight and live healthier lives. She lost 20kg after a wake-up call involving the unwelcome question “are you pregnant?” when she wasn’t. Although already in her twenties by then, Ranby had never learned how to eat healthily.
“I was brought up in a family where I didn’t really learn to cook or eat right… we ate a lot of pies, cereal and takeaways. I didn’t play any sport, and used every excuse to get out of PE at school.”
So Ranby taught herself to cook by watching television chefs. She also took up yoga and developed such a passion for this that she trained as a group fitness instructor.
A retreat of one’s own
While on her own weight loss journey, Ranby discovered a gap in the market.
“I realised there was nothing like Resolution Retreats where women could go to refocus on themselves and have the sort of education, understanding, support and encouragement that I needed when I was improving my own health.”
In 2012 she ran her first retreats as a side-interest, during weekends or while on leave from her role as a financial accountant.
“It was a lot of work at first, but also a lot of fun as it was something I was truly passionate about.”
It was rewarding seeing guests get inspired and achieve results.
She made the decision to focus on the business full time in late 2015, once the demand for retreats exceeded what she could manage part time.
Now Ranby runs at least one retreat a month in Tauranga in the North Island, with plans for more locations. Resolution Retreats offers groups of up to 12 women three-day, seven-day or ten-day retreats, or a three-week “life changer”. The ten-day option has proven most popular.
“It’s a good amount of time out for guests who are committed to making some lasting changes in their lives.”
The retreats are women-only because “women face a special set of challenges with regard to their health which can make their journey quite different to that which men face”, Ranby says.
A “typical guest” is a busy woman, aged between 35 and 60, who hasn’t had the time to focus on herself due to pressures such as career and family.
The team of staff includes a nutritionist/dietitian, a stylist, a makeup artist, a personal trainer/life coach and a motivational speaker. Staff have faced similar struggles at times and can empathise with guests.
“The people who run our retreats aren’t perfect and don’t pretend to be. We don’t expect our guests to be either. We try to impress upon them that health is a doing word, and they need to strive for progress, not perfection.”
The choice of an all-female staff — save a guest male chef who cooks one night per retreat — is deliberate.
“I expect that some of our ladies would feel uncomfortable doing fitness in the pool with a male instructor, or talking about menopausal symptoms with a male facilitator.”
The retreats focus on more than just food and cooking, extending to movement, stress, mind-set shifting, confidence, styling, beauty, overcoming personal barriers and how to make changes when back at home.
The live-in environment removes the distractions and temptations which can hinder people in their everyday lives, weakening willpower and determination.
“Our environment and programmes make our guests take time to put themselves first, rather than having to fit ‘figuring out how to improve my health’ into everything else they need to do this week.”
The retreats are held in luxury settings as Ranby says it is great for guests to have a beautiful space for relaxation – particularly on the longer retreats.
So it’s very different from a boot camp, or a fat camp.
“We want our guests to enjoy their time with us and to look and feel great when they leave, not exhausted and traumatised.”
Alcohol is banned on retreats. It can be a touchy subject for women, Ranby says, and something they are very reluctant to let go of.
“This tends to be because they use it as an activity during which they give themselves permission to stop, relax, and take time out. We try to teach our guests that they don’t need alcohol to be allowed time out.”
While women aren’t encouraged to give up alcohol when they leave the retreat, they are urged to ensure they are indulging for the right reasons.
Resolution Retreats guarantees women will lose weight, and its website states: “If you do not lose inches, we will refund the entire Retreat cost.”
Ranby says guests make a significant financial and time commitment by attending retreats.
“It is our reciprocal commitment to them that our programmes work and we stand by that commitment with our weight loss guarantee.”
To date, everyone who has attended a retreat has lost weight. The biggest amount anyone has lost is nine kilograms on a 21-day retreat.
But the retreats don’t focus on extreme weight loss “because we don’t just want everything to ‘spring back’ when our guests leave. We want our guests to see that they can continue what we do on retreat, at home”, Ranby says.
Ranby attends every retreat to meet the guests, support the facilitator and offer her insights on goal setting and health. She also looks after the company’s finances. Her accounting background has given her a detailed understanding of the intricacies of business, which has allowed her to focus on growing the company.
When establishing the business, one of the biggest challenges was finding time in her day to work “in the business” as well as “on the business”, while working in a full time accounting role.
Another challenge was self-doubt, which she admits still cripples her now at times, despite having developed a successful business.
Despite being an SME, Ranby doesn’t think of Resolution Retreats as a small business.
“Others may perceive it as such, and compared to the companies I have worked with in the past it most certainly is. However, to continue to grow, as a leader I have to think big, dream big and keep my head in that space.”
I realised there was nothing like Resolution Retreats where women could go to refocus on themselves and have the sort of education, understanding, support and encouragement that I needed when I was improving my own health.
Retreat across the Tasman
Part of that growth strategy involves setting up retreats in Australia.
“We would like to launch a retreat location in the west coast of Australia within three years,” she says.
“We want to be known as the go-to healthy holiday provider for women in Australasia.”
However the Australian and New Zealand markets are quite different, Ranby says, from income levels to the importance women place on maintaining their health, plus there are more health retreat providers in Australia.
She plans to establish the retreats in Australia in conjunction with local service providers.
“As in New Zealand, I will run the first few retreats to get them running really smoothly. After that, I will look to take on a team to run the retreats over there. There are people who are passionate about women’s health all around the world — I just have to get out there and track them down and bring them together.”
Mentoring for success
“My business mentor recently asked me to prepare a forecast P&L for a particular growth strategy. I laid it out in such a way that the financials could be interpreted on a very detailed level,” Ranby says.
“She asked me if I knew how many business owners break down the profitability of their business to this level of detail. She said almost none that she could think of. It is something that with an accounting background just comes naturally.”
Are you a chartered accountant with experience to share? Why not consider becoming a Chartered Accountants ANZ business mentor.
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This article was first published in the July 2016 issue of Acuity magazine.