As a successful marketing professional working in the media industry, one could say that Zoe Watson really had it made. Life changed for Zoe however, when she was involved in a serious car accident that resulted in major injuries. Zoe was almost at breaking point, and needed some well deserved time – and rest – to get back on track. So she booked a trip on her own to Bali! It was her first trip to the popular destination, and it was to become an inspiration that not only transformed Zoe’s life, but resulted in the positive transformation in the lives of many women. A short time ago, Zoe shared her amazing story with Bizoomi.
What is your business?
Bliss Sanctuary For Women is the first of-its-kind women’s only bespoke boutique villa accommodation in Bali. It is a blissful, peaceful, beautiful sanctuary – a space created specifically for women who want to take time out for deep rest.
We are so different from a traditional ‘retreat’ which is all about schedules and activities and we are designed specifically for women traveling on their own without being alone.
It’s hard to find any resort accommodation with no couples and no kids these days, so we are the only travel experience of its kind, all about blissful nurturing, deep rest, for women only who are looking for privacy, safety, pampering and kindness.
The main difference between Bliss Sanctuary For Women and a ‘retreat’ is that we have no specific schedules. Our onsite Western hostess is there to organise anything you would like to do and take all the decision making out of your stay. It’s the simplicity of having a personal blissful experience over a travel experience – which can take a lot of organising and be very hard work – giving you a truly restful holiday.
How long have you been in business?
This year, we celebrated our 2 Year Anniversary.
I had my first ‘official’ guest in May 2011. It’s been two years of challenges and rewards but the icing on the cake was recently being awarded our second Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence. That’s one for every year we have been open.
This Award recognises the Sanctuary in the top-performing 10% of all businesses worldwide on TripAdvisor. We are very proud of our success to date.
How old are you?
What were you doing before you started your business?
I was a successful marketing and sales director in the media industry. Rather different from my role now which, while it’s as challenging as my former role, if not more, there is no doubt the most ‘blissful job in the world’.
How did you get started in the business?
Well that’s a story in itself…
I was involved in a car accident and sustained serious injuries that left me with ongoing pain and constant migraines, which resulted in Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Of course, like most of us, I continued on with my high-pressure job. To the outside world, I was a dedicated, successful, savvy and hardworking career woman. On the inside, I was almost at breaking point.
So a little over two years ago, I gave my boss an ultimatum – I was either quitting or needed a holiday.
I was given a week off and decided to take a quick tropical break to try and recharge. Never having been before, I went to Bali, by myself (important to note here I do have an incredible fear of flying)
Anyway, it turned out to be a life-changing ticket to “pure bliss”.
I had a nice experience, extremely relaxing, mainly because I was travelling alone, but I knew it could have been even better if I’d had someone on the ground who knew Bali and could relate to where I was at and create a hassle-free stay that met all my needs. Or even just someone to have dinner with! Lol.
After realising what a restorative break could do for you when you are all alone, I started to think about how many other women would need the same thing, and not deal with screaming kids, romantic honeymooners or big groups of boys on footy trips surrounding them.
Solving my own dilemma, and I hoped that of many other women, I returned home from my holiday, immediately quit my job, wrote a business plan in two weeks, moved to Bali and found the perfect location in just three days.
It was meant to be.
I launched ‘Bliss Sanctuary for Women’ in April / May 2011.
What are the best things about being in business for you?
There are so many:
- Every time we receive an amazing Tripadvisor Review.
- When women leave in tears, so emotionally moved and happy, saying that this was just what they needed and how glad they are we are doing something so special for women.
- When our staff go above and beyond doing ceremonies for us and really caring for us like part of the family.
- But my proudest moment has been the way I have set up the business for future growth and based out of Hong Kong, it’s not something that has been done before, and not something anyone will see, but it will pave the way for fast growth and future success.
What is your biggest goal for your business at the moment?
At this moment it is most definitely setting up the back end of the business and related staff appointments for future growth. I am looking at employing women from all over the world on a contract basis for different projects, appoint and train a General Manager in the bliss way and grow our Bali business by a further 60% whilst securing a location for further expansion in Europe.
What is your biggest challenge in business at the moment?
The biggest challenge is really getting across to all staff what I call the Bliss Philosophies. The way we do business is so different and all of our people are taught to push their own personal boundaries of connection. A lot of my employees are women working from home and it is extremely difficult to build and maintain a ‘culture’ based on people when communication is always from far away places. However this is one of the things I am so excited about breaking through so I can set up an amazing talent pool of women working from home from all over the world and connecting with one another in a personal way using todays amazing technologies. It’s almost like teaching another language. The language of connection when seemingly we are disconnected via distance. It’s building an ‘energy’ in our words and philosophies and engaging with women from all walks of life.
What has been your greatest achievement in business to date?
Just creating the new and unique travel experience Bliss Sanctuary For Women and touching so many women’s lives along with the lives of our staff.
But then being able to support the local Balinese community – who have given me so much – and being able to regularly donate funds to the Bali Children’s Foundation through our Humanitarian packages is definitely my greatest achievement. Giving Back.
Any developments/big news with your business that you would like to share?
Well I’ve already touched on this, but I’m very excited about potentially expanding into Europe in terms of our sanctuaries and adding to our employment pool with our back end management with women from all over the world.
What would you like to get out of Bizoomi?
At Bliss Sanctuary For Women, we place importance in creating a community and an awareness, which seems very in line with Bizoomi’s goals!
Making real connections with like-minded people is always at the forefront. Exposure for our Sanctuary and extra business is obviously a bonus however not always the main motivation of any PR we undertake.
Over the past two years of running the business, we have almost organically become the go-to-experts on women travelling solo and the incredible health and wellbeing benefits of deep restorative relaxation – a main focus and philosophy of Bliss Sanctuary For Women.
The media releases we distribute are very current and fact-driven and we are constantly looking for interesting and informative angles that will enhance women’s lives, rather than a straight up hard sell. We truly believe in, and are constantly witnessing, the transformation and enlivenment of our guests during their stays.
What women really want and need from their ‘holidays’ is of great importance to us.
In fact we are working on running monthly survey campaigns on our website, reaching out to women from all walks of life to share their thoughts and ideals on every aspect of how women find and/try to achieve balance in their lives.
I believe these statistics will present some very interesting results, and they’ll no doubt bring about great newsworthy stories for us too.
We’d love the Bizoomi community to also be involved with this research or simply embrace and join the Bliss Community via our website, Facebook and Twitter.
What piece of advice do you have for those starting a business?
To learn to understand the values of the people you are working with. In my case, it was the Balinese people. Learn to respect things that you don’t necessarily hold in high esteem as they might.
Find a few key trustworthy people who you can count on and trust your instincts. My actions were mainly instinctive and very well researched. I only really read books about successful people, which is where most of my advice has come from.
And always employ smart loyal people. I believe it’s ok to employ friends or people we know as long as we are very honest with ourselves about their loyalty and intelligence. It’s not about finding more and more boxes to put people into. It’s about creating a pool of talent that can flow and change as needs arise.
What motivational advice can you give to other small business owners like yourself?
- To flow like water. When you become rigid and immovable like water freezing into ice, you will no doubt break. While you are flowing and learning and creating you will keep moving and growing and who knows where you will end up! To me that’s what is so exciting. After all if we have something specific that we are aiming for based on the knowledge and experience we have now, can you imagine how much bigger that will expand as you grow, if you let it.
- You can never be aware of all the challenges you will face in setting up a business. That’s what gets my adrenalin pumping, looking for different ways of doing things and asking as many questions as possible of anyone willing to share. I had an idea of the challenges I thought I would face and while some of these were much easier to navigate through, many more unforeseeable things just pop up constantly.
- It’s not in what happens it’s in the attitude of getting through it not expecting it to be easy but being open to new perspectives (including religious, cultural and differing values of those we are doing business with) and losing the first world arrogance that we know best!
- Humility is very important, coupled with self-confidence, inner strength, and personal power and the ability to listen and understand what is important.
- Don’t be scared and never entertain the notion of failure. Life is full of highs and lows; every successful person has failed dismally. Life is about the experience not just creating a goal and reaching it in a straight line. Just imagine how much we would miss out on that way!
- My attitude was that I would give my new business a red-hot go with no emotional investment on whether it worked or not. I took it all day by day.
What inspires you?
I’m passionate about empowering women by helping them reconnect to themselves and a community of women around them as we have lost a lot of that in Western society today. We do this by providing space for women to follow and find their bliss. It’s so simple and yet so important.
Where do you want your business to be in five years’ time?
Everything has already changed so much in the 2+ years we have been open and have already exceeded my dreams. At this stage I am hoping to have 10 more Bliss Sanctuary Retreat s all over the world, a huge pool of employees working with the bliss philosophies in the bliss way from the warmth and security of their own home, allowing them to give more back to their friends and family and themselves. Supporting local charities in each country that we have a sanctuary and creating awareness and knowledge and support to women worldwide. I look forward to seeing what this actually looks like in 5 years time with an essence of growth, connection, knowledge and lots of positive energy!
Bliss Sanctuary Retreat for Women in Bali is a unique experience combining the best yoga retreat experience, with spa treatments, ultimate relaxation and pampering