Turning a hobby, skill, or passion into a tour or retreat could be a fantastic way to monetise what you are good at and what you enjoy. It has become increasingly easier to start running your own tours or experiences in your home country and abroad in recent years. With technology advancing and travel becoming more accessible worldwide, many people have been designing niche retreats, experiences, and getaway packages. From aerial yoga retreats in Central America to adventure photography in Western Sahara, it is possible to turn a passion project into a reality. However, it doesn’t always appear simple, and getting started can be daunting, so here’s Paco’s story about turning his love of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into a business running retreats for BJJ enthusiasts.
Building a Successful Brand
Paco (Plamen Peichev) and Kika Jordanovska are entrepreneurs and specialists in creating online brands around popular hobbies and have been running a successful online business for several years.
They first started with print-on-demand merchandise for their online brands. However, as their work developed and the communities around these brands began to form, they realised the potential for in-person events, so their camps were born over time.
Paco and Kika founded Jiu Jitsu Legacy in 2015 as an online resource for Jiu-Jitsu enthusiasts across the world. Paco developed a passion and interest for martial arts along the way, which gave him valuable knowledge of how the sport works and direct access to the community in Bulgaria, where he is based. Paco realised that it isn’t just about selling t-shirts, but in fact, there is a dedicated community that wants to connect and learn from each other. So, as well as selling branded merchandise, Paco and Kika had an idea to expand the Jiu-Jitsu Legacy brand.
The website itself covers everything to do with a Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle, from articles focusing on nutrition to preparing for a Jiu-Jitsu competition. In addition, Paco has now built a global team of contributors who are either coaches or BJJ enthusiasts, which naturally helped to form the community on the site.
Developing a passion for this martial art and building a brand around it allowed Paco to build a community of like-minded people from across the world who share the same passion. He also realised that people are looking for something to be a part of, and it’s not just about sharing the same interest. Being part of a community is, in some ways, a safety net and creates a space where people can talk to each other about other things in life, and Paco saw this development as his community grew.
Through growing his online and in-person network, Paco met the founder of BJJ Summer Week while training at a gym in Sardinia, and this is where he realised the potential for creating BJJ retreats. Paco teamed up with the founder of BJJ Summer Week and learned a lot about organising a camp for the community. This is where his passion for starting running his retreats was born.
In 2019 Paco and Kika organised their first BJJ camp in Bansko, Bulgaria, and it was a success, but they learned a lot along the way. In 2022 they successfully ran their second camp, and they have more planned for the coming months and years.
Having worked at BJJ Summer Week gave Paco a head start as he gained valuable knowledge in the logistical side of the camp, so he was able to apply this to organising his camp. One of the most significant pieces of advice Paco would give to someone looking to set up their camp is to find someone doing something similar or in the same field so you can shadow them or attend one of their retreats to learn from them. It also gives you an idea of your competition. If you don’t find anyone running retreats or experiences that share your subject interest, there may be a reason for this.
Lessons Learned from Hosting a Retreat
Paco and Kika have learned many lessons, from ensuring that the hotel you have booked offers food to cover all dietary requirements to making sure you are covered legally, and here are some of their biggest lessons.
Paco’s most important lesson learned is to not overstress. It’s good to think about everything that could go wrong. But at the end of the day, most of these are just worries in your head, and stressing about them will not help. Things will go wrong. It is natural, but keeping calm will help you deal with them.
Another valuable piece of advice that Paco and Kika learned is to speak with every guest. This can be challenging due to the scale of some retreats, so place yourself at the front desk to check everyone in, showing your face and making these connections is a really important beginning to your guests' overall experience. As the organiser, building connections and relationships with your guests makes all the difference when you see your feedback and reviews rolling in. Kika suggests you make yourself available for conversation, and employing others to help you run the retreat will help with this.
A final lesson learned is to have a team. It might be possible to do it yourself, but Kika suggests hiring and outsourcing some of your work to help relieve pressures from your role. A common mistake is to think you don’t have a budget to employ people, but it is essential to make this investment so you can enjoy the event too. The mood of the organiser will reflect on the atmosphere of the event.
Top Tips for Creating your own Retreat
If you want to turn your passion into a retreat or experience, here are some top tips from Paco and Kika.
Make sure to have built your community either from a social media following or brand, as these are the people to who you will be advertising. Having the community in place means you already have loyal customers to try out your retreat or give you feedback on the concept before making the full investment. You can also use your community to help you build your retreat, reach out to your followers and see what skills they can offer.
Spend time on the logistics - A good location is essential, for example, one that is accessible and close to an airport, making transporting your guests easier. Also, ensure that the airport is well connected and has international flights, especially if you have a global community.
Know your location and make it part of your marketing strategy
Paco and Kika live in Bansko, Bulgaria, so they know the lay of the land. This makes organising logistics easier, as they speak the local language, know the cool spots to take people, and have the connections. When hosting a retreat, picking desirable or unknown locations will really help with the overall marking of the event, and take advantage of the local businesses, destinations, and things to do in the area.
Speak with local businesses
Local businesses can help you a lot; no matter what type of retreat you are running, there will always be a need for food and accommodation, so make sure to reach out to local businesses to create partnerships. Paco and Kika do this for every camp as it not only benefits them but also brings business to the locals. If you are new to an area, Paco also recommends having a local tour partner or employing a local to help you understand the area.
Give yourself time
You may think it is possible to put something together with short notice, but the more time you give yourself, the better retreat you will pull off. Paco likes to plan around six months to 1 year in advance, as this gives him time to create marketing strategies, recruit a team, find the perfect venue and prepare. Then, give yourself at least three weeks to check out the location and make bookings, but selling the tickets takes time.
Plan your finances
From a financial point of view, make sure to have a break-even point and then work out your costs. This means that you won’t end up negative after the experience. Although you may not gain financially after your first retreat, you will gain valuable content to promote future retreats and feedback from your customers. Likely, the first event you run will not make a profit, but it is essential to break even.
Make sure you are covered legally.
Kika recommends researching the specific legal requirements or laws in the country where you plan to run a retreat, as it can vary between continents. This also goes for liability insurance; make sure you are covered and know the laws in the country you will be in.
Start small when setting up a retreat!
Although you may have dreams of hosting hundreds of guests, it is always best to start small from Paco’s perspective and build from there. Start with 50 guests and then scale up from there.
So what is stopping you from creating retreats or experiences with your community? Now is the time to take your passion and think about how it can be used to create unique experiences or retreats.
Want to know more about what Paco and Kika do? Then head over to the Jiu Jitsu Legacy website to learn more.