Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in fitness & health, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Margaret Burns Vap, founder at Big Sky Yoga Retreats, a yoga and outdoor fitness in Bozeman, Montana, USA.
Tell us all about your business...
Big Sky Yoga Retreats offers yoga retreats in stunning natural settings worldwide, mainly in Montana, the "last best place." Our retreaters are women - any! Because who doesn't need self-care, nature, and camaraderie with like-minded souls? Our most popular retreat is called Cowgirl Yoga - Yoga & Horseback Riding Retreats for Women, for all levels of yoginis and equestrians.
What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?
I wanted to share the healing power and potential of yoga, horses, and nature with as many people as possible. I was inspired by my family's move to Montana from Washington, DC.
And I wanted to teach people that self-care is non-negotiable. It's not a luxury but a necessity, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. We all have so many demands on our time that taking care of ourselves can feel like a luxury. But how many other things suffer if we don't start with ourselves? It has a ripple effect. Don't feel guilty about taking some time for your well-being - go to a class. Get outside. Sign up for a yoga retreat.
I want our yoga retreats to give women the best souvenir ever – the tools to transform their health. A yoga retreat shouldn't be an escape from daily life – it should inspire everyday life. It would be best if you were excited to go home and try it all out.
I'm motivated every day always to add a little Yeehaw to my Namaste.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Creating connection. Connection is the craving behind all human existence. In the words of T.S. Eliot, "Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing." We're healthy when we connect with others in meaningful ways and when we connect with animals, nature, and what's going on inside ourselves.
Despite the Internet and social media, we live in a disconnected culture. In an ironic twist, technology has caused us to become disconnected from ourselves in ways that threaten our humanity. Whether we realize it or not, we crave connection on a more simple, primal level. This means enriching our lives by spending time with other people, nature and reveling in the fundamental processes of moving and breathing – as we do in yoga practice.
Many people view vacation as escapism to get away from their day-to-day lives. The goal of my retreats is to find ways to make your everyday life the one you want to live, the place you want to be. Yoga helps add a sacred element to the mundane, which is available daily to everyone in some way. On retreat, we focus on ways you can infuse your daily life with what is sacred to you, with yoga being the foundation. We cultivate connection. Perhaps it's also meditation, journaling, finding joy in what you eat, creating a mutually beneficial relationship with horses. It's about recognizing what you are passionate about, what matters most to you, and how that can help you live the most fulfilling life possible daily.
We need connection on so many levels to thrive! I am so fortunate to have this as my job. And I seem to be doing it right since we have so many repeat retreaters year after year. That's the biggest compliment I could ever receive.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?
Trusting enough to delegate. It's so challenging to let go - because you care, with a capital C. I'm maniacal about the people I hire; it's not just about getting the job done, it's about doing it with passion. And in the end, at Big Sky Yoga Retreats, we're all fortunate to have jobs that aren't about just going through the motions. It makes it easy to go the extra mile.
I've learned that I can't do it all...and that I don't want to. So I need people on board with me who are as passionate as I am about what we offer. Many people who work with me started as our clients - so I know they love what we do! Our business is also a lifestyle choice.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run or grow a small business today?
- Whatever business you start - be authentic. Stay true to your vision - if new ideas stray too far from that, they ultimately won't support growth.
- Be patient - you can't rush success. Take the time to build your business with a robust and solid foundation, vs. taking shortcuts that falsely promise to accelerate success.
- Look for synergy with other small businesses. That has been one of the best ways we've nurtured our business and created community along the way. It feels good to support other entrepreneurs and contribute to their success, along with your own.
What are some of the things you put in place to maintain a healthy work/life balance and keep it all together?
That can be a hard line to draw since my work IS teaching life balance. I do know that when I'm depleted, I can't do that. So taking care of myself and recognizing when I need a break is integral to what I do. Again, practice what I preach comes to mind!
Who are some of your favorite entrepreneurs and best business resources/books?
Tom Hale, founder of Backroads, an active travel company that offers trips all over the globe. Going on a Backroads trip in my 20s planted the seed for my yoga retreat business (which I did not know at the time!). I've crafted my company to have the same values.
"A middle-of-the-night inspiration to start a bike touring company motivated him to pedal 5,000 miles alone through the West, all the while formulating plans for his new business...In true entrepreneurial fashion, he did it all—designed the itineraries, maintained the bikes, led the trips, produced the catalog."
I still have that kind of connection to my business since it's on a much smaller scale than his. I will always lead the trips! I hope Tom Hale won't mind me putting my company in the company of his...but I truly feel that both Backroads and Big Sky Yoga Retreats seek to offer authentic, active experiences wherever in the world we go.
Where can people find you online?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share then email firstname.lastname@example.org, we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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