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How to Start a Retreat Center

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Retreat Center

Retreat centers come in many forms and include religious retreats, yoga retreats, meditation retreats, wellness retreats, and more. In general, they are an escape from daily life to refresh and rejuvenate. They fall into the health retreat industry, which is worth more than $20 billion in the U.S.

If you’d like to create a peaceful escape for people, you could start your own retreat center and get a share of that market.

But first, you need to understand the business. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide details all the information you need to start a successful retreat center.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Help people rejuvenate
  • Growing market
  • Good profit potential

Cons

  • High startup costs
  • Good location with pleasant outdoor space essential

Retreat center industry trends

Industry size and growth

Retreats Center industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Retreat Center Trends and Challenges

Trends

  • Wellness travel is the largest growing segment of the travel industry.
  • Many retreat centers are focusing on more advanced health diagnostics and treatment.

Challenges

  • As the popularity of retreat centers grows, so does the competition.
  • Current economic conditions may prevent some people from spending money on retreats.

How much does it cost to start a retreat center business?

Startup costs for a retreat center range from $300,000 to $600,000. The largest cost is the purchase or construction of the facility itself, so depending in the property, your costs could be significantly higher. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your retreat center business, including: 

  • Furnishings, including beds and bedding
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Equipment for any services offered, such as massage tables or saunas
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$100 - $500$300
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$500$300
Website$500 - $1,000$750
Facility purchase or construction$250,000 - $500,000$375,000
Equipment for services like massage$10,000 - $30,000$20,000
Furnishings$30,000 - $50,000$40,000
Labor and operating budget$30,000 - $50,000$40,000
Sales and marketing budget$500 - $1,000$750
Total$321,300 - $633,300$477,300

How much can you earn from a retreat center business?

Retreat Center earning forecast

You can likely charge around $3,000 per week for a full service retreat, although your price will depend on what’s included in the stay such as meals and services. Your profit margin should be about 15%. 

In your first year or two, you might have 10 guests 30 weeks per year, bringing in $900,000 in revenue. This would mean $135,000 in profit, assuming that 15% margin. 

As you gain traction, you might have 15 guests 40 weeks per year. With annual revenue of $1,800,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $270,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a retreat center. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Funding the startup costs
  • Finding a good location

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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a retreat center, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.

Analyze your competitors 

Research retreat centers to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews.

  • Make a list of retreat centers that offer similar services. 
  • Review your competitors’ services – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies.
  • Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
  • Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.

Why? Identify an opportunity

You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a Christian retreat center or a yoga retreat center.

You might consider targeting a niche, such as corporate retreats.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

Here are some examples of retreat centers:

  1. Spiritual and Religious Retreats:
    • Christian, Buddhist, Yoga, Sufi, Jewish: Centers that focus on spiritual teachings, practices, and reflections specific to each tradition.
  2. Wellness and Health Retreats:
    • Detox, Spa, Holistic Health: Centers emphasizing body cleansing, treatments, and overall wellness.
  3. Personal Growth and Development Retreats:
    • Self-discovery, Creative, Leadership: Centers for personal insight, artistic inspiration, or professional development.
  4. Nature and Adventure Retreats:
    • Wilderness, Surfing/Diving, Animal Therapy: Combining nature, activity, or animal interaction for relaxation and learning.
  5. Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Retreats:
    • Mindfulness, Therapeutic: Centers that focus on calming the mind, self-awareness, and healing.
  6. Couples and Relationship Retreats:
    • Marriage, Family: Centers dedicated to strengthening bonds and addressing relationship dynamics.
  7. Special Interest Retreats:
    • Cooking, Photography, Music/Dance: Centers based on specific hobbies or interests.

What? Determine your services

Your services will depend on the type of retreat center you decide to open. A wellness retreat would likely offer spa-like services and things like nutrition counselling, meditation rooms, and yoga classes.

How much should you charge for retreat center stays?

Your prices should be based on what it costs you to provide the services that are included in your packages.

Once you know your costs, use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will depend on the type of retreat you open, but your attendees will likely be more established people who you can find on Instagram or Facebook. If you host corporate retreats, you could also market on LinkedIn. 

Where? Choose a retreat center location

You’ll likely need to purchase or construct your facility, but it may be possible to find a space to rent instead. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices. Here are some important factors to consider:

  1. Purpose: Identify the main goal of your retreat (e.g., relaxation, spiritual growth, personal development).
  2. Environment: Decide on a setting (e.g., beach, mountains, desert) that resonates with your purpose.
  3. Accessibility: Ensure it’s within a reasonable distance or has good transport links.
  4. Facilities: Check if it offers amenities and services you require.
  5. Budget: Ensure costs align with your budget, considering both accommodation and additional expenses.
  6. Reviews: Read past attendees’ feedback for insights on the experience.
  7. Safety: Ensure the location is safe, and consider health and travel advisories.
Retreat Center business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Retreat Center Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “retreat” or “wellness retreat”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Horizon Haven” or “NexusNook” over “Peak Peace” or “SeaSerenity”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation. 

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward. 

Step 4: Create a Retreat Center Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Summarize your retreat center business plan, highlighting the key elements, such as your vision, target audience, and financial projections.
  • Business Overview: Provide an overview of your retreat center, including its location, the types of retreats you’ll host (e.g., wellness, spiritual, corporate), and the unique features that set it apart.
  • Product and Services: Detail the services and amenities offered at your retreat center, including accommodations, activities, workshops, and any special offerings like spa services or guided tours.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the demand for retreat experiences in your chosen location, considering factors like demographics, travel trends, and the potential for growth in the retreat industry.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify other retreat centers in the area or similar businesses and explain how your center distinguishes itself, whether through pricing, unique experiences, or target clientele.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategies for attracting retreat participants, including online marketing, partnerships with wellness influencers, and promotional events.
  • Management Team: Introduce yourself and any key team members involved in managing the retreat center, emphasizing relevant experience in hospitality and event planning.
  • Operations Plan: Describe how your retreat center will operate day-to-day, covering guest check-in, staff responsibilities, event scheduling, and maintenance.
  • Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including startup costs, expected revenue from retreats, and profitability forecasts based on your pricing and occupancy goals.
  • Appendix: Include any supporting documents, such as photos of the retreat center, testimonials from past guests, and marketing materials.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to retreat centers. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your retreat center will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a retreat center business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a retreat center business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your retreat center business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as BookingGuru, or campsite, to manage your bookings, meals, services, and billing.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Create a website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. 

Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Book Now”. This can sharply increase purchases. 

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  1. Targeted Social Media Campaigns: Leverage platforms like Instagram and Facebook to showcase the tranquil atmosphere, engaging activities, and positive testimonials, attracting individuals seeking a retreat experience.
  2. Local SEO — Regularly update your Google My Business and Yelp profiles to strengthen your local search presence.
  3. Collaborate with Wellness Influencers: Partner with influencers in the wellness and personal development niche to expand your reach and gain credibility, reaching potential guests who align with your center’s values.
  4. Host Free Workshops and Webinars: Offer virtual or local workshops on mindfulness, stress relief, or personal development to showcase your expertise, build community, and attract those interested in your retreat programs.
  5. Create Exclusive Packages for Corporates: Develop tailored packages for corporate retreats, emphasizing team-building activities and stress-relief programs, appealing to businesses seeking unique and rejuvenating experiences for their teams.
  6. Engage in Local Events and Sponsorships: Attend community events, health fairs, and wellness expos to connect with potential guests. Consider sponsoring local sports teams or community gatherings to increase brand visibility.
  7. Implement a Referral Program: Encourage satisfied guests to refer friends and family by offering discounts or exclusive perks for successful referrals, fostering a sense of community and loyalty.
  8. Optimize Online Reviews and Testimonials: Actively seek and showcase positive reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor and Google, as prospective guests often rely on peer experiences when choosing a retreat center.
  9. Seasonal Promotions and Discounts: Introduce limited-time promotions or early booking discounts during peak seasons to create a sense of urgency, driving reservations and attracting cost-conscious guests.
  10. Create Engaging Content: Develop a blog or video series that provides valuable content on wellness, mindfulness, and personal development, positioning your retreat center as an authority in the field.
  11. Partner with Yoga and Wellness Retreat Platforms: List your retreats on specialized platforms like BookRetreats.com or Retreat Guru to tap into a targeted audience actively seeking retreat experiences, expanding your online presence.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your retreat center meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your retreat center business could be: 

  • Escape, rejuvenate, and reconnect at our serene retreat center, where tranquility meets transformation
  • Embark on a transformative journey in nature’s embrace at our retreat center, fostering personal growth and well-being
  • Experience blissful sanctuary at our retreat center, where holistic healing and self-discovery await

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a retreat center business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in retreat centers for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in retreat centers. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a retreat center business include:

  • Room Attendants – take care of the needs of attendees
  • Service Providers – provide services like massage or yoga instruction
  • Receptionist – take calls, handle bookings, greet attendees
  • Marketing Lead – create and implement marketing strategies
  • General Manager – scheduling, accounting

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Retreat Center – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Retreat centers can improve the spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing of their attendees, which makes opening your own retreat center a noble pursuit. Retreat centers are also a growing industry and can generate a healthy profit. It takes an investment to get started, but the rewards can make it worthwhile.

Now that you understand the business, you’re ready to find the perfect property and launch your successful retreat center!

Retreat Center Business FAQs

Is a retreat center profitable?

The profitability of a retreat center can vary depending on factors such as location, target market, services offered, pricing strategy, operational costs, and marketing effectiveness. A well-managed retreat center that attracts a consistent flow of guests and offers compelling experiences has the potential to be profitable.

What happens during a typical day at a retreat center?

During a typical day at a retreat center, various activities may take place, such as conducting wellness and mindfulness sessions, providing holistic treatments and therapies, offering workshops and educational sessions, providing healthy meals, guiding outdoor activities, creating opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation, facilitating community-building activities, assisting guests with accommodations and personalized needs, and managing administrative tasks.

What is the growth potential of a retreat center?

The growth potential of a retreat center can be significant due to factors such as increasing interest in wellness and self-care, expanding market of individuals seeking retreat experiences, diversifying retreat offerings, developing strategic partnerships, leveraging online platforms and marketing channels, expanding facilities or adding amenities, and incorporating eco-friendly practices.

What type of business is a retreat center?

A retreat center is a type of hospitality and wellness business that provides a dedicated space for individuals to retreat from their daily routines and immerse themselves in activities focused on personal growth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Retreat centers typically offer accommodations, wellness activities, workshops, communal spaces, and access to natural surroundings. They aim to provide a transformative and nurturing experience for guests seeking a temporary escape.

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How to Start a Retreat Center