Denise contacted us after Charlotte’s recent work in progress feature with her own inspiring account of how she dared to dream and set up her own Health & Wellness centre in Taunton. In Denise’s own words, it’s never to late to change things up.
My husband had been running a tai chi retreats business in addition to his day job since 2006 and when we got together, I took some holistic therapy qualifications and became part of it. About five years ago, we started to think, wouldn’t it be great to have our own centre where we can do this all the time? That wasn’t possible at the time, but the idea stayed around and refused to go away. About two years ago, though, our circumstances changed and we thought, if not now, then when? Surely, we could handle that – how hard could it be?
Next came the task of finding a suitable venue. As we could go literally anywhere, we started to think about where we would like to open this place, and eventually settled on the South West of England. It’s really chilled out, and far enough away from London to avoid having people sucked in to their two-hour commutes home after a stressful day at work. Who wants to do anything after that, than subside into the sofa with a glass of wine? Cue visiting lots of lovely places, drinking lots of tea and trying to find the right place.
We had some disappointments along the way, such as one landlord pulling out days before we were due to finalise everything, and a planning officer being really unhelpful (we thought) on a beautiful ex-carpenter’s workshop in a pretty town just outside Bath. We looked at a derelict church in Torquay, then realised it would probably bust our budget to just replace the broken windows! We actually found our place by accident, after we had been to see some other places and had about 45 minutes before we had to get back home. We went for lunch, and the owner of the place we went to spoke about “that churchy looking place down the street”. We managed to track down the letting agent, who found the key, and when we got inside, the deed was done. We signed up that afternoon.
Our work backgrounds were really different from what we’re doing now. Andy had been in project management since university, and I was a solicitor specialising in criminal and family law. We always said that the retreats were the antidote to the day job, and it was a really scary moment in January last year that I resigned from my safe, 26 year, final salary pension job to go into absolutely nothing! I added more therapy treatments to my skill set and spent the summer researching company law and regulations so we could be up and running for the start of the new venture. Andy resigned in September, so we could both concentrate on the project.
Oh, and did I mention that we had to relocate as well? We were living right in the middle of commuter-land, so not only did we have to refurbish the property and set up a new business, but we had to find somewhere to live, far from everyone we knew. Cue many weekends of driving up and down the M5 while we oversaw the refurb and tried to find a place to live. It all, eventually, worked out, and on 18th October, the removal van came and took all our belongings down to lovely Somerset. The house is a bit of a project, but we’ll get to that some time!
The fun then really started, because we’d set our opening date for The Sangha House as 11th November. I’d tried to find a local celeb to open the place, and after having been blown out by Peter Andre and Howard Jones (I’d forgotten that we’d need to have booked those guys before we even knew we were doing this!), we found the most inspirational lady, Beth French, who is an EPIC open-water swimmer, currently swimming the most difficult stretches of sea in the world. So, having her on board and invitations sent out, we had no choice but to get on with it! Our DIY skills have improved like you wouldn’t believe, and we were working 18 hour days just to get it all ready. Andy’s amazing mum came down for a few days before the opening, to help out, make tea and give me a good stern talking to when I sat down and cried!
It was all massively worth it, though, because on 11th November we opened our doors and had 15 people sign up for membership that day. We’d anticipated five people in the first month, so we were absolutely blown away. We now have 75 people doing tai chi, yoga and meditation with us, having amazing holistic therapies and booking appointments with our 35 practitioners offering every kind of wellbeing practice possible. It’s still really scary at times, but I’m learning to roll with it, and knowing that all our successes are completely down to us is such a huge buzz! Andy has been absolutely amazing with setting up our computer systems and working out the budget and cashflow, while I seem to have discovered my terrier-like streak with corporate marketing, so we make a great team.
We were recently nominated for our Chamber of Commerce business awards for Best Startup business. Although we didn’t win, we made the final four, and attended a glam awards presentation at the County cricket ground (cricket is BIG down here). It’s really boosted our confidence and makes us feel that the only way really is up!
I might have swapped my suit and Louboutins for a therapy tunic and (eek!) comfy shoes, and my day might now consist of changing loo rolls and doing endless laundry, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything! I suppose the message is that if you have a dream, then just go for it. We’ve met such incredible people, and our lives are unbelievably richer and more interesting than we could ever have dreamed before. Oh, and I’ve also lost two stone in weight – turns out that running up and down 57 spiral stairs with boxes is good for the waistline too. So, RMS readers – it’s never too late to change things up and do what you want, even if you don’t think you know how to go about it.
Images by Karen Kodish Photography