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Conversations with the Inspiring Natalie Magee

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Magee.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Natalie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
After completing my 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2012, I began teaching for the studio in Denver where my training was held. The studio owner hosted several yoga retreats in Colorado and Costa Rica and would co-host with some of the more senior teachers from our community. I was a newer teacher and disappointed I wasn’t asked for co-teach but I went on one of their yoga retreats in Costa Rica. I fell in love with the idea of taking yoga outside the studio and into the wild. I really loved hiking and adventure-seeking in the mountains of Colorado so, in 2014, just shy of my daughter’s first birthday, I came up with the idea to put together a yoga retreat in Telluride, Colorado. I had wanted to be married in Telluride, but it was very expensive and a long-distance for our family and friends to travel, so I thought this would be an amazing way for me to make a personal connection with my favorite mountain town.

When I put together my first yoga retreat, I had no website, no way to take payment except PayPal, no Instagram or way to advertise except word of mouth. The only thing I had was a Facebook page I had created. I didn’t even have a logo or business cards. I knew, however, that there had to be a market for women who wanted to attend a yoga retreat that didn’t just want to sit on the beach all week. I also wanted to make it cost-effective so that someone, like myself, could afford the trip. I sold out my first retreat and I learned a lot. I made many mistakes, but at the core of it the attendees had an amazing time and I was able to showcase my ability to host retreats. My Telluride retreat is still my flagship retreat but I also run events all over the United States and abroad. Many of my clients are repeat customers which forces me to become creative with where I’ll host a future retreat. I now bring an assistant and photographer to each retreat and I have an established LLC, business cards, website, and printers to make my retreat shirts and hats with my custom logo. You don’t have to have everything when you start a business, you just have to start and let the business evolve organically!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The retreat business is certainly not a smooth road to follow, especially if you are curating the retreats yourself. There are venues you can rent who do all the work but bring the guests and that’s an amazing way to start if you just want to lead a retreat but don’t want to deal with logistics. However, the more control you give up the less money you make. The biggest obstacle with retreats is they are a luxury vacation and you basically have to convince others you are a fun person to travel with. Your friends might say they’ll attend your event until it comes time to pay and then they won’t. Why would they pay to adventure with you when they could previously do it for free? So you have to find your market and cater to that market. You have to remember that the retreat is not YOUR vacation. It’s not about you and you have to cater to a group and different personalities. You’ll have people wanting to cancel the last minute and want their money back and you have to stand firm in your cancellation policy. You’ll have variables you can’t control like weather or trails being closed or bugs. My biggest advice to anyone wanting to run their own yoga retreat is to show others you’re a flexible traveler yourself. Document your life and travels on social media and show others how you handle stress. You have to convince people to trust you and that they can show up to your retreat and not have to worry about anything. Start by organizing trips for your friends and family and lead by example. If you go out there and explore the world, hike, and adventure for yourself, soon you’ll have others wanting to join you and then you’ll start to find your niche and your market for your own experiences.

What should we know about Yogi Magee Expeditions? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’d like to think that adventure is the word most associated with my brand. When you sign up for a Yogi Magee Expedition you expect to be pushed out of your comfort zone. I am constantly improving upon my retreats and adding new activities and challenges each year. For my Telluride retreat, we not only hike to hidden waterfalls, but we also mountain bike to a local brewery and guests have the option to join a guided climb of the Via Ferrata or paraglide with Telluride Paragliding. I surround myself with locals at each retreat spot and I connect my guests with these locals by bringing them to their restaurants or businesses. I pride myself on the fact that not only do I organize adventures, I’m attending them right there with my guests. I would never recommend a hike or activity that I hadn’t tried myself or wasn’t attending with my guests. If they’re learning how to surf, I’m right there with them. If we are snorkeling with sharks, you can bet I’m in the water as well. I can’t convince my attendees to move beyond their comfort zone if I’m not in it with them. I think my ability to be a cheerleader for others and provide a safe environment to test their limits is what sets me apart from other retreat leaders. My retreats aren’t just about meditation and kale smoothies and chakra work. My focus is on living your yoga off your mat. I’m also probably the most flexible retreat leader there is in regards to joining group activities. My motto for each expedition is “retreat yourself,” which means everyone is free to participate in as much or as little as they like. I’ll never make anyone feel bad for skipping yoga, napping or having a glass of wine at dinner. To me, it’s the client’s time and I’m just there to make it as fulfilling as possible in whatever capacity they might need me.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I’m often asked if men are allowed on my retreats to which, I always say yes. I’ve found, however, that most men don’t sign up for my retreats because they have a misconception about what a yoga retreat can be. I have also found, that the men who do come on my retreats have a hard time taking direction from a woman They don’t want me to lead them on a hike or teach them yoga. I’ve had men on my retreats who will only do the activities that are led by other men such as surf lessons or rock climbing. I’ve even had some women on my trips who don’t take me seriously or question everything I do from my choices in scheduling my guidance on hikes. I’ve had a guest or two who are fellow yoga instructors who believe they know more than me and won’t attend my class or practice in their own style while I’m teaching. I think most yoga instructors, in general, are not taken seriously. People think of yoga as a hobby and not as a lifestyle. People see yoga and yoga retreats as a luxury and not a necessity. Trying to garner respect as a yoga instructor while still maintaining approachability can be difficult. People wouldn’t walk out on their boss during a business meeting but they’ll walk out on their yoga instructor in the middle of class. I think once we start to see more women in positions of power and leadership in our government and businesses, we’ll see a shift in respect towards women in all positions of authority whether it’s on or off the mat.

Pricing:

  • Retreat Consultation: $200 for 90 min
  • Social Media Building Consultation: $150 for 90 min
  • Yoga Adventure Retreats: from $500-$3000 depending on the adventure you seek
  • Private Yoga Retreats: Negotiable

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Lexi Trainer, Kimberly Buraglio, Aaron Tuleja

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