Smart Healthy Women Website: The challenges of setting up a “Blissful” business

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From: Smart Healthy Women

Canggu Villa with Zoe wearing Blue Kaftan Hut

Zoë Watson – Founder of Bliss Sanctuary for Women – Health & Relaxation Retreat in Bali.

One of the most common questions I am asked as the Founder of Bliss Sanctuary For Women, the first of-its-kind women’s only retreat situated in Bali, is “what were the biggest challenges of setting up a new business in a foreign country?”

To be honest, everything was a challenge.

And while every day I believe I have the most ‘blissful job in the world’, I am certainly not going to sugar coat the whole experience as ‘pure Bliss’. Pardon the puns.

I came up with the idea to open the Sanctuary after my own ‘travelling solo’ experience. With a career in media marketing I had certainly never opened up a brand new business, certainly not a women’s only retreat, in Bali!

Yet within two weeks of returning from my trip to Bali in November 2010, I had the business and marketing plan done and then the ball starting rolling at high speed:

  • December 2010 – gave 3 months notice from Media Marketing Role
  • mid-February 2011 – returned to Bali to find Villa
  • mid-February 2011 (3 days later) – found Villa, started renovating
  • 11 April 2011 – moved to Bali permanently
  • 1 May 2011 – opened Bliss Sanctuary for Women

I literally had no time to think or to stop and ask myself “what on earth am I doing?”

Of course there was no textbook on ‘How To’ open up a brand new business in a foreign country. So my attitude was that I would give it a red-hot go with no emotional investment on whether it worked or not.

I took it all day by day.

I am not a person to get caught up in logistics, I go with the flow and Bali teaches that more than anyone or anywhere else in the world (i.e. the phrase ‘Bali Time’!)

I also wasn’t invested in being perfect, just in doing my best.

I found my villa in three days! This was nothing short of a miracle. I asked everyone I met if they knew of villas, read the local paper and started calling and walking into Real Estate Agents. I’d done my research and worked out what I wanted, what I wanted to pay and I found it!

Setting up a business is not one act of ‘setting up a business’ – it’s doing something, discovering something else you need to do and doing that, speaking to others about how they’ve done things, and for me it’s looking outside the square. And this is probably one of my keys to my success. I aim to make everything unique in some special way.

There are big learnings in different countries, and some more than others. So I just jumped in feet first and learnt as I went. After designing the way I wanted to do business internationally, I thoroughly researched laws in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong. The Hong Kong laws suited my business plan for fast future growth so I ended up opening the ‘company’ there.

Business and law is never black and white and as with anything, I just did my best and hoped for the best. As do most of the richest people in the world… they usually make the rules and forge ahead with new ground and learn from their mistakes. I take my cues in this area from Richard Branson and Donald Trump.

One can never be aware of all the challenges we will face in setting up a business, but that’s what gets my adrenalin pumping, looking for different ways of doing things and asking as many questions as possible of anyone willing to share.

I had an idea of the challenges I thought I would face and while some of these were much easier to navigate through, many more unforeseeable things constantly kept popping up.

It’s not in what happens it’s in the attitude of getting through it – not expecting it to be easy but being open to new perspectives (including religious, cultural and differing values of those we are doing business with) and losing the First World arrogance that we know best!Balinese Temple Offering

Bliss - food image from Smart Healthy Women website featureHumility is very important, coupled with self-confidence, inner strength, and personal power and the ability to listen and understand what is important.

Another question I am often asked is ‘What advice would you give to someone setting up a business in Bali, or some other foreign land?” and my answer is always simple.

Get to understand the values of the Balinese people (or other culture) and respect the things we don’t hold in high esteem, but they do. And of course, try to find a few key trustworthy people who you can count on.

Universally it seems to be that staff are the absolute hardest and most challenging part to managing a business. So that is what I focused on and it has worked wonders for us having staff who LOVE everything about Bliss and put their heart mind and soul into everything we have all created together.

The biggest personal challenges were:

  • my health (I was extremely sick a month before I left)
  • due to my absence from Australia for long periods of time, the breakdown of what I thought were close friendships
  • learning patience when renovating a villa and that everything will turn up late and not quite right. In the end I just laughed and accepted it and sent things back with the expectation it would probably have to be sent back again!

I don’t believe you make ‘mistakes’ in life, they are lessons learned.

My biggest lesson, in hindsight, was thinking that once I had set everything up I could walk away and let someone else run the business just as I had. It seems I was literally doing the job of six people!

But did I ever feel like giving up? No.

Was there ever a moment when I thought Bliss Sanctuary for Women wouldn’t be possible? No! It’s never whether something can be done in my mind… it’s HOW.

And that is why I continue to have ‘the most blissful job in the world’.

Zoë Watson.