Danielle Leroux is the founder of Renew Retreats, a local business offering holistic hiking retreats and outdoor education that empower you to be brave in the outdoors. They host one-day and multi-day retreats in BC and beyond, in-person and online workshops and education, and community wellness events.
Below, Danielle shares more about her exciting business and her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to create your business?
In January 2018, I started my first business, a communications consulting business with a friend from grad school. That spring, I attended the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs E-Series in Vancouver: a 3-day educational intensive in entrepreneurship. E-Series was my first nudge to really look at the communications business I had created and question if it was ultimately the path I wanted to pursue.
But I needed a few more reminders to really get this point across! I turned 30 in 2018 and like many almost-30-year-olds, I went through a mini-life crisis. I booked my first semi-solo trip: an 8-day trek through the Alps with a tour group. I went on the trip that June.
Disconnecting from real life and my iPhone, spending eight days in the mountains, being fully myself with a group of strangers who quickly became friends, and experiencing hiking in the Alps – complete with blueberry pie and espresso mid-hike – was truly a life-changing experience and something I knew I wanted to share with others.
I returned home from the trip refreshed and clearer on my path forward. In August, I ended my communications consulting business partnership. Finally, in December I put out a survey to see if a hiking retreats business was even a good idea! I received 300 positive responses – and the rest is history.
Did you always to be an entrepreneur?
Looking back on my childhood and career – I didn’t realize it at the time – but yes. My first ‘job’ was teaching piano out of my family’s basement. It certainly paid more than retail! Let’s be honest. I also don’t like being told what to do.
What were the first few steps you took to launch Renew Retreats?
In December 2018, I put out the survey. The responses were very helpful in guiding what direction Renew Retreats would go. Many women who responded had yet to even go hiking because they were afraid to go alone or unsure where to start. I knew Renew Retreats had to be approachable and welcoming, focus on hiking safely and with confidence, and offer hiking education – that was appealing!
I spent January and February 2019 working on my business plan and vision for the business. In March 2019, I contracted Salt Design Co. to do my branding and website. Making a big financial commitment was excellent motivation to get moving!
While my website wouldn’t be ready until August, every time Salt Design created something new for the brand, I would share on the Renew Retreats social media channels. Slowly the community grew, and I officially launched the business with a party in Vancouver on August 10, 2019.
What were some of the challenges you faced in the first few months of starting the business?
Those challenges don’t seem so bad now that COVID-19 has hit! But the biggest challenges I experienced were burnout, unexpected self-doubt, and grappling with limiting beliefs. I have always been a hard worker, so that part of starting a business didn’t scare me. I didn’t anticipate how much working on and taking care of myself would impact the business.
Are you currently working on Renew Retreats full-time or side-hustling?
I still work several days per week as the Director of Membership and Communications at an industry association. My goal is to work on my business full-time by the end of the year.
Do you remember what Renew Retreat’s first organized outdoor retreat was like?
How could I forget! It was probably one of the best days of my life.
We hosted our first one-day retreat in August 2019 and hiked Mount Gardner on Bowen Island. I was a wreck the week leading up to it. Doing communications consulting work was one thing. But creating a living and breathing thing – where you could see in real-time if people are enjoying themselves – was terrifying!
Fortunately, the day was magical. 10 women met me at Horseshoe Bay, and we took the ferry over together to Bowen Island. The weather was perfect, everyone was kind and excited to be there, and we ended the day with tacos.
You can read more about our first one-day retreat here.
What do you hope people take away from their Renew Retreat experience?
I hope they leave an experience feeling connected, renewed, and empowered to take on new adventures and challenges, whether that be outside or in other areas of their life.
What tips do you have for new hikers?
–Find someone or a small group to go with. Ensure they understand your experience level and are willing to go at your pace.
-Start small and work your way up. My favourite beginner hikes in Vancouver are Lighthouse Park, Capilano Pacific Trail, and Lynn Loop.
-Get a good pair of hiking boots and socks.
-Download our free Hiking 101 Guide for more information. Inside you’ll find how to choose a trail and create a trip plan, what to wear and bring, dealing with animal encounters, and more.
View this post on Instagram
Hiking Smart during COVID-19: LINK IN BIO to blog post. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We have been spending a lot of time thinking about hiking during COVID-19 – how to do it safely, where to go, and if we should even be going outside during this time. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Ultimately, that is a decision you have to make. But knowing how important spending time outside has been for keeping our spirits high – and keeping us from going stir crazy indoors – we’re sharing our tips for hiking smart and keeping yourself and others safe during COVID-19. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ If you can't hike safely and are unable to follow social distancing while outdoors, we recommend staying home. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who are dealing with frustration and self-doubt in the early stages of their businesses?
Find a mentor. For the past two years, I have worked with mentors through the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. Both have been essential in talking me off the ledge, providing an objective opinion, and being a source of encouragement.
Have a support network around you. Friends and family who are your cheerleaders and entrepreneurs who are going through or have been through the same challenges.
Keep your larger vision and purpose somewhere you can see them. Returning to why I started the business – empower women to feel safe in the outdoors and take on challenges in their lives – always helps me!
Don’t be afraid to take a break. Between August and December, I hosted over 20 events attended by 450 people. I was exhausted, to say the least, and that is not a period I wish to relive! I booked a solo trip to Palm Springs mid-way and it was essential for mental and physical health.
What’s next for Renew Retreats? Do you have any exciting things coming up that you would like to share?
Given the current circumstances, we’re not currently hosting in-person retreats or events, but you can find us online!
The first Sunday morning of every month, we host a mini-retreat and workout called Rise and Renew. The series is currently being hosted online via Zoom. Women from across Canada are joining us to rise up and get renewed through sweat, self-care, and connection with other outdoors lovers. Our next Rise and Renew is on May 3. You can learn more and register here.
On April 27, we launched a three-week Hike-at-Home online challenge and have 100 hikers joining us! We took five popular BC peaks and converted the elevation gain to step-ups. Between April 27 and May 17, participants choose one peak and complete those step-ups to summit the mountain!
We’re also hosting weekly Zoom meetings with hiking experts and sharing regular tips and resources – all to help keep your mind and body ready to hike. We’ll be hosting a second round of the challenge! Join the waitlist and we’ll let you know when registration opens.
Find all upcoming Renew Retreats events here.