By Erica Bray
Brothers Cameron and Deryk Wenaus are co-founders of retreat.guru, a website they describe as the “TripAdvisor or Airbnb for wellness tourism.” It’s a one-stop-shop where users can find, review and book retreat vacations around the world. Since launching retreat.guru in August of 2014, the site has so far featured nearly 9,000 retreats, events, teachers and centers.
"We're getting market traction," says Cameron of the site's initial success. "We pretty stoked about it."
With the website, the brothers are tapping into the $500 billion industry of "wellness tourism," an exploding sector of the travel industry that emphasizes experiential travel attached to well-being, fitness, soulful and spiritual themes. Wellness vacations include yoga retreats, spa vacations, meditation getaways, farm stays and much more.
While most business ventures begin with an idea then choose a company name, however, this business evolved the other way around: the domain name actually inspired the business.
“‘Dot-guru’ [.guru] was the seed,” says Cameron. "The name grew the business." Professional website developers and Buddhist practitioners, the brothers wanted a domain ending in ‘dot-guru’ as soon as they learned that the option was made available in early 2014. “We were automatically drawn to it,” recalls Deryk.
They were hoping to secure the domain Site.guru for a new business venture that would promote website development and a software management platform they designed for retreat centers. For the past 17 years, they had been developing sites for a variety of organizations, including retreat centers, but decided that they wanted to focus exclusively on the retreat center community under a totally new brand.
But ... they didn’t get Site.guru. Someone else had snapped it up. Instead, they wound up with their second choice: Retreat.guru. It wasn’t the ideal website name for the business they had in mind.
“So we are sitting around kind of going, "Consolation prize,’” recalls Cameron. “What are we going to do with this URL?”
Over the course of a three-hour phone call, the brothers hatched a new idea. They would pivot from a web development company to an online service connecting retreat centers with retreat seekers. They knew the space well. They had participated in countless retreats over the years. They had a large roster of retreat-specific clients. And they understood the marketing challenges of retreat organizers -- as well as the frustration of consumers searching for a retreat to suit their goals.
“It was almost as though both of us caught fire,” says Cameron of that key telephone conversation. “We were like, ‘We have this database of all our previous retreat clients and we could start by putting up listings of their retreats.’”
The idea grew from there: Cameron mortgaged his home, and the brothers spent eight months developing the website and learning the ins and outs of being a tech startup. Retreat centers, resorts and yoga instructors started registering retreats on their site, and they began gaining and audience -- and traffic.
“Anyone can come in log on, read reviews, write a review and make their purchase decision and connection based on that,” says Cameron. Featured retreats span the spectrum -- from yoga getaways in Bali to meditation weekends in Colorado to writing retreats in Ireland -- and users can search the digital Rolodex of retreats by their preferred theme and location.
“If there is someone out there leading crummy retreats or doing things disrespectfully, we encourage people to leave bad reviews,” says Deryk. “Just like on TripAdvisor, you know which restaurants to go to and you know which ones to avoid.”
While they also purchased the URL Retreatguru. com, the duo ultimately opted to stick with Retreat.guru -- the URL responsible for inspiring the business idea in the first place. For the brothers, it just made sense.
“It has a great ring to it, “ says Deryk. “Retreat.guru is shorter, it’s more succinct. The name of our company is the URL.”
Learn more about this business by visiting the website www.Retreat.guru.