This week on FEW Member's Corner, we would like to introduce you to Dervla Louli, Founder of Compare Retreats, Asia's leading luxury wellness travel booking portal and online publication.
Hello Dervla, what did you do before becoming an entrepreneur?
I was formerly the digital editor of Hong Kong Tatler, the director of integrated content at Edipresse Media Asia and the managing editor of Sassy Media Group where I oversaw seven websites spanning Asia, the Middle East and Australia.
Why did you start Compare Retreats?
Wellness tourism is a relatively new but fast-growing niche in the travel industry. In 2016, a number of reports predicted that there would be huge growth in the sector. I was frustrated from wasting money on many wellness retreats that despite being expensive and high quality, didn't offer the results they promised due to lack of information provided beforehand. I decided to do something about it and created a wellness travel booking portal and online publication that only works with the best wellness retreats in the world that have been vetted and reviewed by certified health and fitness professionals. Information and education is at the heart of what we do and our mission is to connect wellness travellers to the leading wellness retreats of the world so they can get the results they crave.
So far, what's the most challenging part of your journey?
It used to be tech but now that's all in check. Our next step is fundraising - I've self-funded the business for the past two years. I welcome all challenges that come with growing the company. The best part has been the incredible people that I get to work with as the company gets bigger.
Can you share a bit about your fundraising journey so far?
The company has been self funded so far which has allowed it to grow organically and pivot whenever necessary. The reason why I've decided to fundraise now is because we've been approached by individuals and funds who are interested in investing. Wellness tourism is growing twice as fast as regular tourism and it's the right time for us to take on investment.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
On growing teams
My team is everything, and I'm so glad I was patient while building it. The core members of the team have equity which I would advise doing and the structure is very flat. Everyone is incredible in their own field including Rebecca our Chief Content Officer and Editor and Taksu Digital our digital marketing agency partner. Our team is currently made up of 15 people who are based between Hong Kong, Bali, London, India, Australia and New York.
On building credibility and trust
Our business strategy is all about quality over quantity and this has helped us build credibility with our retreat partners in the Compare Retreats collection, clients and readers. Our niche is wellness travel and we do this one thing really well with the guidance of incredible advisors and experts.
My husband is a successful entrepreneur in the financial comparison space who has been a trusted business advisor from day one. He told me to focus on one or two large main goals per year and every decision you make needs to lead you closer to that goal. It was the best advice that has been pivotal to our success.
We feel successful when we help our clients find and book the best wellness retreats in the world that help them feel mentally and physically well.