Fykiada Retreats has become one of the premiere yoga destinations to unwind, recharge and enjoy. With guests coming from all corners of the globe to the idyllic greek islands to practice and learn more about yoga. We’ve taken a moment to catch up with the two founders Anna Martinou and Eranthi Karamali to delve deeper into their story, give you a taste of what makes Fykiada unique, find out what they have done to become one of Europe’s leading yoga retreats in just four years and to hear about what’s next!
We have been following your journey over the last few years now and are proud to gear up all your retreats with Manduka equipment. We’ve always been curious to know more about you and your unique retreats offering. So we are super happy to grab this time with you both to dig a little deeper under the surface of the success of Fykiada Retreats.
How the Fykiada journey started and where you are at today?
The Fykiada journey started from the tiny Greek island of Kythnos. Anna had just got back from London in the middle of the Greek economic crisis and was determined to set up her own retreat business. Capital controls were still on when the first retreat took place and was an absolute improvisation. Her mum was making breakfast, her dad was carrying the guests’ luggages and a group of small stone-built houses by the sea was the group’s accommodation provided by her uncle to help her start her venture.
Very soon became evident that running retreats was a very hard solo affair. A common work project brought Anna & Eranthi together where they realised there was a great dynamic between them and soon what started as a side project became a well-coordinated series of exclusive retreats. Eranthi had a business background and a pure love for outdoor adventure so she managed to give the business a more concrete format.
Today, Fykiada Retreats hosts retreats in the 3 different islands - Mykonos, Koufonisia & Kythnos. We have hosted over 55 yoga groups and we have a solid base of returning guests every year, that is a great reward. We’re also very proud to claim that we’ve worked with some of the most renowned teachers in the world - such as Laruga Glaser, Chelsey Korus, Bee Bosnak, Sjana Elise et al - with whom we have built an excellent partnership.
Anna + Eranthi Founders of Fykiada Retreats
In a few words how do you describe your yoga retreats?
A love affair of pure island joy, movement and intimacy. We strive for every retreat to be a unique experience because we want our guests to feel special. The Cycladic culture transcends all aspects of the experience - from the minimalism of the locations to the warmth of our hospitality and the real flavours of our Greek inspired menus.
Tell us about the moment you realised that hosting retreats in Greece was going to become your full time job.
After running a 2nd season of retreats it was obvious that it’s a lot of work involved if you want to keep your brand alive and kicking and also have happy guests after each retreat. We knew that this ‘lil child’ was needing our full attention. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. Both Eranthi and I were also involved in other projects and most people thought it was our hobby. We've always struggled to prove that it actually takes a year long to put together 10 retreats. However, there was no way to do things half, so full time retreaters was the way to go.
What is it that set Fykiada apart?
In the words of our guests: “Fykiada Retreats feel effortless, like water. A certain lightness washes our days, like the Greek light touches everything the girls do. Everything is there before we even ask or even imagine it. Anna & Eranthi hold the secret gift of hospitality in its most absolute essence like two modern Greek goddesses”.
If it was for us to say then we will add that what set us apart is the attention to detail, our deep knowledge of the island culture and the real care for our guests. We’ll go the extra mile whether it’s for a lost boat ticket or for a toothbrush :)
What is the one thing you want each and everyone of your guests to walk away with at the end of one of your retreats?
We want people to be reminded of the simple pleasures of life and yoga in the Greek nature can really remind you of this. The taste of a real tomato, the smell of thyme when you inhale, the saltiness of the water when you lay on a rock like a starfish. We call this ‘the island effect’: people leave our retreats with a straighter spine, a sun-kissed face and a bigger smile.
How do you start in curating your retreats and choosing your teachers to partner with?
Every year we discuss which are the teachers we’d like to bring but also what’s the topics we’d like to address. Last year, diversity was really on the table so teachers of colour such as Jaimee Ratliff, Koya Webb and Laruga (for the 4th time) were part of our schedule. Also different yoga styles & genres were also in the mix such as Hip Hop yoga, Sound Healing or Navakarana Vinyasa. 2021 is going to be another challenging year so we aim to support our returning partnerships such as Chelsey Korus, Laruga, Sjana Elise and our new entry, Martina Sergi and then also add a few bold synergies which we can’t reveal yet!
You've chosen to equip all your retreats with Manduka since day 1, what drove this decision?
We need to confess that we have a love affair with Manduka. The products equip all our retreats offering a very sophisticated and professional practice experience. We love the duration and all your design along with the sustainable ethos. We can confirm that no other mat has been made with the love & precision of Manduka mats.
What makes your duo work?
We’re never tired at the same time (laughs)! Eranthi has frequent sprints of energy while Anna keeps more of a marathon-steady style. Eranthi is more in charge of our numbers and guests while Anna is more on the marketing and programming side. However, we take all big decisions together and we know we’ve reached the right one when we meet in the middle. We love the same lil things - a stripy towel, a simple white bikini, tiny beaches and pistachio ice-cream - which are enough to recharge us between our retreat breaks and then start all over again. We also have periods of conflict but over the years we’ve learned to resolve them with love.
Quite often people assume that a successful business is driven by a huge team of people, in reality it is often much smaller than they may think. Tell us about the Fykiada family?
That’s very true! It’s always been the two of us really, but we do have a strong team of external partners who have also become friends along the way. Anna Karides and Eleni Bhava are London-based yoga teachers and returning retreat leaders but also act as advisors on our retreat programming. Sabrina Chorafa is our Kythnos’ retreats nutritionist but also someone with great ideas on food experiences & styling. Iliana Psilogalani is our inspiring photographer and we also consult her on brand matters. Jasmine Tartine joined one of our retreats as an influencer and now she’s part of our family and a trusted advisor on creative ideas. Olga Khusnetdinova has been our digital marketing maven, Natasa Reppa was our retreat coordinator for the past year and of course our mums have been our best supporters :)
What has been the hardest thing you have had to deal with throughout this journey so far?
The hardest thing is always human relationships, whether that means reaching agreements, negotiating, finding the right balance, sticking to your guns et al. But what has also been hard for us is the unpredictability of the Greek environment (heavy taxes & constantly changing laws) and also the nature of our job. We rely 100% on our own resources to bring our retreats to life and attract our customers and audience. We’ve never had big campaigns, paid followers or agents working for us. All our efforts are based on native content and word of mouth.
With a thousands of yogis everywhere dreaming of hosting their own retreats what pearls of wisdom would you give them?
To take hosting seriously and treat their guests as they would treat their dearest friends. Invest on visual assets and create a striking brand with strong values.
While so many yoga initiatives are struggling right now, what is it that keeps Fykiada together?
Our love for what we do and our faith that challenges will make us better and stronger. Despite the difficulties that we have faced this year (a substantial decrease in our income and activity) we keep finding ways to keep ourselves afloat and investing in new ideas such as online retreats that is still a platform that needs to be developed.
You are already hosting wonderful retreats with international renowned yoga teachers in 3 beautiful locations and have a full seasonal calendar, what’s next for Fykiada?
It’s hard to say what’s next with such a foggy horizon but we want to believe that we’ll be able to host a series of successful online retreats in 2021 as well as initiate yoga immersions with a more educating profile and even an island yoga festival with all our favourite names from the wellness industry!
What would you like to see for Fykiada and yourselves in 5 years time?
We’d like to see Fykiada amongst the top wellness destinations and brands in the world. We’d love to broaden the scope of our wellness experiences, create a stronger digital presence with a small retail Fykiada collection and even realise our secret dream of a Fykiada Resort that we want to bring to life one day :)
Let's stay in touch and give them a follow on Instagram: @fykiadaretreats
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Photo Credits: Fykiada Retreats