These events gave guests the opportunity to spend a week handbuilding clay pots, alongside other activities such as life drawing and yoga. While the pandemic has put pause on her classes and crafty vacations for much of 2020, Kerin says that the retreats are still the most scalable part of her business. ‘Overheads in the studio are high. The retreat can alleviate the pressure of individual pots having to be sold to make a living,’ she says.
Kerin says deciding the end price for her retreats is the most important factor in ensuring profitability; it enables her to work out how many classes to schedule, as well as how much to spend on food and yoga instructors to give herself a healthy margin. This per person price – usually between £700-1,000 – also influences her choice of accommodation. Her first space was Maison Salvadore, an artist retreat and bed and breakfast in the Champagne region of France; in Portugal, she opted for a biodiverse farmstead in Alentejo.
Profit is only possible if the retreat is sold out. ‘The first one I did was underbooked so I only made £300 profit. Usually, I can make around £5,000 per retreat at full capacity.’ Her first five roomed retreat – a picturesque cottage with an on-site kiln – had capacity at between five and 10, depending on whether two were sharing. Today, Kerin decides the per person price based on single occupancy; this way she can ensure she covers her costs. ‘If I priced it as two people sharing, and there was only one guest per room, I would lose a lot of money,’ she says.
Keeping expenditure to a minimum is also essential. Drawing upon her creative network, she organises partnerships with hotels, which give her a wholesale rate for her reservations – she had previously worked with Erika Symonds, who now runs Maison Salvadore. She also collaborates with London-based friends in other fields who offer a discounted rate for their services, such as yoga classes. These friends stay in staff bedrooms with Kerin to further keep costs down.
At the first retreat Kerin hosted, yoga and other luxuries were offered as optional add-ons; she learned that not every guest wanted to participate, yet she still had to cover the costs of booking the instructor for a week. ‘Now I incorporate it into the final costs, so it’s prepaid,’ she says. That said, Kerin still finds balance by deliberately keeping her prices at the affordable end of luxury. ‘Some businesses charge two or three times what I charge, but that brings a real luxury customer, and you have to decide if you can deliver to those expectations.’
Find out the latest from Ana at @kanalondon