Beth and Oonagh are the brains behind Bien Etre, a lifestyle brand that started in London but the Southern French Alps was the inspiration behind the brand’s visual identity and values. Over time the brand has evolved to help people lead better lives all over the world. With the launch of the brand timed just around the start of the pandemic, the initial plans to host retreats was put on the back burner as they were forced to rethink their strategy.
This duo were born to always win and of course between the two of them they were able to grow a successful brand despite the adversity they faced in the early days. Here, we spent some time with Beth and Oonagh to find out more…
Tell us about the journey that led you to launching your brand, Bien Etre?
Beth – One day in 2002, my dad suddenly collapsed. The company he worked for had just been bought out so he was regularly commuting to London and was studying for a diploma in marketing to keep up with the competition. He had a young family to provide for so losing his job wasn’t an option…and it all proved too much to handle. Later that day, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, a chronic and incurable illness that would involve injecting 5 times a day and micromanaging his diet and lifestyle for the rest of his life. We didn’t know what all this meant, but my parents refused to let it define our lives, so in early 2003, they moved me and my little sister out to the Southern French Alps to pursue a stress-free lifestyle and give us a healthier upbringing. A move which would also inspire the birth of Bien Etre 16 years later.
Fast forward to 2019 where I was living in central London and working in a job that I hated. I lived for the weekend and my holidays, and I had developed a form of social anxiety that made public transport, shopping malls and meetings extremely uncomfortable. Then one day, I looked around and realised…I was heading down the same road as my dad and was really unhappy with where my life was headed. In that moment, I decided to take action. I started thinking about my dream job, talking to people, doing research. Finally, the idea came to me in a yoga class (by one of our now Directory members), I thought ‘why don’t I bring all these stressed-out Londoners to the Southern French Alps and show them what life could be like’. I registered the business two weeks later.
I had to deal with Covid only 6 months after launching, but with the help of my best friend and business partner, Oonagh English, we managed to build what is now, one of the world’s fastest growing wellness platforms that’s attracting the likes of the Tatler Address Book and is actively enhancing lives in over 33 countries…only 10 months after launching. Our mission is to make the world of well-being more accessible to people worldwide, bringing them the best quality information and support in order to help them make better decisions for their well-being and shape their best life. Wellness isn’t a luxury, it’s something that we’re all entitled to and should work on every day. It’s been one hell of a journey, but it’s still only just the beginning and I couldn’t be more excited to see what the future holds for us.
Oonagh – I have suffered from anxiety and depression since childhood. This has lead me on a journey of inner reflection and self discovery. My own journey to finding physical and mental health lead me to discover how hard it can be to find the right education and support to fit your personal needs. When Beth, brought up the idea of creating Retreats that cater to all areas of life, I realised that this was the perfect way to create an environment for people to focus on personal development. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we were forced to cancel our retreats but we still wanted to provide a supportive environment and a way for like minded people to come together and support one another. This inspired us to create The Circle and the rest is history.
You’ve had to pivot from your original plans due to the pandemic, what has been your biggest learning curve since then?
Beth – Probably that the world is constantly changing and you need to work hard to keep up with it. It also makes it exciting though as it brings about new ideas on how we can use our brand to help people, professionals and companies all over the world. The Circle, for instance, has been a result of the pandemic and is now the centrepoint of our audience’s activity, bringing together wellness enthusiasts in over 33 countries. Change must be seen as an opportunity, not a barrier and that’s something that we pride ourselves on.
Oonagh – The value of being flexible and being able to adapt. Before the pandemic, I would assume so many things about the future and based my plans on them. For example, that we would be able to run retreats how we had planned. Having to face the uncertainty of the world has helped us to create a model that caters to our community members while also honoring the uncertainty in the world at the moment.
How do you want your people to feel when working with you?
Beth – We want them to feel safe, supported and empowered. We take immense pride in our people as the brand is nothing without them and ‘you’re only as good as the people who work for you’. Our employees are regularly given raises and promotions (if they prove themselves of course) and normally get at least 50% off our retreats. We’re working to become one of the top companies to work for in the UK – we love working with passionate, motivated people and love to heavily reward them.
Talk us through your wheel of life and what this concept is…
Beth – We’ve looked at all the wellness models out there and have boiled them down to what we believe are the 6 key dimensions that make up our well-being, we call it the ‘Bien Etre model’. The dimensions are your mental and physical health (the two which we all know about), but also your social, spiritual, occupational and environmental. They’re all interconnected, meaning that they all affect each other and therefore they should all be worked on simultaneously if possible. A brief description of each dimension can be found on this page. And here’s a great article that sums up why they’re all so important.
The last 18 months have been testing for many, what advice would you offer to anyone trying to find joy in every day?
Beth – It might seem cliché, but the fact that we’re all still here, living a life in the 21st century is such a gift. Certainly, most people reading House of Coco have things to be grateful for, whether it’s a loving family or relationship, a good job, a working pair of arms and legs or simply the fact that we’re not in Afghanistan right now! There are so many joys that can be found in the everyday, you just need to look and appreciate what you have, and if you can’t find any, go out and make some!
Oonagh – I would also add that some days are simply not joyful. Sometimes just honoring how we feel can be the best thing. Allowing the grief, sadness and fear to be there and processing it so that we can move on. If our mind is full of anxiety, it doesn’t allow a lot of space for joy. Sometimes we can feel a lot of pressure to “be joyful” and “grateful” despite the trauma we might be going through. Being honest with ourselves can be the best way to move through it. If you feel stuck I would recommend finding an expert to support you through this whether that be a therapist, coach or health psychologist. At Bien Etre, many of our consultants offer free initial consultations, you can find out more about our experts and connect with them here: The Directory — Bien Etre (wearebienetre.com)
Looking back since launching your business, is there anything you would do different?
Beth – I’d maybe try to be more structured in our approach and business plan, but I’m not giving myself a hard time about it as we’ve had to evolve so quickly due to Covid and it’s definitely paid off. The key is to know your audience as much as you can and evolve with them over time.
Oonagh: Great question and a difficult one to answer. If we had known that there would be a pandemic and in person businesses would be essentially shut down. We would have primarily focused on growing the online community first. One of the biggest lessons we have learned over the last 18 months was to prepare for every eventuality.
Tell us more about what inspires you…
Beth – My dad – he’s a world-class mountaineer with Type 1 Diabetes – the perfect example of someone who has made his passion into his work by founding AlpBase: a holiday letting company in the Alps, and Action4Diabetes: Asia’s most successful charity for children with Diabetes. He loves every second of his life and prides himself on never experiencing ‘Monday morning blues’. He’s the one that taught me to ‘never give up’ and that ‘I can always do more than I think I can’.
Oonagh – For me, anyone who chooses growth over giving up inspires me. Sometimes the hardest thing can be to get out of bed in the morning and keep going. Sometimes simply surviving the day is the biggest accomplishment. The sky inspires me. It’s so vast and feels infinite. Whenever I feel trapped, I look at the sky.
If you could describe your brand in three words, what would they be?
Trustworthy – Inclusive – Inspirational
What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to launch their own wellness business?
Beth – A lot of people come to me and ask for advice about becoming a life/health coach. I always give them the same advice: make sure you have a solid personal brand and a good personal story to back it up. Then find your niche and make sure it’s only composed of your favourite type of person – people that you’re seriously passionate about helping. This can take time to figure out so try working with lots of different types of people to figure out who you prefer working with. Then…JUST START! So many people just hang around waiting for the ‘right moment’ to start their business. When the idea to start a business came to me in a yoga class one day, I didn’t wait around and registered the business two weeks later.
Oonagh – My advice, don’t give up at the first hurdle or indeed the 10th. Most people don’t succeed on their first try. I have failed so many times. Those experiences have helped shape my success.
Talk us through an average day in your life…
Beth – I try to make time for all dimensions of my well-being every day, so an average workday will look like this:
07:20 – I get up, make my herbs (prescribed by well-being Guru and Chinese Medicinal Herbalist, Nona Taylor from our Directory – and coincidentally Oonagh’s mum), and do at least 20mn of stretching and yoga to wake my body up. I also try to do a bit of meditation or just simply sitting and thinking of all the things that I’m grateful for. I don’t generally have breakfast (unless I’m doing a big physical activity that day such as surfing or skiing) as I’m never hungry in the mornings (which works well for intermittent fasting). Sometimes I might get peckish and have something on toast mid-morning.
08:00 – I catch up on emails for the first half hour and then work solidly through to about 13:00 – 13:30 with 10mn breaks at 1h intervals. This is because our brains are much more active and productive in the mornings, making it the best time to concentrate and get a load of work done. Apparently we can’t concentrate more than 3-4 hours a day and aren’t able to be productive for more than 6 hours a day, so I’ve built my whole schedule around this – and it definitely works for me!
13:00 – I make a healthy lunch and then go for a 30-45mn walk to digest and get some fresh air – I’ll generally listen to music or a podcast during this time. If I’m in an exotic location I’ll go skiing/surfing or do something fun in the afternoon. Otherwise I’ll come back from my walk, make a green tea, do some reading and then workout for about 30mn (I alternate my workouts based on the 8 types of physical fitness and try to incorporate all of them as much as possible.). I sometimes have a nice relaxing bath with lots of home-made salts and essential oils (as I’m also an Aromatherapist). Sometimes I get creative and make some homemade sprays, skin oils and other beauty products with my essential oils – it’s a small hobby of mine.
I then do another hour or so of work somewhere between 17:00 and 19:00 (as that’s when your brain’s concentration starts to go back up) and ensure that I’ve done everything I needed to do and catch up on emails.
19:00 – I’ll make myself a nice healthy dinner and then watch some netflix. I’ll go to bed around 22:30 and am very strict with this as I really need my 8 hours!
I’ve tried so many routines and this one works for me, but might not work for other people. The key is to try different things until you find the perfect routine. And don’t be influenced by all that 5am lot – what works for them might not work for you (I’ve tried it and definitely couldn’t keep it up!).
Oonagh – Honestly, I used to put so much pressure on myself to create a routine and be a certain way. Over the years I tried so many different things. What I find works for me now is to plan my day around my energy and inspiration. As an entrepreneur, my daily tasks will vary hugely depending on what projects I am working on at the moment. I love meditation and I always find some time in my day for my practice. I also make sure I do something for my mental health. This might be going for an energising walk in nature, talking to my coach or spending some time in my bed listening to my favourite audiobook, Harry Potter. I have learned over time what my energy fillers and what my energy drainers are and I balance those out throughout the day.
How much has social media played a role in the success of your brand?
Quite a lot – we rely heavily on Instagram (as that’s where most of our consumers are) to paint the right image of our brand and values and have been through 8 different social media managers before finding the right person.
You’re very well traveled but which place really has your heart?
Beth – This is a difficult question as I’ve lived in three different countries (England, France and Netherlands). I feel both ‘at home’ in England and France, but what I’ve also uncovered along the way, is that my heart and home simply lie within myself – and this is very important when travelling. I’ve been working on myself and my self-love throughout my twenties as I used to get anxious about travelling far from home without my friends and family due to a lack of self confidence. But I’ve finally come to the realization that I am my own home and I can feel centred, at peace and at home wherever I am in the world because I believe in myself and am 100% comfortable in my own skin. It’s taken years to get to this place, but I’m so glad that I made the effort as it’s really paid off.
Oonagh: I would say my home land, Ireland. In particular West Cork. It’s rugged, wild and so nourishing. I love the fresh air, the smell of salt. The sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. To me it’s home.
Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?
Beth – Costa Rica – for the surfing, landscapes and biodiversity, and also where Oonagh and I are going for the whole month of May and we can’t wait!
What is your go-to quote when lacking motivation?
I remind myself of everything that I’ve already accomplished and then I tell myself to “never give up”, and that “you can always do more than you think you can”.
Oonagh – “We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world” Buddha
What’s next for you and the brand?
Beth – We can’t wait to get our retreats back up and running and are planning some Alpine retreats for our members next September! However, we’re also working on creating our own custom-made app, that will deliver even more value, support and information in an even more accessible way. Next year is going to be a very important year for us. We have so much in the pipeline and can’t wait to start helping even more people around the world.
What does self care mean to you?
Beth – This seems to be a confusing topic, and people generally associate it with physical self care (such as working out or taking a relaxing bath), but to me (and the message that we’re trying to get out there), is that it means taking care of each of the 6 dimensions of our well-being: physical, mental, spiritual, occupational, environmental and social. Only when we look after all dimensions simultaneously, do we achieve overall well-being, creating feelings of euphoria and fulfilment.
Oonagh -Self care is taking a good hard look at your life and figuring out why you are wound up in the first place. Why do you feel you need to “getaway” from your life for the weekend? Are there some things that you can change or is there an area you can get support in? Self care is getting enough sleep so that you’re not constantly exhausted. It’s eating delicious, nutritious food on a regular basis and making sure you’re drinking enough fluids. It’s doing things that allow you to maintain a baseline state of peace and relaxation.