Passion or profit: What should motivate the wellness industry?
With the industry continuing to boom, we examine if entrepreneurs reasons for starting a health and wellness business should be for passion, profit, or a mixture of both…
In 2018, the worldwide wellness economy was valued at $4.2 trillion, according to data published by the Global Wellness Institute.
With this research including figures on everything from health, beauty and fitness, through to wellness tourism and property, it’s clear to see that the industry is a wide-ranging one.
How, and when, have these often alternative practices gone from being marginal interests to major global industries? Can a wellness business be both passion and profit oriented?
But how is wellness itself defined? What does the data show about the industry here in the UK specifically? Which key trends are driving the sector right now? And what should motivate entrepreneurs looking to launch their businesses?
We explore the topic in more detail, providing key information to help answer the questions above, plus insight from industry insiders.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What is meant by wellness?
- Health and wellness industry statistics UK
- Trends in the health and wellness industry
- Reasons for starting a health and wellness business
1. What is meant by wellness?
When we think of wellness, it’s likely that images and words to do with health, beauty, and fitness may spring to mind.
This is often reinforced through the type of marketing and advertising that many wellness businesses use, featuring people with characteristics and traits that socially and culturally we define as healthy, such as an athletic build and clear skin.
But where do these connotations come from, and what does wellness actually mean?
Wellness is defined as ‘the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal’, according to the Oxford Dictionaries.
This is interesting, as it suggests an aspect of the concept is the goal itself. So, as with anything that someone strives for, the next question is why – for their own benefit? For external validation? Or both?
There’s a parallel here between what drives people to seek wellness, and the reason for wanting to launch a business in this sector: for personal development and to help others, or to obtain a commodity; something valuable. On an individual level, this could be improved health or increased productivity, and for a business this could be a better bottom line.
Furthermore, when we start discussing the concept of goals, surely this also includes how those goals are measured. And, in turn, should these quantifiable methods be applied to wellness, which is (at least in part) all about how you feel and experience life?
Interestingly, at the time of writing, the #lifegoals has 5.4 million posts on Instagram, with many of the images that are most frequently tagged with it featuring luxury goods, workout sessions, as well as inspirational quotes and landscapes.
This suggests there’s a considerable interest in pursuing goals and seeking recognition for them externally, as well as the prominence and influence of social media in wellness too.
This isn’t only an individual basis – many wellness companies have a considerable, strategic social media presence, whether that’s specific hashtags, branded visual content or partnerships with industry influencers.
In addition, researching definitions of wellness rarely brings up anything to do with a lack of illness or disease. Rather, it’s an active, ongoing, and health-focused process. Wellness is about quality of life too, and the conscious effort it takes to achieve these positive effects.
The concept of wellness as an ongoing process is something that the wellness industry has often capitalised on, with courses and a series of workshops often being a main component of many business models in this sector.
Any discussion of wellness should also include these key dimensions that contribute to a person’s overall well-being: emotional, intellectual, physical, social and spiritual wellness.
For example, a business offering fitness classes is not only providing physical exercise sessions, but also a social opportunity to join a community, as well as even the emotional benefits of setting – and sticking to – goals.
Here, wellness business owners explain what the concept of ‘wellness’ means to them.
Lyndsay Hirst, founder, YourPilatesPhysio, comments: “Wellness is about looking after your body from the inside out: eating the right foods, exercising, sleeping well, looking after your mind/mental health; socialising with friends – anything that makes you feel good.
“Wellness is a choice – you either choose to look after yourself or you don't. I have never understood people that don't prioritise their health over anything else. Your body is the most important investment you can make.”
Markus Stripf, CEO and co-founder, Spoon Guru, adds: “Wellness is such a broad term and entirely subjective of course, but to me it means understanding what's good for you, working out what your body needs and simply coming up with a balanced diet that ticks both boxes.”
Chloe Brotheridge, hypnotherapist and coach at Calmer You, continues: “For me, wellness is about feeling good – mind, body and spirit. It's not just an absence of disease, but a feeling of health, energy and vitality.”
It’s clear to see that when looking at wellness from a purely theoretical perspective and its definition, that passion is what drives a lot of activities: a desire to improve your own life, or those of others. But how does this passion translate into real-world revenue?
2. Health and wellness industry statistics UK
The health and wellness market was valued at almost €23bn in the UK in 2018, according to data published by Statista. This was an increase from its value in 2015, which was €20.5bn.
And in 2020, the total spending on healthcare, wellness and fitness is forecast to reach £209bn, according to research published by PwC. The report also discusses how the UK healthcare sector is going through a period of change, suggesting it’s an ideal time for new businesses to launch.
This data shows us that wellness is a considerable interest – and spending habit – for a significant portion of the UK public, making it fertile ground for profitable business ventures.
But British interest in this sector isn’t a new phenomenon – the Office for National Statistics (ONS) started the Measuring National Well-being Programme in the UK in 2010. This is a way to survey and document well-being across the country.
And in February of this year, it introduced the concept of ‘people and prosperity’ to its work in an attempt to unite personal and economic well-being.
In practice, this means the ONS collected data about various aspects of well-being in the UK, looking at both economic factors – such as disposable income, household wealth, and employment – as well as personal influences, like anxiety and happiness ratings.
With a national organisation looking into the link between individual and financial well-being, it suggests a connection between wellness and wealth, for both individuals and for businesses.
Market research company Mintel has reported on multiple areas of wellness in the UK, including vitamins and minerals, healthy eating, and managing a healthy lifestyle.
For example, some of the main points from the Future of Vitamins and Supplements 2019 report were about supplements for beauty and microbiota (microorganisms).
Similarly, a key focus from the Attitudes towards Healthy Eating report from February 2019 was on foods that improve gut health, and the Managing a Healthy Lifestyle report published in November 2018 focused on the concept of a ‘holistically healthy lifestyle’.
These could be possible business opportunities for would-be wellness entrepreneurs.
It’s worth noting that wellness is not just for personal development – more and more workplaces are introducing health initiatives too. This could include providing fitness classes, healthy food and social activities, for example.
In fact, research published in 2018 from IBISWorld about corporate wellness services in the UK stated that industry revenue was at £519.9m.
From the figures listed above, the wellness industry has a strong monetary value, and to achieve this, there has to be a number of businesses that are making a profit.
If we look at the sector based solely on the numbers then it makes sense for entrepreneurs to want to launch in an industry that is doing well financially. However, this is based on the sector as it is now – what are likely to be some of the key trends in the industry going forward?
3. Trends in the health and wellness industry
With concepts like natural beauty and alternative fitness having been around for a few years now, some aspects of the wellness industry have become more mainstream. Other common examples of wellness trends include yoga and pilates classes, as well as organic food, juices and smoothies. So what are some of the newer trends leading the industry and creating more potential business opportunities?
It should be noted that many trends in the industry seem to gain momentum in the US first. So which trends could we expect to cross the pond and become popular here in the UK too?
While Ayurveda is definitely not a new trend (this ancient Indian health system has been in existence for more than 5,000 years), it is starting to gain traction beyond those in the know.
It can be described as a holistic health system that creates a daily routine, including diet and exercise, which can be tailored to an individual’s build, character and disposition, as well as seasonal changes.
If you have an interest in or knowledge of Ayurveda, you could consider becoming a health coach, starting a nutritionist business, or selling beauty products – all with an ethos of working with and promoting Aryuvedic principles.
As more and more people participate in wellness practices (such as going to yoga classes, eating plant-based foods, or having beauty treatments), wellness centres that offer multiple services in one place are likely to become more prominent.
Such centres may be located in cities and towns for day visits, or some may be in rural or overseas locations for extended stays. This in turn could generate a rise in the wellness property market to find suitable buildings to house the centres, and wellness tourism more generally.
If you’re a property developer or you run your own estate agency, you could consider focusing on renovating or finding commercial properties that could be used as wellness centres. Or, you could start your own wellness centre.
While once a sidelined interest often viewed with scepticism, crystals and their purported healing properties are definitely having a moment. With celebrity fans aplenty, such as Adele, Katy Perry and Naomi Campbell, they’re quickly becoming a mainstay in the wellness practices of many other people too.
Crystals are formed in a number of ways, including those that are created in the earth naturally. They are available in a range of colours, shapes and sizes, and are said to contain energy that can promote healing. Different stones are reported to channel certain energies and emotions, such as creativity, love and protection.
You can buy crystals online, such as on Amazon, eBay or Etsy, as well as in brick-and-mortar stores. Prices can range from £10 (or less) for costume jewellery, through to £1,000+ for premium stones, for example.
However, all is not well in the wellness industry. The sector has increasingly been called out for its at times exclusionary nature (such as a lack of diversity of ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, abilities and body images). Plus, some have called for the industry to become more aware of the cultures, histories and traditions of the practices and treatments it offers.
How would you describe the sector in the UK and what are your predictions for it?
Stripf continues: “We have seen a huge consumer demand for more ethically sourced products and sustainability is front of mind. The plant-based/vegan trend is also going through the roof. Again, it seems consumers are getting much more aware of what they consume and they demand much more transparency.”
Gemma Colao, managing director, OTO explains: “Good brands will win. Fads will faze out and sadly there are so many fads. Also, the industry will rapidly move to environmental and social considerations. Pure wellness for the individual will no longer come at the expense of others and the environment.”
Michelle Morrow, owner and yoga teacher at Willow Sanctuary Yoga Studio, adds: “It is growing rapidly. The shift in awareness and attitude means it is no longer a luxury but infused into our everyday life.
“Attitudes of mental health is an example of an increased awareness. Companies/workplaces are learning to have a wellness ethic, which ultimately benefits performance and this is fantastic. I can see more and more corporates embracing wellness within its four walls – making sure it is aware of people's mental states and using yoga, or other wellness activities such as mindfulness – to be part of its ethos.”
Do you think the industry can be more inclusive? If so, how?
Katie White, founder, re:lax comments: “From a business owner's perspective, the wellness industry is really welcoming. People are excited to collaborate, create things together and learn from each other; it is a wonderful thing to be a part of.
“But from a consumer's perspective, I can see that there could be a few barriers to entry, with price and perception being the two main ones.
“Many studios, classes, workshops and treatments come with premium price tags, however, lots of studios do community events where you offer a donation.
“There are lots of free resources online like podcasts, YouTube yoga videos, meditation apps and some clinics such as Neal’s Yard Remedies have student clinics that offer all kinds of treatments at a reduced price.
“I think that a lot of people are under the impression that wellness isn't for them or they don't fit the mould of a Lululemon-wearing, green juice-drinking hippie. This is a complete misconception. Wellness is for everyone – it comes in lots of different forms and everybody needs a bit of support from time to time.”
Brotheridge continues: “Yes, absolutely – wellness is for everyone and we need to make it more diverse. We need to make sure we're hearing from and amplifying different voices from people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and genders at events, on podcasts, blogs and on Instagram.
“I also believe it's important to acknowledge our privilege, as well as offer more affordable options when giving advice; not everyone can afford a £20 yoga class!”
Shamir Sidhu, founder, MoreYoga comments: “Definitely! A lot of brands make the mistake of only appealing to certain key demographics. Stop appealing to the top 20% of society – what about everyone else? That was why we wanted MoreYoga to be accessible and affordable to everyone – no one should have barriers to exercise.”
Have you come across any negative practices in the industry? If so, how have you overcome them?
Brotheridge adds: “Overall, I've had amazing experiences in the industry.
“One negative practise I've noticed is that often speakers and writers in the wellness industry are expected to work for free in exchange for ‘exposure'. This might be fine and worthwhile in some instances but at the end of the day, exposure doesn't pay the bills. Brands and companies need to get better at compensating people and we need to get better at asking to be paid.”
Colao says: “There is far too much ‘fake news’, fads and products that just won’t do what they claim.
“In CBD for example, most companies simply don’t contain enough CBD in the product for a customer to feel the effects. That’s part of the reason we created OTO CBD products.
“Following extensive research and trials, OTO has determined the optimum quantity of CBD called OTO strength. It varies between products – for example our roll-on oil contains 20% CBD, while our pillow mist contains 30% CBD.
“Ultimately, OTO strength is designed to give OTO users the maximum and inherent benefit of this natural product that has been used to treat ailments including insomnia, anxiety and stress. There needs to be more transparency around what products actually contain and the benefits.”
Are there any myths about the sector that you’d like to bust?
White says: “Firstly, that all the practises are quackery. The wellness industry doesn't have the resources that drugs companies have to facilitate the same level of clinical testing. But more and more research is being done into alternative medicine, which has had lots of positive results.
“If the practitioner is well-qualified, they will be working with an evidence-based method for therapies such as nutrition, herbalism, skincare and supplements.
“This doesn't extend to crystal healing and energy work, but if it works for you then that's what's important.
“There is also a common misconception that you have to be a certain type of person to work in or practice wellness.
“Wellness is for every body and there are people from all walks of life, with different beliefs who work in and support the wellness industry.”
Stripf states: “We’re all in it for the money. This certainly isn’t the case for Spoon Guru or its partners. We are wholeheartedly focused on making food discovery as inclusive as possible, and it’s an added bonus to run a business that we are passionate about that happens to also be profitable.”
Brotheridge comments: “Just because you have a lot of Instagram followers doesn't mean you are qualified to give advice!”
Sidhu continues: “Boutique studios, even when they are busy, do not always result in high profit margins. Profit doesn’t happen overnight, regardless of how busy classes are and how seemingly popular the studios are – it takes time to recoup the costs of investment.
“While we are lucky enough to be growing so fast due to so much demand, we’re fundamentally in this because we’re passionate about providing yoga and wellness to the masses.”
In this section, we’ve profiled some of the wellness trends to watch. If you have an interest in one of these areas (or another which you think could take off), then you could combine your passion for it into a potentially money-making business.
However, what’s difficult to know is whether the supply creates the demand, the other way around, or a combination of factors. Read on to discover the potential reasons for starting up in this sector…
4. Reasons for starting a health and wellness business
As with many other industries, often people may want to start their own businesses so that they can ‘be their own boss’. But what might motivate would-be entrepreneurs to launch a health or wellness start-up specifically?
Here, we outline some of the main reasons for starting a health and wellness business, as well as hearing from some small business owners about what motivated them.
- Location – many business ideas in this industry can be either home or premises based businesses
- Flexibility – it’s often possible to run these types of businesses alongside other commitments, and to tailor a schedule that suits you and your customers
- Monetisation – for some people it can be a way of making money from a hobby or pastime that they already enjoy, such as a yoga or fitness practice, whether that’s as a side hustle or as a full-time business
- Sharing – wellness businesses may start from a desire to help others or share knowledge with, or give back to, a wider community
Now you know why people may be motivated to start a business in this sector, next we’ll move on to highlighting some of the possible wellness business ideas.
While we’ve offered some of the business opportunities that may arise from the key trends in the industry in the section above, some more examples of wellness business ideas include:
- Open a beauty salon or spa
- Become a personal trainer
- Teach yoga classes
- Become a social media influencer e.g. a blogger or Instapreneur
What advice would you offer to people who want to start their own wellness business?
Brotheridge says: “Find a niche audience and work on helping people with a particular problem so you can be known in your industry as the go-to person. Get out there and meet lots of people because you never know where opportunities will arise. Work with a coach or mentor – someone who has done what you want to do and can show you what's possible and how to get there.”
Sidhu explains: “Passion is great and can get you far, but multi-tasking is one of the most important aspects of starting a business. You need to juggle 20 things in this day and age. For the wellness industry, because it’s such a busy sector, I would say don’t be afraid of starting small and building it up from there but get your foundations right so you know you are able to scale when the time is right.”
Ed Foy, co-founder, PRESS advises: “A passion in the field needs to inspire you, which will ultimately inspire your team and your customers.
“But regardless of industry, I would recommend focusing on numbers and finance from the very start. If you aren’t fully aware of the profits and losses of the business, unfortunately it won’t last long and is the reason so many start-ups fail; it’s not about poor ideas or poor execution, but rather the finances often aren’t managed correctly.
“I would recommend seeking a business partner who loves the numbers side of things if you don’t!”
Morrow states: “Go for it. Research well. Believe in yourself. Find a unique area you have and emphasize/develop it. It’s really important when you’re coming into your own as a yoga teacher, is really finding your voice, and finding what it is that is authentic about you. In today’s day and age, with social media, people really want to be able to connect to you on a personal level.”
While the concept of wellness may change and develop as time goes on, what seems to be at its heart is the idea of following, and acting upon, key principles that help make an individual’s life better (and in turn help improve society more widely), whether that’s in a physical, emotional, spiritual, or another kind of way.
Clearly, there is a demand for, and supply of, goods and services that cater for people’s wellness needs. And so running a wellness business is an appealing idea for many entrepreneurs, not only for the potential business opportunities, but the ability to help others while at the same time pursuing their own dreams.
A start-up that’s led with passion, which makes a difference and a profit? Now that sounds like a business in harmony to us.