Blog : Treehouses

In the pursuit of profit or social purpose?

In the pursuit of profit or social purpose?

Wow, November already. How did that happen? Am I allowed to use the ‘C’ word yet … or should I wait until December!? Over the next few weeks, in the run up to the Christmas (yes I said it) month of December, we will be taking a look at the concept of social business. Or should I say social enterprise? Or social venture? Or social entrepreneurship? In whichever of its guises, we want to know whether a business can have a social purpose and profit making as core aims.

bíku and bíku’s business model has been inspired by social business (13 September blog post). It is an area that interests me greatly and a topic that I see becoming increasingly important in all sectors and all businesses.

The customer is always right

Businesses have seen an increase in their customers wanting more information. More information about the quality of products, where products are coming from, how the products have been made, and whether what they are buying is eco-friendly. And this isn’t just happening at the higher end of the market, it’s even an issue for the budget supermarkets. Just look Lidl’s #LidlSurprises marketing campaign as one example! It’s affecting businesses across the board.

Businesses are increasingly having to adapt their business models to meet this demand. But how many businesses give pursuing a social purpose the same weight as pursuing profits? And can you prioritise both aims and still be successful?

But what about the investor?

An episode of Dragons’ Den sparked the idea to write this November series of blogs. I watched in amazement as Lara Sengupta from Cork Yogis pitched her high-end cork yoga mats with a social purpose (the business, not the mats!). Although in agreement that Lara’s business was doing a great thing, there were doubts from the Dragons about the investment opportunity. Each Dragon insisted that the focus should be on developing a strong business (read: profits) before giving a significant amount of the revenue to the social cause. In this case – helping to create ‘futures for vulnerable communities.’ CorkYogis works with Destiny Foundation, an NGO working to end human slavery and trafficking. For every CorkYogi mat purchased, the company contributes towards a training course for one girl. Destiny Foundation provides the training courses in sewing and literacy, giving the girls employable skills.

I have to say that I was surprised by the response from the Dragons to this social enterprise model. No one could disagree that the business would give back to the community. However, this appeared to be a peripheral concern to the business moguls, who continued to focus on numbers and the financial return on investment. The Dragons even asked Lara – on a few occasions – if what she was doing was even a real business.

Social impact investing is moving into the mainstream. Hopefully this is a sign that investors are beginning to see the social purpose in and of itself as part of the return on investment; just as big a part as the financial return.

A long way to go

I feel that business is heading in the right direction. This has been driven principally by customer demand. There’s still a way to go.

Mahatma Gandhi probably said it best, ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.’

Until next time #liveslow, #livesustainably

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Wellness tourism: the naked truth

Wellness tourism: the naked truth

I have always assumed that any travel outside of business travel has some kind of health benefit to the traveller. We use holidays, after all, as respite and escape from the daily grind. But holidays can be stressful in themselves, and we can find it hard – even on holiday – to truly ‘switch off’. In today’s age of social media and 24-hour digital connectivity it’s not surprising that travel focused exclusively on benefiting the mind, body and soul – wellness tourism – has grown and continues to grow exponentially.

Wellness tourism is expanding 50 per cent faster than the overall tourism industry; it is set to be a $679 billion market by the end of 2017[1]. The Virtuoso Blog puts wellness tourism at 15 per cent of global travel – second only to cultural tourism. And, with wellness travellers spending 130 per cent more than the average traveller[2], the tourism industry will make sure that this trend is here to stay!

‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards, they shape us’

The tourism industry is tapping in to the wider trends of the global $3.7 trillion wellness industry. ‘Wellness architecture’ – a trend identified in the Global Wellness Summit’s, ‘2017 Wellness Trends’ report – is particularly interesting. The report describes this as ‘creating designs and using materials that improve the health and happiness of the humans who actually live and work in them’. It goes on to say that ‘hotels and wellness retreats need to be leaders in the wellness architecture revolution’, and we could not agree more!

Wellness is a key focus for us and our architects, in designing the b í k u treehouse retreat. Put simply, we want to create buildings with a soul. This means working with and not against nature to make sure that our guests feel an intimate connection with their surroundings as well as with themselves. And treehouses, for us, are childhood dreams turned in to reality; they can inspire people to dream, as we did when we were children.

The sound of silence

The 2017 Wellness Trends report identifies ‘silence’ as another wellness trend. For me, personally, silence is my escapism, it’s how I try to stay sane in a world full of noise and chaos. To me the sound of silence is the sound of nature, away from man-made noise. It’s those Sunday summer days lounging in the countryside, lying on the grass and losing yourself gazing at the clouds, hearing the breeze in the trees and birds chirping. I haven’t done that in a while! The report describes this so well, as the ‘nature of noise’.

At b í k u – the retreat will be nestled in nature, sat within primary jungle on an isolated island – surrounded by all the natural sounds that Bocas del Toro (Panama) has to offer! For us, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Breathe at b í k u

Our b í k u treehouse retreat will be built for people to take a breath! To take a breath from the humdrum of modern life – and breathe in nature, community, place and culture. We want our guests’ experience to be a unique one. We want guests to feel ‘wellness’ from start to finish, tailored to each individual – from farm-to-table dining, the silence of nature, nature walks, quiet canoeing, to surfing, sailing, yoga, meditation and more! We will offer the added wellness of mind, knowing that by just supporting b í k u and staying with us you will be benefiting the local community, as we will reinvest in social and environmental projects, locally.

Travel with a purpose, travel to be well – #liveslow and #livehappy

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Until the next time!

 

Footnotes

[1] CREST’s report, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2016

[2] The 2016 Virtuoso Luxe Report

What makes a treehouse a treehouse?

What makes a treehouse a treehouse?

Our quest to create unique and magical treehouses for our b í k u retreat has led us to ask the question, ‘What makes a treehouse a treehouse?’ Before we began our journey, we didn’t think there was much debate around what constitutes a treehouse – but, along the way we have found treehouses of all shapes and sizes, including some that are not even built in trees! We were shocked too!

For us, there are three essentials of a treehouse, as well some added bonuses which make a treehouse stay truly unbeatable. At b í k u – we’re aiming for the fundamentals as well as that icing on the cake!

Essentials of a treehouse

A treehouse must be:

  1. Off the ground
  2. In a tree (number 2 normally helps with number 1!)
  3. Magical!

Added bonuses for treetop living

For an amazing treetop stay, your treehouse should have:

  1. A unique design
  2. A swing bridge (of course – and perhaps a spiral staircase)
  3. An amazing view

When is a treehouse not a treehouse?

Most common definitions of a treehouse mention a structure that is built in a tree. The Treehouse Guide further defines a treehouse as, ‘A structure built in or around a tree which interacts with, and relies upon, the tree for its support. A treehouse consists of a roofed platform defining a sheltered space which may be fully enclosed for protection from the elements’.

I love the question that the Guide then asks, ‘Is it acceptable to use ground supports for a treehouse?’ And the answer is, it depends! This is clearly a hot topic of debate within the treehouse community.

The Guide also sets out three scenarios when a structure is not a treehouse, including when the house is fully ground supported and when the tree support is not structurally critical.

We have to say that on our journey, we’ve come across a large number of places misdefined as treehouses. And, it can be hugely disappointing when you’re looking forward to all the magic, nostalgia and quirkiness of a treehouse stay and, instead, find yourself in a building on stilts. Don’t get us wrong, there are some truly amazing and unique retreats and structures built in tree canopies that are magical – which we would love to stay at. But, please, just don’t call them a treehouse.

Living-room treehouses

living-room, in Powys, Wales, does everything you’d expect and want from a treehouse, and more! Phenomenally designed, the treehouses almost disappear into the woodland. Nature and sustainability have been taken deeply into consideration. The treehouses are a piece of hobbit-like magic in a hidden valley that take you away from the daily grind to chance encounters with fairy tale creatures and …. Welsh sheep! It’s a beautiful place to be.

Photos from our visit to living-room, back in 2015.

 

 

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