Everyone has a calling, but not everyone can discover it before it’s too late. Andrea Clark, owner of Nectar Yoga B&B and a certified yoga instructor, discovered her purpose and life’s work relatively early. Always wanting to run a B&B and already a yoga instructor on the side, she knew there had to be a way to combine the two. She quit her day job as a marketer and graphic designer and purchased property on Bowen Island with her current partner and began building out the property to include two cabins and their principal home which they also rent out for retreats. Perhaps what she’s best known for, however, is her geodesic dome which she built as her yoga studio. People from all over the world - as far as Singapore - flock to her retreat to practice yin yoga and meditation in her dome.
The Vancouverite sat down with Clark to chat about the B&B, the geodesic yoga studio and happiness in what she does every day.
Tell me about your background. Where did the idea of a yoga B&B come from?
I’m originally from Calgary but several years after my parents split up, I moved to Vancouver to be with my Dad. I was only eleven at the time but found myself moving from the simple suburbs of Calgary to likely the only rental house in Shaughnessy, one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Canada. I moved back to Calgary six months later.
I went to ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design) studying Fine Arts but soon realized that I also needed to make money. This involved a move to Vancouver where I went to Emily Carr University to study graphic design. After graduation, I started working in marketing and public relations for a number of different companies but none of this was my heart’s calling.
Amongst all of this, I was teaching yoga on the side. I taught yoga for a long time and it became the part of my day that made me feel quiet and sane. I like sharing despite sometimes feeling like I don’t have any more energy to give.
In 2012, I ended up going to St. Lucia working on contract for a high end resort teaching yoga, pilates and meditation. It was an amazing experience. While I was there, I met a lot of people from all over the world and it enabled me to see that I can do something from my passions and still make money doing it.
Following St. Lucia, my partner and I went travelling around the world for seven months; all through India, southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), and Europe. While on a train in India, where we were standing for 18 hours we started dreaming. What did we want to do with our lives? What kind of legacy would we like to leave? We started dreaming about Bed and Breakfasts - I’ve always liked them. That said, it wasn’t my dream to own a B&B, per se, as my bigger dream was to have a yoga retreat.
On my first trip to India many years ago to learn how to become a yoga teacher, they give you a spiritual name. Mine was Amrita, which means Nectar. So that’s where the name comes from - and how the idea was borne, on that train ride.
When we came home, we wanted a change. We knew we were done with living in the city. We started looking on the islands around here, like Passage Island and Gambier Island. We then started looking on Bowen Island and found this place and we knew this was it. On the property was the primary house and the partially finished Nectar Loft Cottage that you’re staying in. We brought in the second cottage which was a prefab building.
How did you learn how to run a B&B?
By trial and error but mostly by my intuition. I have always loved design and I have a creative eye because of my graphic design background. I love organization and details - it’s just something that comes naturally to me. It’s not something I’ve had to learn. This business is completely intuitive; which sounds crazy to any business person. I’m more a spiritual person, however; someone who’s trying to live out my life’s work in my business. I first follow the passion and then the business. I see this as a place of sharing and that’s one of the reasons why we’re starting to do host retreats where in the summer we’re having four different groups come in and rent our whole space, including our house, and do their own retreats. To me, it’s about the collective energy and community - having that in my home is so wonderful. I want that; that’s what I really envisioned. It will grow from there; there’s lots of other plans but this is where we’re at, at the moment.
Have you been busy and where are most of your guests coming from?
Our first few months we were fully booked with my yoga students from Vancouver. Slowly after that, word started to spread and people started going on our website. They left reviews on TripAdvisor and from there it has grown. We’ve been very busy! I remember being so elated the first few months when people started booking. We just didn’t know how it was going to go. Last summer we were fully booked from March to October.
To me, it’s not really about money (because you wouldn’t be in this business if it was about money). It’s more about the joy I get from it. We’ve just been steadily getting people and I can just see us continually organically move. I don’t have control over it. We have not paid for advertising; we have an Instagram account where our followers are very engaged. For us it’s more of an old fashioned thing that naturally moves on its own. When you’re happy you’ll tell your friends.
A lot of our visitors come from Vancouver but we’ve also had people come from all over the world like Singapore, Denmark, London, all over Canada, and the United States. It’s been really neat. I’m almost a little blown away as we’re such a small B&B. We’ll be coming up to our second year in August.
Do you have a five-year plan?
So it’s just sort of organic, see what happens?
I have dreams - to expand in one way or another. In terms of a specific business plan, no, I don’t want it to be like that. I want it to be growing organically; it’s definitely a lot of work for me but at the same time it’s beautiful work as I don’t feel tired from it. I just feel like this is what I’m meant to do.
Is it just you or do you have other people helping you?
It’s me. Last year I was literally doing all the cooking, all the cleaning, all the yoga, all the bookings and I also teach retreats all over the world. Last year I taught eight retreats internationally through my original business, Nectar Yoga. This year I’ve already taught two retreats and I’m headed to Spain soon to teach two more. This is a different audience who wants to go somewhere sunny and me and my retreat partner - she’s a nutritionist and does all the cooking (vegan) work on these international retreats. This year, however, I realized that asking for help isn’t necessarily a bad thing. So I got some help with cleaning which has been really nice and getting a few yoga teachers who are really fantastic to come teach here when they can. Then maybe as I need more help we’ll expand from there.
So what do you think has been the key to your success?
It’s the energy behind it and people honestly feel that. At the end of the day people feel authenticity. They can feel if it’s a money-making business versus a pure energy behind it. I’m doing this in the aspect of sharing. I want to give back and I also receive: I gain so much from people coming here. The thing that’s made it successful is the very spirit behind it; the maternal loving thing that we’re all searching for. When you arrive here you can relax and settle down - things are taken care of. You can let go. People can chill and that’s such a nice thing. Maybe different than a hotel room in downtown Vancouver.
People come here to relax, but this is also your home. So how do you relax - where do you go?
My partner works in California regularly so it’s been nice in a way as I have a lot of time by myself. I can fill it with work or I can take time to meditate in groups here. We have a lot of community events that I go to, like this song circle that I’m a part of - it’s my way to connect with my inner voice, my inner spirit. I meditate in the mornings and I sometimes do my practice in the yoga dome, in the living room. Ultimately I want to actually live and practice what I preach so that I have the energy to share it with others.
And you feel that you can do it here? You don’t feel like you have to escape to do it somewhere else?
Sometimes I feel like we should just go away. Your home in a way becomes like your office and it can be hard to separate the two. We just went to Victoria recently one weekend on a trade so that was great. We live in this great place and sometimes I feel like I should just take time and explore Bowen a bit, we have so many awesome things to do on the island.
Let’s talk about the geodesic dome. What made you want to practice your yoga in a dome? Had you seen it elsewhere?
Geodesic domes have been around for quite a while; they were really popular back in the 50s and 60s - a very hippy dippy thing. People actually use to build them out of wood. I’ve always thought dome structures were very cool. They also have spiritual and geometric qualities that make them a good sacred space. It’s also the circle where in our past tribal times where we’d all gather around a circle around a fire. So I love this circular shape of the dome. There’s a place where I teach in Spain and and it’s in a dome. Of course it works really well in a really warm climate. There’s also this amazing hotel in Switzerland that has these domes all over the ski hill. I figured that if they could have them in Switzerland that we could have them in Canada. So I started to research dome companies and landed on one in the US. I feel like it just adds a nice appeal to our concept; it’s really cool.
Do you plan to have additional domes on the property?
No, I’m not building any more domes (laughs).
Is this the only yoga dome in the Vancouver area?
Yes, I believe so.
What do you like the most about running the B&B? What do you like the least?
What I like most are the people who I meet. Every guest we have is so freaking cool. We get the best guests, no joke. We attract - and this is how I know I’m doing my work in the world - because the people I’m attracting are people who I genuinely would want to be friends with. We’re attracting a really cool, chill person who’s really vibing with our vibe. They get that from what they see online and that comes through when they arrive.
The one thing I dislike is that like any small business, I need to learn more work-life balance just like everyone. I have a great amount of passion for what I do and so it’s important that I make this about my life. Like I said, practice what I preach and actually take time for myself. This is the learning curve of any small business person’s life. When you have a passion for what you do, when you build something you really love and you build it with so much heart and direction it’s hard to back away from it even at 9 pm at night. But this is something that I’m learning as I go on.