A Healthier Holiday Carrie Skinner, Escape Fitness
11th February 2015
She’s hiked Mount Everest, walked the Camino de Santiago, scuba-dived in Indonesia and Borneo, sky-dived in Australia and bungee jumped in Nepal.
Words: Áilín Quinlan
But when personal trainer Carrie Skinner wanted to book a challenging fitness holiday, the search was time-consuming and frustrating. “There was no trusted website where I could find a list of fitness holiday, and no single online source for these breaks,” recalls Skinner (32), an outgoing Australian who moved to Cork in 2004 and set up her own personal training company, Carrie Skinner Fitness, in 2011.
“I went for a week to boost my fitness levels,” adding however, that in terms of her work as a fitness instructor, it needed to be challenging. “I needed a holiday, and the idea of sitting on a beach for a week was just not my thing.” Carrie ended up googling different countries, different companies, and different kinds of packages and it all took absolutely ages. “It was difficult to get information.”
In the end she stumbled upon a suitable holiday in Spain called Boot Camp Marbella, which offered a colourful range of activities such as water sports, golfing and gym work. “I found them through a google search and liked the website. Their responses were very reassuring, personalised and quick.”
Off she went to Marbella, where she had an absolute ball. However that exhaustive internet trawl back in 2012 threw up more than the perfect activity holiday. It also gave the entrepreneurial Skinner – who, by the way, holds a Bachelor of Business degree, a Postgraduate Certificate in Exercise and Nutrition Science and a Master’s Degree in Public Health (Epidemiology) – a major brainwave. “I got the idea of gathering health and fitness-orientated holidays on one website so that they could be found and compared.”
Her idea for an online platform allowing health, fitness and adventure lovers to research, select and book activity breaks of all kinds was born. “People wouldn’t have to waste time when they were trying to find their ideal break,” she says. She envisaged a wide range of holidays, which would cover everything from healthy cooking courses to wellness breaks, water-sports , yoga and general fitness or running camps.
“Such holidays are available around the world but there’s no way to find them without searching for individual websites whose existence you may not even be aware of,” points out Carrie, who is currently on University College Cork’s IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme. This is a nine-month business incubation programme aimed at nurturing, developing and strengthening entrepreneurial potential.
The IGNITE programme, which she is due to finish in June, turned out to be a superb platform from which to launch a fledgling business: “It provided €5,000 in funding, office space and mentoring.”
It provided crucial supports as she went about setting up her new internet business, which, she emphasises, is not aimed at elite athletes or fitness fanatics. “This is a website for anyone who has ever packed their runners into their suitcase just in case!” Escape Fitness Travel will offer every kind of health and fitness break from African fitness safaris to hiking Everest Base Camp or the Camino de Santiago, to beach yoga and wellness breaks in West Cork.
She’s currently in talks with more than 50 companies in Ireland and around the world and expects not only to have a minimum of 30 companies on the list by her launch date of March 25th but to build the number of featured companies “to at least 100” within the first 12 months.
“I’m essentially providing a listing service to companies providing health and fitness holidays, and linking people who want to go on this kind of holiday with the people who provide them,” she explains. It’s a leap into the unknown – to an extent at least – but, that’s not a concern for Skinner, who believes that one of her biggest strengths is that she’s never known job security:
“I never had a nine to five job, so I’m not scared by a lack of security. “It makes me more adventurous and gives me the drive to make something of myself and create something for myself. “ And then, there’s that entrepreneurial bull-headedness: “I’m also very independent and stubborn so I’m also good on the follow through – to the bitter end!”
For more information, contact Carrie: firstname.lastname@example.org