One of the things that I got from two years in the basement is I am no longer in the results-based business. I’m in the actions-taking business, and this might seem like a throwaway idea. This idea has transformed my life because all my pain, and anguish, and suffering, and negative emotion was based on the fact that I was doing things in order to get results.
– Jake Sasseville
Darla LeDoux Hello, and welcome to Retreat and Grow Rich: the podcast. We are here with our retreat business model series. And this series is for you if you are either seasoned with leading retreats and you’re running into some stickiness and you want to shift things up in your model, or you’re being drawn to the world of retreats and you’re not really sure how that should manifest in your business.
So, today I’m here with Jake Sasseville, and you are going to love him. He has a retreat center in Costa Rica. So, for some of you, you’re going to want to write down his contact info. You’re gonna want to reach out to him and host your retreats there. They’ve got it set up perfectly, so you don’t have to do a thing, you don’t have to even think, and you’ll learn more about that. So be ready if you’re someone who’s longed of hosting a retreat in Costa Rica. And if you’re someone who’s thought, “I’d really love to have my own space. I love the idea of hosting retreats. I love the idea of bringing people together. I may or may not want to be the leader, but I want to create the space or the environment for transformation.” Then this is for you. We’re really going to get behind the scenes on what it’s been for Jake as he’s launched a retreat center, purchased, built, added on, created all the systems and the team from zero to 100 in a very short period of time. So, I’m so excited he’s agreed to share his insights with you. Welcome, Jake.
Jake Sasseville Thank you. Hi Darla, and hello to everybody listening.
Darla LeDoux So, guys, Jake began his career as the youngest host in late-night TV history on ABC, after Jimmy Kimmel Live. At age 21, he built an entertainment studio and production company in New York City. By the age of 27, he had produced late-night TV music tours with Kanye West, One Republic, and J Cole. Revolutionized brand integrations – I hope we talk more about that – and endorsements for entertainment, and music, and wrote his first book. His 200 plus episode podcast, The Jake Sasseville Show, is released weekly and has netted over 5 million downloads and features radically truthful conversations with famous and not so famous folks, at the intersection of culture and consciousness.
After moving to Maui, just before his 29th birthday, Jake discovered the powerful relationships created in the intimacy of his home. He opened it up to nearly 3,000 people over the last three years for retreats, corporate gatherings, and individuals on sabbaticals. And today he is the founder…manager…what’s your title at Imiloa?
Jake Sasseville The president is okay with me, Darla.
Darla LeDoux President.
Jake Sasseville No, president and cofounder is what they say, but yeah, really head of relationships and relationship building at Imiloa in Costa Rica, which started by hosting people in my home in Maui. So that was kind of a beautiful tease, actually.
Darla LeDoux Amazing. So Imiloa Institute actually, and we’ll get more into that. But Jake, talk a little bit about how you became drawn. You never even went to retreats and all of a sudden, you’re hosting them inadvertently in your home. So, tell us a bit about this.
Jake Sasseville How dare you expose me, Darla? No, so I’ll be honest with you, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea and the role as host and I wanted to host my own late-night show. I was set on doing that and did by the time I was 21 like you said in the intro. And, is often the case when you’re building startups and in your 20s, the combination of that and when you have a little success – so, it’s like the trifecta. Your ego can kind of get the best of you. And it did. It did. And it kind of really took me for a wild ride in my twenties in the entertainment business.
And the accolades and the bio is nice, but really inside there was a deep desire to host and to create. But the environment with which I was doing that in wasn’t working and I kept trying to make it work until finally, I lost everything when I was 27 and I went on this kind of Heroes’ Journey of what happens next. I ended up in my grandma’s basement with nothing; no money, no real friends. I mean my real friends stuck around, but like a lot of my relationships dismantled. That was a very sobering time.
Darla LeDoux So, you had built these relationships with your ego, I’m guessing, right?
Jake Sasseville Yeah, I think it was the mask I was choosing to wear. Yeah.
Darla LeDoux Yeah.
Jake Sasseville And so, the relationships that I had built were based on – there were certainly some, I mean, listen, there were a lot of people that were working alongside me and behind me and I was able to rally people. I was using some God-given gifts, but just in a direction that wasn’t in service to others. And when I was in the basement – in grandma’s basement, I was supposed to be there for a month, I was there for two years – several things got clarified for me and I think is relevant to your audience. The first of which is that I could create, or I learned how to create anything from a place of surrender. That was a big thing because anything I had created previously was created from hustle.
And the second thing that I really got out of those days in the basement, my buddy Jason was hosting a retreat in Maine and I could afford to get to a retreat in Maine. And it was a men’s intimacy retreat. And I attended that retreat and it changed my life. And to date, that’s the only formal retreat, overnight retreat, that I’ve ever attended. And now, obviously, cofounder of Imiloa at 31 groups here since cofounding at 10 months ago now. So, it’s kind of an ironic thing and we can talk more about that.
But that’s really been the trajectory. And then, after the basement I ended up, as you said, in Maui, and really set an intention in Hawaii to open up my home to the world. For some reason, I thought that there was something in all the gatherings that are happening right now in the world, whether it’s music festivals or other brand related experiences.
I saw something in the future that had me thinking that more intimate environments were going to become really important to be able to move the world forward and to be able to raise consciousness. So, I just started doing that with myself. I really believe in this idea of be the change. So, I started doing it myself and in my home. And then that’s how Imiloa was born.
Darla LeDoux So, men’s intimacy retreat. So, with everything I know about retreats, you jumped right into the fire.
Jake Sasseville Yes.
Darla LeDoux What was that like for you?
Jake Sasseville I really respect my friend that was doing the retreat. Jason is a remarkable individual who is a leadership coach at the highest levels within the United Nations. Working with various UN agencies. Working with, and retained, by various UN agencies, and had gone through a very painful divorce. And one of the big things for me in retreats, and how we also curate the incredible masters from around the world that we have at Imiloa, is there has to be a level of authenticity that’s unprecedented. And with Jason, there just was. He was so honest that the reason why he was doing this men’s intimacy retreat is because he wanted to discover what happened in his very painful marriage and inevitable divorce. And so that was the work that he was doing. And I admired that so deeply. It wasn’t spun, it wasn’t presented in such a way. It was, “Here’s what I’m up to.”
And men from all around the world came to this thing. There were like 20 of us, I think. Two of my friends came. I invited some of my friends from Atlanta and New York. And yeah, just really profoundly – it showed me what was possible. It showed me that it wasn’t what I thought it was. It was a weekend that I thought it was going to be talk, talk, talk therapy or something like that. The entire weekend was designed around authentic movement. Why is that important? That touched me because I saw that in a retreat environment, the element of surprise and intrigue is actually a really beautiful thing because all the men came there guaranteed. We did not think we were going to be authentically moving for a weekend and, then it got real, real quick.
Darla LeDoux You mean like, physically moving? Like how you’re moving your body through space?
Jake Sasseville Honey. I mean there are10 of us. The opening exercise was split up. So, find a partner, split up. 10 of us sitting on the outside of the room – it was a beautiful, big, yoga room – and 10 of us in the middle. And then, of course, there was more facilitation than what I’m giving you, but 10 of us – men now, who’ve never met each other – close your eyes, and for 20 minutes move whatever your body tells you to do. The people on the outside, observe your partner. And I’m thinking to myself, “What is this?”
I observe the partner, and then we switch after 20 minutes and then I go in the middle, because I was observing, and I thought, “Okay, now I’m going to authentically move, whatever.” And then he tells us, now you’re going to mirror back what you just watched your partner do for 20 minutes. And I was like, “What?” So, then I closed my eyes and now I’m mirroring back. Anyways, it was a very strange way, but it was profound because it was men getting in touch with parts of themselves and I’m not talking about just movement, I’m talking about the whole shebang, getting in touch with parts of ourselves that we just aren’t normally tapped into. And what came from that was a level of vulnerability and sharing and a wonderful weekend that I just admire. I hold that weekend with an admiration.
Darla LeDoux I love that so much because I – one of the things I teach is to create an experience on day one that really lets people see where they really are. And that just threw you right into the fire. If you can survive that, anything’s possible.
Jake Sasseville Yeah. It’s like my first retreat was men’s intimacy – hello? Knock, knock, who’s there? And then the first exercise is authentic, boom. And it was like, it was straight to the races.
Darla LeDoux That’s awesome. I love it because we have such a level of self-consciousness of everything, right? How are people seeing me? And yet here you are, eyes closed, being yourself. That’s amazing.
Jake Sasseville Yeah, it was good.
Darla LeDoux So, you took this kind of insight into your home in Maui and just said, “Hey, people just come.” So, I think a lot of people want it perfect, right? They want the perfect plan before they start on their mission. And it seems like you just kind of said, I don’t know what this is, but I’m going to start inviting people. Or was there more strategy behind it?
Jake Sasseville One of the things that I got from two years in the basement is I am no longer in the results-based business. I’m in the actions-taking business, and this might seem like a throwaway idea. This idea has transformed my life because all my pain, and anguish, and suffering, and negative emotion was based on the fact that I was doing things in order to get results. Even if I was telling myself it was for somebody else or for some greater good, I was delusional, and I was inauthentic, and I was a fraud. And most people are walking around in the world as total fraudulent human beings and they think that they’re doing something for something, but they’re not. And until you get radically truthful with yourself, there’s no breakthrough.
So, for me, it was out of the results business. I’m in the actions-based business. Getting the house in and of itself was a miracle. Because here’s this house that’s neighboring Oprah’s, that is three times what my income at the time was for renting it. Okay, because I was renting the house. But there was a cottage out back in the house, like a separate two-bedroom cottage. And I AirBnB that cottage, and then I had a three-bedroom, massive main house overlooking three Hawaiian Islands. Gorgeous. I’d see Oprah and Gail on their Dune buggy when they’d be there for Christmas or holidays. I mean dream come true for a kid that was raised on her.
So, the only strategy, if there was one Darla, it was to get out of the way. It was to get out of the way. I took the actions and I turned the results over. I remember calling my friend who was really supportive of me over that two-year period and I said, “How am I going to get this house? Like I’m applying for this house? This is like, ridiculous.” She’s like, “Jake, you’re in the results business. Get out the results business, take the action, submit the application, turn it over to your higher power, turn it over to universe, turn it over to source, to God, whatever you want.” And that was very powerful. Like it was literally going from grandma’s basement to this home. Like August 27, 2015 I moved from a basement in central Maine to a 4,500 square foot home in the most desirable zip code in Hawaii. Like, remarkable. And it was based on taking action.
So yes, the intention was always there to open up the home for the world. The intention was that obviously, I was doing my podcast that was earning, and then the Airbnb I would expect to earn and be able to pay for the house. Which it did, three times what the house ended up eating.
So, it was a very enjoyable experience. But not without its challenges. There comes a point that when you start getting the things that you’re most wanting in your life, when you actually see how powerful of a co-creator you actually are, it can be very overwhelming. I remember sitting and just crying in my living room again, looking at three Hawaiian Islands up top on this mountain, on Mount Haleakalā, and crying and calling my friend in Australia, Kristin, and saying, “I just don’t feel deserving of this.” And I and I had those same conversations a year before when I was in the basement. Like, how did this happen? Looking out the window of a bleak central Maine winter with snow up to the window saying, “How did this happen?” And so again, ego burns the candle at both sides. And that’s what I learned from that experience.
So, since those early days in Maui back in 2015, I just have stayed in the actions space business, Darla. And it’s really served me well in my life to just take action and turn over the results and not focus on the results. And it served me well with the creation of Imiloa, this beautiful thing that we have going on in Costa Rica.
Darla LeDoux So, what types of people came to Maui? Like what kind of groups did you host or what was that all about for you?
Jake Sasseville I had a favorite author of mine, Fred Dodson, author of 26 books in the area of reality creation and parallel universe. He did an amazing retreat there. I had corporate off sites, like friends of mine from different corporations, would bring a few friends from the corporation and come. It was very informal. It wasn’t like, oh, let’s have this retreat. The most formal one was that parallel universes retreat. I had friends of friends who were Rwandan genocide survivors showing up. The door was always unlocked, literally, and word spread that you could just text me for a time and I would block the dates for you. Rwandan genocide survivor came to write this memoir. Stage four prostate cancer fella from Wyoming came to Maui to heal his life. Bobby Bailey came, who ended up becoming a very close friend of mine, cofounder of Invisible Children. And just an incredible group of people over these three years.
And I started to think, “Wow, this is really something.” First of all, people love coming into people’s homes. Like they love going to a home. Like rather than a hotel or like a formal retreat center, people love to go home. And Imiloa and Costa Rica, the one thing that people say is it feels like I’m home because there are homes here. This isn’t a hotel. We are homes. And so that’s deeply moving. And yeah, just to see the type of work that would happen with people when they were just left to their own devices. No real structure. I would cook for them. I’m not a great cook, but I would cook. And that’s where this idea, this leadership vision, which now animates Imiloa, that we come from a spirit of service and a posture of learning, that started in Maui for me. That really, it got clear to me that that’s what people are really desiring and what I was able to show up for.
Darla LeDoux I love that the story kind of mirrors back the idea of letting go of the result. Surrender, and take action, and let go of the result. And most people aren’t willing to do that.
Jake Sasseville Hmm.
Darla LeDoux How did you become willing to do that? Or what was the moment that you said “Yes, surrender is for me?”
Jake Sasseville Well, I wish that there was a moment. There was a lot of pain. I mean, I was tired of being in pain. I was tired of ruining relationships because I’m a good person. I was a good person back in my twenties, but I ruined a lot of relationships because I was so concerned with being right and other people being wrong. And that was so based on the results, like everything, every disruption in my life, I realized was because I was focused on the results of my life rather than the action of creating. So, I don’t know if there was one defining moment. Certainly, the basement was the two-year wakeup call because we’ve all been in grandma’s basement. Even if it wasn’t grandma’s basement.
Darla LeDoux I know when I started my business, I said my worst possible outcome is living in Mom’s basement.
Jake Sasseville Yes! This is what I said for 10 years in New York, flying first class, going to Hollywood parties. I said, “Oh my worst fear is that I would end up back in Lewistown after all this glitz and glamour.” And look what happened, Darla.
Did you ever end up in Mom’s basement?
Darla LeDoux No, I did not. Not yet.
Jake Sasseville But the other thing, on the flip side of that too – I just want to cover this because I think a lot of people hear that and they’re like, “Whoa.” On the flip side of that, what I’ve also learned after grandma’s basement is that we don’t need a grandma’s basement to reset. That’s an important thing. Like for me, I needed that. I needed to be shaken to the core: shooketh. That’s where I say I’m shooketh. I needed to be shooketh to the core. Not everybody needs that. And I don’t need that necessarily even after. It’s not necessary. It’s just part of what happened. So, thanks for letting me share that.
Darla LeDoux That’s awesome. So, Jake, did you make a decision, “Hey, I want to open a space.” Or did the space speak to you? Or how did that unfold?
Jake Sasseville Ever since I touched down in August of 2015 in Maui, I said I wanted to do this. I knew my house wasn’t going to be the end all for it. It was also interesting too. So, I started creating any Imiloa while at the house in Maori and just really testing it. By the way, testing it is not always sexy and it’s not always leading to amazing results. I tested for three years, and by the way, I was doing yoga, I was traveling, I was doing other things. It wasn’t like I was like, “Hey, I gotta make this work cause I’m in the action space business.”
So, I kept talking to people about it and then finally someone showed at my house and said, you need to talk to Nadav. Nadav Wilf, who is one of the best coaches on the planet for CEOs and founders of social impact companies, massive companies. He only coaches with companies of 10 million or more dollars, up to billions. And he has an incredible network, is an incredible person, exited two tech companies, had a few flops in his twenties as well. He’s about five years older than me. And we met and we ended up buying real estate together while I was still in Maui. We had this vision, this shared vision of compassionate adventures, compassionate real estate. And we bought blue collar real estate in Michigan together; about a hundred apartments. And that worked really well. And one day we were just talking about Imiloa and I was – this is another important piece of the –
Darla LeDoux When you say, “We were talking about Imiloa…so you were testing it as a concept? Like a series of principles?
Jake Sasseville Honey, I was always talking about Imiloa. My Maui community, the people in Maui, are so happy to see this thing because literally it is all that I would talk about all the time. I would go see houses, I’d be at open houses in Maui because I thought it was going to be Hawaii. I would make offers on houses and then try to put money together. I mean, when I say testing it, I was testing the concept of, “Huh, weeding out offers I couldn’t afford.” It was a little crazy. But I was so determined. And a little bit in the results, I’ll be totally honest with you, there was a constant correction because making offers on something that you don’t have money for, it’s not exactly the best way to create things. There’s a little bit of resistance there, so it’s important to like, “Oh, maybe I need to back off this a little more.” So, every time I would advance forward with the concept, I’d be corrected. Advance forward, corrected.
So, with Nadav it was just very natural, like this is something that I want to do. And he actually lent me the money for a down payment on a house that I was going to buy in Maui. And I had a 14-day period to raise the rest of the money. He wasn’t involved with Imiloa. But I remember this house and I remember that day. He transferred the money into my account. We knew each other for six months at that point. And when it didn’t work out after that 14-day period of me raising the rest, he obviously got the money back. I sent it back to him and he’s like, “But tell me more about Imiloa.” And from that conversation too, our first investor was maybe two days? Regan Hillyer out of New Zealand. Incredible coach. And then from that investor, it was then a year. It was a year of raising what has become two and a half million dollars for Imiloa in Costa Rica. We bought on June 1st, so almost a year ago.
So, it’s a great, and I love that you’re asking these detailed questions, Darla, because I don’t chat about this all the time, but I love it so much because it just, it’s reflective of the human spirit. When you’re creating something, you’re creating it, yes, in relationship to others. That’s how we create here. And we create for others to be able to experience. Without an experience there’s not the created or the creation. But in all also you’re creating with the universe. In some weird way, me tossing it out there and putting a down payment on some – or not down payment…I think, yeah, it was like to put it in escrow – even though that didn’t work out, it didn’t matter because it just was advancing the vision and advancing it more and more.
And I think that that’s really important. People think that there’s just a moment when it happens. Yeah, there was a closing date for this house in Costa Rica, but it felt so anticlimactic and anybody who’s really successful will tell you it is just like so anticlimactic when the things happen that it’s really about the journey and each step and treating people really well and figuring out how more to serve. Those are the moments that people reflect on. It’s not that the signing day – the day we signed for this happened to be a story because I’m a character and I’m always creating a good story. But it inherently is not a story. We signed on the dotted line for our house, that’s it. The story, the things we learn from, and the things we reflect back to one another are these moments. These many moments that make up the timeline of our lives.
Darla LeDoux I love this idea that taking the action is putting energy toward the goal, right? It’s just keeping it alive in the universe. And we get so attached to whether it works out, like a lot of people might have that fall through and just be devastated or take it as a sign, “Oh the universe doesn’t want me to do this,” or something like that. As opposed to, it feels like you were so grounded in what Imiloa is about for you and not attached to the specific way it shows up.
Jake Sasseville So that came into full view because I was living a very nice life in Maui, honey. And we were planning to do Imiloa, Hawaii, and the dog was in full support. In fact, we had an offer after we raised all the money over the course of a year, we had an offer on a house in Maui. And at the 11th hour, this was after a year of fundraising and all these people, and at the 11th hour in our due diligence, we realized that Hawaii regulations were just not going to support what we wanted to do. And we pulled at the 11th hour, literally, I think it was 10 o’clock at night and we had a midnight deadline. And we had all the money in the bank. And so, Imiloa, this vision, the DNA of Imiloa has always been an intercontinental institute for the education and advancement of humanity. Intercontinental means we’re building one of these on every continent on the planet. So, what Nadav and I said is, where’s the second place? Where’s the second most favorite place that both of us really would like to be? Costa Rica. Well then, that’s our first choice. And luckily, I was already working a relationship with an agent down here at Coldwell Banker and I called him up literally the next day.
Darla LeDoux You were like a dream. I have a bunch of cash in the bank.
Jake Sasseville Like a dream. You’ve never seen someone move so fast. And he’s from New Jersey and he’s a character. I said, “Larry, it’s Jake.” “Jake, what’s going on?” He had this Jersey accent, been down here for 20 years. I said, “Larry, it’s Christmas for you in January, honey.” Just listen very carefully. And literally, this was my ask. I need 20 properties with 20 acres. And I had all these basic requests and I said, “I need a meeting with all 20 owners.” Each of the owners. I wanted to meet with each of the owners on Zoom and I’m flying down to Costa Rica in 72 hours and I need them to meet with me. I don’t want their agents. I don’t want the representatives. I want to speak directly with the sellers. And I had all these conversations. Anybody who wouldn’t talk to me, we throw them out off the list. I’ve got so discerning cause we had to place this money, honey, and I was on a plane to Costa Rica in 72 hours after getting out of the Maui deal. We had an offer on the table within 48 hours after I got back to Maui, and we bought a month and a half later. So, Larry was a very happy guy.
Darla LeDoux Yes, he was. And you’ve referred to the house? We bought the house.
Jake Sasseville Yep.
Darla LeDoux So, I know you have many houses now. You have this whole property and I know you’ve been building and that’s a whole other story in itself. So, was it just one house on the property that you purchased?
Jake Sasseville Great question. There were three homes that are at the end of a road at the top of a mountain on the edge of a cliff. And those three homes were three imported homes. 200-year-old homes from Bali, which made the homes very unique. In addition to that, there was a yoga shala; very tall, like hundred-foot ceilings hanging a hundred feet in the trees, which has become our house of masters. And that’s the central classroom on the property. And then, there was a little property management quarters. Everything else we’ve built since then. But that was the house. That was the dream. Amen.
Darla LeDoux Amazing. So, I’m hearing a few things. Take action. Don’t get attached to the outcome. Don’t be afraid to get funding. I think a lot of people are nervous about that whole realm of having investors and funding and all of that. Was that something that was new for you?
Jake Sasseville So, in my previous career, I never had formal investors like that. It was mostly brands. I did deals with Ford and so many…P & G, and Coca Cola, for better or worse.
Darla LeDoux I can’t remember if I told you my first career was at P & G.
Jake Sasseville Oh, was it?
Darla LeDoux Yeah.
Jake Sasseville Hilarious. Yeah, I mean it’s fine. And it really served me well. Here’s what I learned from the Dav about raising money. First of all – and the Dav’s a beast – and we are cofounders for those very simple reasons. Because he wasn’t running around saying, let’s do Imiloa before I came into his life. The reason why we’re cofounders, and this is really important to those who are starting businesses with people because I’ve met a lot of partners and a lot of them, I had the story running in my head about how everyone took advantage of me because I’m like the X factor, which I was and am. When I got with the Dav, it became very clear that yes, I have the vision and that’s fabulous and he shares the vision. But if not for the Dav, the vision would have never come to reality because that guy with his network, and his genuineness, and level of authenticity…together, we raised the money for this.
That is why without either of us, it doesn’t happen. That to me was my litmus for what it meant to be a cofounder. I am proud to be his cofounder. I am proud to own less than a hundred percent of a company because of what we’re creating here. I remember Branson always said I’d rather own 10% of $1 billion company than 100% of $1 million company. And that’s exactly how I feel about what has happened with Imiloa. So, I think that that’s a big thing.
The second thing that I learned from the Dav is feeling good. I’ve never seen someone coach some of the most powerful people in the world in the social impact space based on this idea of feeling good. And it’s, Abraham Hicks, it’s other spiritual teachers that have – if you don’t feel good, don’t take action. Focus on getting back into the flow and feeling good.
And I have seen him do this time and again. I’ve seen him raise $1 million in a two-month period because we were a little over budget here at Imiloa during construction. I’ve seen him do that by simply feeling good. And when he doesn’t feel good, he doesn’t focus on it. He doesn’t focus on being on the court. And when he feels good, he does it. So that was number two, really important.
Number three, the biggest lesson. Third and final that I learnt about investors and securing money is not to fear them. We have 38 investors now from 19 countries around the world. I’ll say it again, 38 investors and their spouses from 19 countries. It’s the United Nations, of Imiloa here. That was part of the plan. I never thought it would come to fruition like this. And when I tell you that these people, we called them our founding family, which came up very naturally, we’re all on a WhatsApp group. You have never experienced a nicer, kinder, more generous, compassionate group of people than these 38 individuals. And we’re all coming together in 10 days for a founding family retreat. Everybody’s flying in: South Africa, India, Brazil, North America, Europe, Switzerland. Everybody’s flying in for four nights to Imiloa to see what we’ve all created together. And I am now – when we talk about being touched, transformed, and inspired – these people have done that for me and for Imiloa, and there’s not fear there. There’s not the big hand of God. I think a lot of people think of investors like the voice of God or the handler.
And that was based on Nadav and in turn me getting into formation – get into formation, as Beyonce says – with feeling good. And you can’t go underestimated. People are dying in these cities, Darla. If people are listening to this in big cities, they think that they need to push through that they need to, push through not feeling good. They need to push through their fatigue. This is the cause of disease and not living the life that you want. Now I’m not saying my life is easy. I’ve had real struggle here in the jungle, okay? Imiloa is as transformative for the staff here and for the team as it is for the people that come here. It’s not easy to confront everything that you’ve never wanted to confront before. And that’s what the jungle does. But I will say, I understand that I have to feel good. I would not have done this podcast interview if I wouldn’t have felt good before. And if something was really occurring where I wasn’t able to show up and feel good, I would have delayed it. Because you don’t deserve that. You don’t deserve my not feeling good. I don’t deserve my not feeling good.
Darla LeDoux That’s beautiful. And you said the jungle will bring up –
Jake Sasseville Oh yes it will.
Darla LeDoux Bring up everything that needs to be healed. Is that part of the energy of the land there? Or part of the nature of taking on such an endeavor? Or both?
Jake Sasseville It could be both. I think it’s important to recognize…I can’t tell you how many people come here and they thank all of us for creating this. I’ve never been in a – I’ve created media, I’ve created music tours, I’ve created books, I’ve created podcasts. I have not been thanked this much for creating something ever in my life. And it’s so profound. And I think what it is, is it’s a recalibration. There are a lot of nice retreat centers in Costa Rica. In fact, if you’re not a fit to host here, I’ll find your retreat center that you want to host at. Some people want to be right on the ocean. We’re 12 minutes from a private beach. It’s not bad. We have really kick ass beach parties. But if people want to beach, I’ll find them a retreat center on the beach. Like that’s just how we’re standing for people.
But to be in this jungle, the scale is massive. We’re the only ones up here. But when it’s also disproportionate is when we’re in these cities, we think we’re the dominant ones. We think we were here first. We think that we run the show. When you’re here, you realize we’re not running the show here. First of all, our director of retreats is indigenous Costa Rican, so she reminds us just by how she is and who she is, of the indigenous roots of Costa Rica. She tells stories, she holds gatherings and talks if retreat holders want that history of Costa Rica. Then you just look at the land. It’s so disproportionate. Here we are. What are we? Maximum 40 humans on a land, on a mountain that has, millions of other types of species. So, it’s a very humbling experience. In that way, it can be very confronting.
Also, the accommodations are really situated – we have geodesic domes which are in and of themselves, very spiritual and kind of pyramid-like. The jungle bungalows are right on the waterfalls, and the indigenous used to use waterfall to cleanse themselves, the indigenous Costa Rican. So, there’s just a lot at play with regards to what’s occurring here at Imiloa. And it’s beautiful. It’s like another facilitator of the retreat really.
Darla LeDoux Yeah. So, say again that you’re an intercontinental –
Jake Sasseville Institute.
Darla LeDoux Yes.
Jake Sasseville Fill in the blanks. It’s like Mad Libs. It’s an intercontinental institute –
Darla LeDoux For the advancement of humanity?
Jake Sasseville For the education and advancement of humanity.
Darla LeDoux Yeah. So, what does that mean for you?
Jake Sasseville What I believed…well, the world is at an interesting place right now from where I see it and I’ve only been around 33 years. And I really do believe that when older people say that if you live long enough, you see everything. What do I believe is occurring is there is a deep desire right now to heal ourselves. I think it’s just happening. I think media such as what we’re creating right now together, places such as the retreat centers that are around the world, retreat holders, books, the Internet, networks like Gaia. These things are even Ted Talks. These things are catering to us and there’s an entertainment value, but there’s also an element where, “Okay, maybe we can’t feel.” I used to have a manager, can we swear on this podcast? I don’t want to offend anybody. It’s a direct quote. Barry Katz, great Hollywood manager, he used to say of his artists. Artists just have a goddamn God sized hole that’s been blown through the middle of them in childhood and they’ve been trying to fill it with their art ever since. Or fill it with their work ever since and that often has a variety of implications. What I’m trying to say is I think that we’re realizing that in order to fill the goddamn God sized hole, we’ve got to do the inner work.
And so, inherent in that, all I believe is, this is not about a yoga retreat, or a CEO leadership retreat, or about a plant medicine retreat, or influencer retreat. It’s about all of the above. We’re interdisciplinary in our approach, which is why we’re an institute for the education and advancement of humanity. We’re not a yoga center, we’re not a leadership program. It’s very specific and I wouldn’t even really call us a retreat center. We’re like a workshop and educational space; the house of Masters. We’re looking at celebrating mastery in all its forms in the masters that come here. We’ve taken what is the traditional retreat model and kind of just turned it on its side just a little. And not necessarily anything unique. I don’t propose that anything that I’ve done is unique. I mean others may say, but we’ve just tilted it just a little bit and said, “Oh, maybe instead of like hosts, we have masters. But what does masters look like?”
And so, all these things have implications, but it comes from a place of wanting to share. You don’t get a bunch of scientists in the room for innovation. You get a scientist, you’ve got a postman, you get an educator, maybe you get an entertainer. I mean Gilligan’s island didn’t work because there were seven skippers. There was a skipper, the father figure. Gilligan who was like the boyish charmer who was always moving the storyline forward. You had Mr. and Mrs. Howell, who were the wisdom of the years. You had Maryanne who was the motherly caretaker. You had the professor scientist always in his head. And you had Ginger, the artist.
Darla LeDoux So, this cross pollination feels important to the advancement of humanity?
Jake Sasseville I feel like it is.
Darla LeDoux Yeah. That’s beautiful. So, Jake, how did you make the decisions on the model? Like what you offer, what you don’t. And I’ve hosted 60 some retreats now. I’ve worked with hotels, I’ve worked with retreat centers, I’ve rented houses, I’ve done all the things. I’ve spent a lot of money on venues and they’re all different. And especially when you get into the realm of retreat centers, I advise my clients that there’s a lot of perks because a lot of things can be included. And depending on the space that makes it easier. But everyone is different. And so, some are all inclusive and include the food, and include excursions, and some have that separate, and some you can rent five cabins, and others you need to take the whole space. And so, there’s a lot of decisions, I’m imagining, in terms of making money in this way that you had to make. What guidance could you give people on that?
Jake Sasseville Well, the guidance that we use is how do we want to show up in the world and how do we want to lead? We want to lead from a spirit of service and a posture of learning. That means we’re learning with every decision we make, every action to take, and we’re serving the people that become our clients. What does that mean? That means that we’re listening. What does that mean? That means that when we started booking, we started really listening on what people were wanting. And what people were really wanting, whether it was their first retreat – we’d had people here who have literally hosted their first retreat and here and made money because, remember, we’re serving masters. Those masters are serving 15 up to 40 people. Those 15 to 40 people are going back into communities around the world that are being transformed by this work. That is the connection here. So, we’re very clear who we’re serving. We’re serving and transforming communities around the world by touching the people that come here. So that makes some of the decision making easy.
Darla LeDoux Yes. That in itself is so important and helpful to be really clear. I teach Star Client, it’s like, who are you really serving and why?
Jake Sasseville Oh. And we realized that we’re not directly serving the 40 communities that they go back into, but there’s an effect. And so, if there’s an effect, there’s a cause and we want the cause to be in the spirit of moving the masters and those who are attending fully. That means that we created this model of we become the COO of your retreat. From touchdown to take off, we handle everything and everything is all included. So, and you get the whole space, and we realized not everybody has 40 people for their retreat. So, we figured out how to do up to 15 people for a lesser price. And then everybody after 15 is per person, per night, after that. But you get the whole campus no matter who you are. And so that’s what we’ve realized people are wanting, that has given us the greatest amount of leverage.
Jake Sasseville It has allowed us to serve these people in the best way possible. If we had three groups running around the campus at the same time, feasible, by the way, at 10 people a group.
Darla LeDoux Sure.
Jake Sasseville But you don’t get the same level of service. I mean you have people, we have 90% of people rebooking their retreat year, after year, after year, here. And we’ve only been around for 11 months now. And these people could go, as you know, Darla, anywhere in the world. And so, the reason I believe why people are coming back is there’s a level of leadership and service that’s aligned. There’s a level of authenticity here that you just can’t find anywhere else. And we’re combining the two of those things to be able to transform communities around the world. It’s like people are like, “Okay, of course I’m coming back.”
Darla LeDoux Well, your mission is very inspiring. And I guarantee the people that listen to this podcast are going, yes, yes, yes. Thank you for creating this space. And what I hear personally, and as I shared with you, we have a vision of creating our own space. And for me the foundation is the energy. And what is the energy of the space and the people who are going to interact with the clients that are there on the ground and how that touches everything. And with everything I’ve heard from you, Jake, you guys really have found a way to infuse that. So, I’m hearing that you didn’t go in saying this is our package, but you kind of started by talking with people, “Hey, how can we serve you?” And then you found this is what people want and settled on this kind of really one package. And it just varies depending on the number of people.
Jake Sasseville It’s true. There is one package and we’re realizing that that’s really conducive, for example, to retreat holders, but we’re not getting called on by very large corporations that wanted to do corporate off sites. Well, if you know anything about corporate off sites, that’s a three nighter, maybe a four nighter, not five nights, which is what we require as a minimum right now. So now we’re like, “Okay, let’s dance a little bit.” How do we create something for corporate off sights? Which by the way, we talk about transforming the world. If we start transforming these Fortune 500 companies that have been calling on us, it’s game over. And there are enough change agents within these corporations that they’re looking for spaces like this. So now the executive team is like, “Okay, how do we do this without losing what it is we’ve created in terms of value for everybody else and meeting the needs of these corporations where we are?” So, it’s a wonderful thing. I’ve never believed that, not being able to change my mind. And I feel that as long as I’m in integrity and totally aligned with how I’m changing my mind, and communicating that, that anything remains forever possible.
Darla LeDoux So, having come from the corporate world, I think it’s amazing. I always love working with clients who do transformational work back in corporate because it’s where it’s needed so dearly. And a lot of the corporate work I did when we would go to trainings, it was like, “Okay, here’s your five step process for assertiveness on a little laminated card.” And then you take that back with you, but there wasn’t really transformation happening.
Jake Sasseville Well, you want to hear how we teach assertiveness, Darla? First of all, we don’t teach it, but I got to tell you, you’re going to get it from the land when you see a snake and you have to communicate it to other people. You’re going to get very assertive, very fast.
Darla LeDoux That’s experiential learning at it’s finest. That’s awesome. So, if someone kind of has this vision of – I love that you kind of distinguish the role of host. And by the way, when I was probably about six or seven, I hosted all of the old ladies in the neighborhood. We lived in an apartment. My mom and I lived in an apartment above my grandparents’ garage. And so, I spent my days with my grandma, and we would go door to door visiting all the old ladies on the street. That’s how it seemed to me; we would go have coffee at Mrs. Wilbur’s house, and at Mrs. Mastrovich’s house, and all of that was kind of my social life as a kid. And then one weekend—
Jake Sasseville Where did you grow up?
Darla LeDoux I grew up in northern Minnesota.
Jake Sasseville Okay.
Darla LeDoux Yeah. Small town.
Jake Sasseville This sounded like a prairie home companion. That’s why I asked.
Darla LeDoux Totally. Yeah, we would go visiting. That’s the official term for it. And so, one weekend, other grandkids were there, and I decided that we were going to have a swing set performance and I sold tickets so we could earn candy money. But I was like, I was feeling so sad that we weren’t going visiting and all the old ladies were sitting home alone. So, I was like, we’re going to gather them and we’re going to create this community. So, I had that desire to gather and host as a kid. That’s stuck with me and various things I’ve done throughout the years. So, I love that you distinguish that. And I know a lot of people listening have that. That’s why they’re drawn to retreats. That’s why they want people to be belly to belly in person. If someone’s thinking, “Oh, I might want a retreat center.” What advice would you give them?
Jake Sasseville I was very fortunate to have three years of unintended incubation. If I would have had my druthers, I would have had that thing on Maui the first year that I moved to Maui. And by “that thing” I mean Imiloa. Which feels like “that thing” because this is so not what I could have ever imagined, what it’s become because I stayed in the actions and not have the results. So, I’m very glad that I had that three-year incubation because it got me really clear. One of the things I’ll even tell you that I wasn’t clear on that has now caused some need for recalibrating, is I thought I was going to be fine to live on campus. 20 acres. I have a house here, it’s fine. Let me tell you something. I don’t actually want to be living on campus.
And that was a big moment for me because now it’s like, “Okay, now I need a house off of campus.” I thought I was going to want to live here, but I realize the work that’s being done here is not conducive to me having a life here. Now I share that because that was a surprise and I’m glad that the level of surprise of owning Imiloa and running Imiloa has been that minor. Because people, I imagine, there are people, I hear oftentimes how much they dread – I get so many Facebooks and Instagrams now that we have this, that, “Oh, I have land in Ireland. I have land in Italy, we should do an Imiloa there. I have land.” People just offering me their land. I’m like Oprah, this is fabulous.
And I think what people are missing or what – maybe not what they’re missing. What do I invite people to really consider is what are you really wanting and why are you wanting it? And to really hire a coach, hire Darla, become part of one of her masterminds and retreats, whatever it is. However, it’s framed. And get really clear. Spend the money there to get clear – whenever a few thousand dollars – to get clear and realize that you do or don’t want it, rather than investing…I can’t tell you how many people buy properties around me here in Costa Rica. I have a woman in Canada, she’s trying to sell me her property. I’m probably not going to buy it. I’m sorry, lovely lady in Canada, if she’s listening. But she wants to offload her house because she thought, “I’m going to go have a house and host retreats” and it’s on the mountain that we’re on. And she now realizes, “Oh, I can’t leave my six figure a year job in Canada. This is too nice of a life that I actually don’t want to live.” She also overpaid for the house and now she’s trying to say, “Hey, hey, hey.” And I said, I already know the price of your house. I ain’t a dumb white guy. You kidding me?
So, here’s what I’m getting at there. There’s a couple of really strong examples I think of just getting really clear. If you want to own a retreat center, what void are you trying to fill? I’m trying to –
Darla LeDoux Hmm, that’s so good.
Jake Sasseville I’m trying to recreate my family and friendships. I’m clear on that. I didn’t have a stable family environment growing up. I’m clear that that’s actually what’s running the show here. Whether it’s healthy or not is none of my business. I’m clear that that’s actually what it is, and so when you’re clear on what it is and you can stand up for that, then you can be okay.
Then you’re not damaging relationships or whatever else because you’re running away from something. I am totally okay with saying that. I had a really challenging family upbringing with parents who tried their very best and a brother that was sick with cancer and ended up dying. And a father that was diagnosed very early with Parkinson’s, and I’ve just been trying to recreate that family environment. Like if you get honest about these things that are actually running your life, you don’t make silly, stupid, or otherwise unwise business decisions. You make really aligned business decisions, and you acknowledge what is, rather than what you’re secretly running away from. But we all see you. We all see what you’re running away from, your people. And none of us can maybe articulate it or we’re just scared shitless to be able to say it to you. But we see it because it’s running your life. What you’re hiding from is actually running your life. So maybe just look at that first before buying your retreat center.
Darla LeDoux Beautiful. Beautiful.
Jake Sasseville That’s good. That’s so good.
Darla LeDoux So good. Yes. My original vision came in a place of pain. My stepdad was diagnosed with cancer, and he was dying and I didn’t know how to talk to him. I didn’t know cause he wanted to fight, and he wanted to live, and he wanted to, let’s not talk about any other alternative. And I had all this realization that we hadn’t talked. We’d talked, we live together side by side, but we hadn’t actually connected and shared and I wanted to know all these things, but I didn’t know how to have that conversation. So that’s where my pain brought me to. I wish there was a place where we could have this conversation, right? Where it would be facilitated because I’m at a loss, I don’t know how to have it. And that’s a lot of what’s driven my work personally.
And I, fortunately, went, “Okay, let’s just see, can I do this without getting tied to a space?” And I was living in Ohio at the time, getting tied to a space in Indiana, which is where the land was. I was looking at it and like, thank goodness I’m not tied to a space in Indiana at present. But thank you for sharing that about being on the property too, because that feels so important to have that vision of what do I want my life to really be like and does that really work for me? And I know I love travel, and so for me that’s always been my conflict of like I don’t want to be tied to a certain place. So, my focus has been on really breakthroughs around leadership, and team, and being able to trust and empower people to run it. So, I am not creating something where I’m tied.
Jake Sasseville Let me tell you just very briefly on that note, we just tested this. The two co-founders, me and the Dav were away for a month together in different parts of the world, and literally what our all-star operations team, we have didn’t even miss a beat. And so, there are opportunities for it to occur that way, but you just have to be really clear on the intention. Like I was clear that I would be here operating, then realized I would have this much flexibility. Dav was clear he was going to be mobile still and nomadic. And so, we were clear in the partnership. We were clear with our team. The expectations were managed, and it worked.
Darla LeDoux Awesome. I love it. Thank you so much.
Jake Sasseville I adore you.
Darla LeDoux What is the best way for people to explore Imiloa? And you have a process where they can talk to you or one of your staff, find out if it’s a right fit. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Jake Sasseville Sure. So Imiloainstitute.com. And there we have a bunch of ways to get in contact with us, including a pretty cool life chat option with our people. We do have a pretty cool process for discovering one another, literally discovering if we’re a fit to be working together. We call it the discovery process. There’s a discovery call that’s booked and then if we move to the next stage, it’s a shared vision meeting. These are designed, these meetings are 30 to 60 minutes, and they are designed to provide an incredible amount of value to both parties regardless of whether or not you host. That’s kind of what we’re holding for an intention because otherwise people are just like, “Oh, let me get on this call. Another meeting to add to the day.” We really focus on delivering value, getting you clear on what you’re hosting, what you’re doing, what you’re up to in the world, and who you’re standing for, so that you can leave that call with a ton of value.
Darla LeDoux That’s huge value. What you said right there. Yeah, just to go through that process is huge value.
Jake Sasseville Yeah. So, we take everybody through it, whether you’ve hosted 20 times or one time. I mean obviously the guys who hosted for 20 times are keeping me on my feet a little more with their questions. We have a mutual friend who really grilled me on the discovery call. She’s been around the block for 20 years, so, I’m humble and I recognize that I’ve been around for 11 months, so let’s not pretend to—
Darla LeDoux You learn some things too.
Jake Sasseville Yeah, exactly. So that process is in place, so people can set up a discovery call by going directly to our website Imiloainstitute.
Darla LeDoux And we’ll have the link on the page. Imiloa Institute. And you’ll see the link and it’s typically five days or five nights. You said typically a party of 15 is optimal.
Jake Sasseville Yeah, so we—
Darla LeDoux And up to 40?
Jake Sasseville Well, people can bring – listen, here’s the thing. The way we structure our pricing, we take a page out of the Richard Branson book, right? He has Necker Island. You go to Necker Island to get everything you need for five nights, and it’s $300,000. I’ll give you a little hint: we’re not 300,000. But it’s everything you need up to a certain amount of people. So, up to 15 people, five nights at a certain amount of money. We can talk about it. I get the whole experience, and then if you want to add more people, some people are bringing 40 that’s cool. And some people come here for 10 nights. That’s cool too. Obviously, it incrementally goes up, but it’s basically you come here for, we would have generally five nights set up to 15 people.
Darla LeDoux Awesome. Yeah. A lot of our people that coach with us, their intention is 12 so you can take 12 and then bring your team and we’ll be at 15.
Yeah, exactly how to do this. Exactly. And it comes out to, I mean we’ll talk about the pricing but it’s a couple hundred dollars a person to be honest with you for everything. I mean I’ll get more specific in the discovery call, but it’s really – I won’t say it’s affordable because that’s all relative. It’s designed for people who are hosting to be able to win. We have a lot of clarity and a lot of tools so that people can actually win when they host with us.
Darla LeDoux Yeah. If you are hosting, because I’ve seen the pricing and the way the package is designed, if you are hosting an all-inclusive retreat for people and you want it to be experiential, you won’t find a better option. You won’t find better pricing. And from everything I’ve seen, it’s very luxury. It’s very high end, high touch, world-class chef, et cetera. I haven’t been guys, so I’m just trusting the energy I feel from Jake when he talks about these things. But from a very practical standpoint, pricing wise, if you are doing all-inclusive, it’s totally in line or less than what you would find, definitely less than what you would find at a five-star venue.
Jake Sasseville Look at that. I mean straight from the horse’s mouth. And I hate to call you a horse today, but you’re speaking the truth.
Darla LeDoux Yeah, so, a lot of times I don’t recommend people do their first retreat as an international all-inclusive because if you haven’t ever filled a retreat, you’re going all in, right? It’s a higher risk, higher investment. If you have filled retreats, or if you feel super called to Costa Rica, if you feel super resonant with this interview and you think, “Oh, what could I co-create there? I’m a master teacher, I’ve got an audience.” Then definitely explore it. If you’re brand new, you might want to do some local workshops, do a domestic retreat, let people pay for their own lodging, minimize your risk in the beginning and then reach out to Jake when you’re ready.
Jake Sasseville That’s great. Oh, thank you so much for what you’re doing for your community, Darla. There’s such clarity in how you’re sharing these insights with folks.
Darla LeDoux Thank you. Likewise. I learned a lot. I love the surrender, the action without being attached to the outcome. I am going to continue to look at how that can affect me today and the rest of the week. It’s an experiment I’ve been running, Jake, of marketing really based on what my soul is telling me to do versus what my head says the right strategy is. I’ve been experimenting with this for at least a year now. I can’t wait until I’m in a place to share my learnings of what it was like before and after. But thank you for your contribution to that. I love what you’re up to.
Jake Sasseville Thank you very much.
Darla LeDoux Thanks everyone for listening. Drop Jake a line. Tell him hello. Tell him you saw him here and I look forward to meeting you again in the next episode. Bye, everyone.
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