It’s easy to believe the world’s message that happiness is found in possessions, making a certain amount of money or reaching a certain title. Most of us know that usually isn’t true. Nissrien Barakat is keenly aware of that fact. She found herself ticking all the boxes when it came to success and yet still feeling like something was missing. After some soul searching she decided to make a bold move and make a change.
Nissrien moved to Belize and opened Serenity Retreats Belize – A Vegan Resort. She aligned her dream of spending each day surrounded by beauty with her passion for living a vegan life. Serenity Retreats offers breathtaking glimpse into the jungle, meditation, yoga and plant-based cooking classes. You can find more information on Nissrien’s website, Facebook and Instagram.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a 42 year old vegan from Toronto, Canada. I moved to Belize two years ago after I realized I wanted to live a different life with different experiences. I had a 9-5 established career, bought my own house and lived a nice life in the city. Even though I had achieved what I thought I always wanted, good career and to own my own home, I still wasn’t living my dream life. I went through a transitional time and decided literally overnight that I was going to live my best life. So I left the one I knew and came to Belize to live my dream of waking up in the jungle near the sea living a peaceful and tranquil life.
How did you get into your business?
I knew that I wanted to be able to do something that revolved around what I was/am most passionate about, which is veganism and plant-based dieting. I wanted to think of a business that is also a lifestyle for me, so I could be living and doing what I enjoy. Retreats were the perfect fit because I could create a space in paradise to hold empowering women’s retreats with yoga and plant-based food, workshops, artist retreats… all the things I would want to be doing in my day to day life. So that was what I set out to create and have, along with what has also developed into a now established vegan residence-community and resort.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been learning to believe in myself and realizing that I can do anything I put my mind to, as long as I have the passion and the drive. It’s okay to have help from others with necessary aspects, but you have to be willing to drive your own business to success without the dependency of others to do it for you.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
I can’t think of anything I wish I had known sooner than I have. I feel like everything has happened in divine time. Had I known the road was going to be as bumpy as it was trying to get here, I probably would have taken a different path and not ended up here. I needed the challenges I faced in order to gain the wisdom I was able to gain from those challenges. I am where I’m supposed to be by knowing all I knew when I first started.
If you could narrow your success down to one thing, what would it be?
Happiness. Once you achieve happiness, you are successful, whether you have turned a profit yet or not. Happiness is the key to success. Everything else will fall into place.
Where do you see yourself in a year?
Helping people transition into a vegan lifestyle, hosting artist retreats, holding yoga retreats and empowering women from around the globe to raise their vibration and manifest the lives they dream of living.
What are your top three tips for women starting a business?
1) Choose a business that revolves around something that you are passionate about.
2) Manifest the direction and life you want to live, or see yourself living. Manifest it so deeply that you can start to feel yourself already living it.
3) Complete the challenges you face along this journey. They are there to test you and reward you. The more you get through your challenges, the bigger the rewards and the closer to success you will be. Remember, it’s all about divine timing.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up, have a coffee or cacao, or juice depending on the morning vibe. Meditate in my elevated yoga studio while watching the sunrise over the jungle. Then I head over to the onsite vegan bistro for breakfast. Then have a dip in the pool, or head to the Sea a mile away for a dip with my dogs. If I have guests, spend time with them as well and they are usually doing the same things as mentioned.
What is your business motto or quote you live by?
The sky isn’t the limit, your perception is.
If you were starting your business over again, what would you do differently?
I would have been more involved in certain aspects of building my business instead of giving others more control than necessary. Like some building projects for example. I assumed others would do things the way I had them in my head, but learned quickly that you can’t rely on that. You need to be vocal and involved. You do need to listen to the experts in their fields, but also be part of every aspect, especially in the beginning or you will be the one to pay for the mistakes that get made.