How Wellness Became the Ultimate Luxury October 27, 2015 10:34

Melisse Gelula, co-founder and editorial director of Well + Good, noticed that health and wellness acquired its cool factor around 2008. "When we launched [in 2010], the whole way of thinking about it shifted," said Gelula. "I used to talk about going to the theater with my friends, and now it's about who our favorite fitness instructors are." Lianna Sugarman, who founded Luli Tonix, a company that offers raw blended greens, elixirs and cleanses, noticed the shift in 2008 as well. "After the [economic] crash, plates were shifting beneath us and we felt a bit insecure — not just financially," she said. "We were looking for something more, something deeper in the ways we take personal responsibility."

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"Consumption that's mindful and has a purpose" is how Robyn Berkley sums up the growing (and appealing) landscape of wellness. Berkley founded Live The Process, a curated resource on wellness and holistic health that also has its own high-end activewear label. "It's also something that people can indulge in and feel good about," she said, which is why loyal customers of boutique fitness studios and health food businesses are more willing to spend money on these health-focused services rather than actual products like a new bag or shoes.

With wellness as a luxury, is it a status symbol, too? Yes — and also a statement. "We have shirts that talk about kale," said Sugarman. "It's a status symbol for sure, but it's also this evolution of the way we define ourselves." And what better way to define ourselves than through social media, a platform that is perfect for promoting your wellness habit? "We can showcase that in a guilt-free way," said Gelula. "It's a kind of consumerism that you can share, and that helps."

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But with such a new marketplace for opportunity comes the influx of new businesses. "In the time that we're sitting here, three people have decided to open up a pressed juice company," noted Sugarman. So how can a budding entrepreneur stand out? It's not about reinventing the wheel but about finding a lack of something in the market, which is what all of the participating panel members have succeeded in doing.

When it comes to finding a financial partner, Adam Moss, founder and CEO of Heyday, a company that provides accessible and custom skin-care experiences in New York City, likens the process to a marriage. Be sure to find someone who believes in your mission statement and who will be there when times are rough. ("At 2 a.m., when you're pulling your hair out and asking what you're even doing," joked Moss.) You can also start small and rely on your own finances, which is what Gelula and her co-founder Alexia Brue did with Well + Good. However, if you're not one with a business mind, it's best to find someone with one.

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And when it comes to starting a business, it's important for owners and founders to take care of their own health, too, by separating themselves from their work when they find themselves too caught up in it. As Gelula brought up during our discussion, there is such a thing as "wellness burnout."