Q&A: Ziporah Janowski, Founder & Director, Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts
Leaving a career as a lawyer to pursue a passion for helping others live a healthy life, Ziporah Janowski opened Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts about five years ago. Now, with five kids’ summer camp and adult weight-loss vacation locations and the newest set to open this month at the Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, Texas, Janowski isn’t slowing down—and neither are the waves of people who are visiting Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts from around the world, including Belgium, California, Israel, London, Paris and more, to learn about getting fit, eating right and making a lifestyle change for a healthier outlook on life.
“We’re more inclusive than other health resorts out there. We don’t want to be luxurious,” Janowski says. “There are resorts that are absolutely beautiful and serve delicious food, but you might never see another guest while visiting or you may never exercise. We’re not a boot camp either, though. There are no other programs that are just like this.”
From why she chose San Antonio to the challenges she faced in opening this new location, we talk to Janowski about growing Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts’ program and spreading the message.
We know that Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts is now in San Antonio, Texas. Why did you choose San Antonio for your new location?
The first co-ed children’s program in the world came about in 1968, and in 2007, I had an epiphany that there was a need to cater to adults, and I thought that it needed to be done now. I thought that there needed to be a place for campers who had aged out of camp, and I was trying to find ways to loop parents in. Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts began as an eight-week program, quickly filled up, and it then became a 12-week program. We decided that the Ellenville, New York, location is not as inviting at certain times of the year, and so to satisfy the demand, we needed a place to offer the program year-round; San Antonio’s weather orientation lent itself well to accommodating our types of activities all year long. We started working on this a little more than a year ago, looking for a place that had good weather, enough rooms and that was a reputable brand.
The Westin has been promoting wellness throughout its company, and it shows up in different areas of the hotel. For example, if you’re a guest of the hotel and forgot your workout wear, you can rent workout clothes for $5. We thought that it was a great pairing between what they do and what we’re about. I was also blown away by the hotel—it’s absolutely stunning. The hotel sits on a hill with rolling golf courses, a luxury mall across the way and more. There’s a one-mile nature trail—you get on that trail and you don’t know you’re at a hotel. We’ll be incorporating hikes and walks on the trail into daily activities. The staff is also well trained, and there is a golf academy, about a 10-minute walk from the hotel, where we’ll hold our exercise programs. Lifetime Fitness is also nearby, giving us additional facilities for all sorts of great classes. Guests can sign up for one to 12 weeks.
Do you expect your guests to be different?
This program is likely to draw more older guests, whereas more than half our guests in Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts in Ellenville, New York, being about 18 to 25 years old. Because the guest will likely skew older in San Antonio, we’ll integrate certain program modifications to cater to the shift in needs and abilities. The fundamentals of behavior and nutritional coaching; good, clean food; and the encouragement of a healthy lifestyle change through education will remain the same. We’ll start smaller with up to 30 guests at a time, and pursue bringing it up to about 55 guests at a time after that.
There will also be more family programming, as the Westin has a great kids program. We’ll encourage families to come in the summer and on holidays when parents can participate in our program, while the kids have fun at the Westin’s kids’ program.
At all of our locations, we encourage our guests to try things they’ve never done, and like we do for all of our guests at every location, we will encourage those who participate in the San Antonio program to sign up for a 5K once they complete our program.
Will the food be any different to reflect the local area?
The menu is similar to the New York menu, though we will, as I like to say, “Texify and Mexify” it. We will adapt the menu to take into account local flavors, but we already use ingredients like avocados and cilantro in dishes like our fish tacos. In time, we will make the menu reflect the area in a healthy way.
Will spa play a different role at all in San Antonio?
The spa at the Westin is more luxurious since it is overall a larger spa and larger hotel; there are more options, and it’s very inviting. While we’re not a spa-oriented program, the spa will be integrated into the program more at the Westin than it is now in New York. We’ll encourage guests to reward themselves at the spa after their hard work for the day, and we’ll offer a spa discount. Many of our guests will have a massage.
What do you look for in employees?
I try to hire a core staff that can multitask; for example, a nutritionist that will also lead hikes. We want people who can speak to learning how to live across the lines. I particularly keep an eye out for candidates that reveal some reason in their life to want to work with this population. We’re still hiring in Texas, and all candidates have to have the skills and certifications required for the role they’re interested in. Of course the facility, food and components like that are important, but at the end of the day, it’s the staff that makes a big difference.
What would you say were some challenges you came across in opening this new location?
The main challenge was planning the San Antonio location while the New York program was still running. There was a lot going on, but the biggest challenge, I would have to say, was the website. We redid the old website and switched over from HTML to Wordpress. The new site now has new photos, videos and more.
Any special marketing initiatives to roll out the new location, which begins taking reservations on October 21?
We’ll have an extensive marketing campaign to launch. People tend to sign up for things like this late—they don’t come to grips with the fact that they need to lose weight until an event or something else happens in their lives, and once it’s something they decide that they need to do, they don’t want to wait. Because of this, there will be a $300 discount promotion that can be applied to any stay through the end of the year, and we’ll have a new brochure and will continue to blog as well.
It’s a lot of fun and extremely exciting. I have to tell you that when you look at someone who has overcome issues with obesity or an unhealthy lifestyle and see how far they’ve come, and to know I had a hand in pulling it all together, it’s a fantastic feeling.
Learn more about Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts here.