Marsha Ralls: A Pathbreaker at the Intersection of Nature and Wellness Retreat

Marsha Ralls

The Phoenix Asheville is a wellness retreat situated on 46-acres of walking trails, sweeping arbors, and secluded benches, only 15 minutes from the heart of beautiful Asheville, NC. The majestic sanctuary includes an interior coy pond and a zen garden. Guests enjoy hiking and outdoor activities, delicious and healthy meals, meditation and yoga, and a full complement of massage options. An Artists in Residence program was also developed to encourage artists to take risks and pursue new ideas. The Phoenix Asheville is committed to sustainability and uses only organic, non-toxic products.

A Leader Who Cherishes Art, Nature, and Fitness 

Founder and CEO Marsha Ralls launched The Phoenix Wellness Retreat in 2018. Her goal was to create a space for personal inspiration, growth, and life transformation. Marsha is a leader in the hospitality, wellness, and fine arts space; she is also a certified yoga instructor and mindfulness coach. Drawing together her knowledge of fitness, nature, and art, Marsha designed a place for people to reconnect with their bodies, hearts, consciousness, and the natural beauty of the world around them. Before turning her attention to wellness, fitness, and empowerment, Marsha made a significant impact in the Washington DC area as the Commissioner for the Arts and Humanities under three mayors.

The Artistry Backbone Across Cultural Phenomena 

Marsha’s experience includes serving as the President and CEO of Closed Monday Productions LLC, a company dedicated to advocating arts and consulting with entrepreneurs from across the world. Besides this, she also founded the global art advisory group, The Ralls Collection, Inc. She has curated over 459 exhibitions with prominent artists, including her mentor, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, and Annie Leibovitz, and showcased the work of five National Geographic photographers in the visual exploration “Cultures on the Edge.” This chronicle of traditional cultures was also shown at the United Nations.

Marsha has been recognized by multiple organizations for her commitment to entrepreneurship and community service. She was honored as the National Woman of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2001, Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and the Enterprising Woman of the Year in 2019 by Enterprising Women.

Beating the Odds to Create a World-class ‘Retreat’ Space

The Phoenix Asheville was opened in 2021 in the middle of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Marsha reveals that starting a new company during the pandemic would have been challenging for any business, but a health and wellness retreat that involves guests traveling and sleeping away from their homes was particularly challenging, to put it mildly.

Marsha found that people were desperately in need of a place where they could restore balance to their lives and refocus on what’s important. The pandemic underlined that mental and physical health cannot be taken for granted. Marsha made it very clear to the guests that their health and safety are her number one priority and that COVID prevention protocols were in place from the first day. By implementing stringent health and safety measures, the retreat beat the odds for new businesses opening during the pandemic and is continuing to thrive.

‘Resilience’ as a Tool for Strong Leadership

Marsha considers resilience an important attribute every entrepreneur needs to succeed. Like most entrepreneurs, she says that she has experienced ups and downs along the path to discovering her true life’s work. At one point, after experiencing great loss, Marsha had the choice to walk away or start over to transform her life. In her book ‘Rising from the Ashes: Healing through Speaking Your Truth’, Marsha shares her story of grief, loss, and fear, explaining how misfortune became the necessary catalyst for a powerful rebirth.

Marsha named her business after the phoenix, a mythological creature that voluntarily lights itself on fire so that it may be reborn as a greater expression of itself. She is inspired by the archetypical energy of the phoenix that teaches us “we are capable of great transformation if we step into the fire of our own souls, burning away that which no longer serves us, to rebirth ourselves in the light of our highest expression.”

A Place to Go for Personal Transformation 

The Phoenix Wellness Retreat was founded on the knowledge that a safe, supportive and sacred space can catalyze an empowering and fulfilling personal transformation.

Marsha remarks that understanding the guests and tailoring their experience at the Phoenix to meet their individual situations is the secret to the company’s success. The guests often visit her when they are overwhelmed with obligations and everyday responsibilities. While they are regularly tending to the needs of others, they haven’t tended to their own physical, emotional, and spiritual health needs in a long time.

At the Phoenix, Marsha and the team invites leaders, entrepreneurs, and busy individuals to unplug and recharge, with a focus on what really matters. They aim to offer a fully immersive experience, including results-oriented fitness and nutrition programs, wellness support, and opportunities to detoxify the mind and body in a healthy, sustainable way. The team curates every detail for the guests while making space for exploration and connection with their higher consciousness.

Prioritizing Everyone’s Health Needs 

According to Marsha, now is more important than ever for leaders to respect the health and wellness of their employees. Most employees used to work only during the business hours-9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m, five days a week. Now that email, meetings, shared documents and so much more are available 24/7 on phones and other portable devices, work never stops. It is incumbent on today’s leaders to consider the totality of their employees. “To do our best work, all of us need time to refocus, re-energize and recommit to ourselves and our health,” she adds. Marsha emphasizes that she never asks her team to cater to the wellness needs of her guests without also respecting their own needs first.

Reconnecting with Environment to Restore Wellness

Marsha hypothesizes that the wellness industry is more vital today than ever. People are desperately in need of a place where they can practice self-care and re-set their priorities.

A report released by the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute (GWI) answers the big questions regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the wellness industry. While the global wellness economy fell by 11% in 2020, the pandemic inspired what researchers call a “values reset” that elevated the perceived importance of prevention and wellness. Based on the 2021 rebound, GWI analysts predict the global wellness economy will grow by a remarkable 10% annually through 2025 when the market will hit US$7 trillion.

The Phoenix Asheville offers exactly the kind of reconnecting with nature people are looking for, remarks Marsha. In the future, she plans to establish more wellness centers across the country in places with spiritual vortices that promote healing, similar to those found in Asheville, NC.

Remove ‘Give Up’ From Your Dictionary 

Marsha’s ultimate advice for emerging women leaders is to never ‘give up’. Women leaders have always had to deal with sexism, sexual harassment, barriers to access to capital, and barriers to opportunities for which they were qualified but were reserved for the boys’ network. Women have been underestimated, bullied, and intimidated. Yet, women have risen despite these obstacles. As Former Texas Governor Ann Richards said about the dancer Ginger Rogers: “She did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backward and in high heels.”

Quote: “Data from the Global Wellness Institute reinforces what we’ve all observed: people don’t want to go back to taking physical and emotional health for granted. Priorities changed during the pandemic, and the wellness industry is expanding to fill the demand.”

— Marsha Ralls, CEO and Founder of The Phoenix Wellness Retreat 

Management: Marsha Ralls, CEO and Founder of The Phoenix Wellness Retreat


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