Event Innovators 2016: Jeff Krasno and Sean Hoess

The co-founders of the Wanderlust festival have expanded the event's mindfulness-focused offerings.

By Jenny Berg May 17, 2016, 4:30 AM EDT

Jeff Krasno and Sean Hoess

Photos: Courtesy of Jeff Krasno, Melissa Ryan

Jeff Krasno, 45, and Sean Hoess, 46, both worked in the music industry before founding Wanderlust in 2009. Focused on mindfulness, the festival’s first iteration took place in Squaw Valley, California. “We wanted to bring together the concept of a large-scale yoga retreat and marry it with an arts festival,” explains Hoess. “And we wanted to do it in an environment where the natural scenery was just as inspiring. It was a pretty similar concept to what we have today.”

Though the core of the event has remained largely untouched—it’s still billed as an “all-out celebration of mindful living”—the festival has grown substantially since its inception. “We did one event the first year, and one event the second year, and then we began to scale rapidly,” Hoess says. Now, Wanderlust occurs nine times a year, in locations including Oahu, Hawaii; Stratton, Vermont; and Whistler, British Columbia.

As the event expands, so do its offerings. “The first Squaw Valley festival was our petri dish for experimenting,” Hoess says. “Once we understood the top correlating interests of our guests, we started creating experiences that slotted into those verticals.” Some of the verticals Hoess and Krasno pinpointed were outdoor experiences, organic food, and music. As such, the festival now offers trail runs, farm-to-table dinners, live music from artists such as Moby, and more.

Another vertical the duo identified was personal development. This inspired a series of so-called “Speakeasy Talks.” Roughly based on the TED Conference, the talks launched in 2010 and feature 18-minute speeches from spiritual thought leaders such as Deepak Chopra and Gabrielle Bernstein.

While the Wanderlust festivals appeal to devoted yogis and those familiar with the company, “it’s hard for people to fly or drive to a distant mountain location for their first touch point with a brand,” says Hoess. So in 2014, the duo launched a series of happenings called 108 Events. “Our idea was to have a pop-up festival in a park, something that incorporated the values of Wanderlust—particularly the focus on mindfulness—but in a very accessible and fun way,” says Krasno. The events, which include a run, a guided meditation, and organic food vendors, began with iterations in Brooklyn and Atlanta. By 2015, the series had expanded to 17 cities; this year, the event will take place in some 28 international markets.

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