A Creative Business Retreat: How-to and Ideas

Before I tell you all the wonderful things about this idea of taking 3 days off of your life to plan and create the business you want to manifest, I want to make sure you know our business is not floating in a cloud of cash flow in a perfect artist’s world. We struggle with very basic startup problems. In fact, as creative entrepreneurs we are still figuring out many things about having our own business and in many areas we feel lost and very doubtful.  Some of these fears paralyze us for a while and some don’t anymore. We made this trip happen and it was an absolute winning idea!! but it was also challenging and as I like to say: perfectly imperfect.

It’s important to put that on the table beforehand because the internet can be deceiving and seeing beautiful photos of two creative girls smiling as they work in a super hip hotel in Santa Barbara can certainly give you an idea of unrealistic perfection.

However, we do like to take these pictures and we do like to make this post super pretty!

Keep on reading now that you have been warned of our human reality!

So, how did this whole idea start?

Already deep in the last quarter of 2015, we started talking about the possibility of taking the time away to plan and to do the things we never get to do in our business, mainly because, as you know, ours is a virtual business in all aspects. We almost never get to paint together, share our creative process, teach each other, learn from each other, experiment new activities or brainstorm in person.

Then I watched a Marie Forleo episode about how important it is to take time off and away from the business. A couple of months earlier, I heard a super inspiring story about my friend Bernie’s company Smarty Socialmedia‘s business retreat in Palm Springs. All of these messages together  hooked us to the whole retreat idea, but now we wanted to mix inspiration and creativity with planning, dreaming and goals.

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Once we made the decision this is what happened next

First we were going to stay local, but staying away from our homes and family was crucial to get the environment we wanted, so that made no sense. Scratch that! Where can we go that’s close but still feels like a getaway trip? Truth is, California has so many locations for our dream retreat within driving distance, so, after a little bit of looking around we chose Santa Barbara.

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Then we…

• Picked the days in our calendar and blocked them off.

• Thought of a budget for our retreat (even though we didn’t have the money available at the time). We said this is going to cost us at least $500.00.

• Assigned tasks to each other. Hotel research, retreat activities, come up with a more accurate budget and so on.

• Decided we wanted to stay in a very inspiring hotel not in an Airbnb. This was Dariela’s idea and I’m glad we did this. It makes such a difference!

To be honest we barely had time to actually do the tasks we assigned to each other until almost a week before our trip. I did take many hours of my “after xmas and before new year planning week” to look at what we’d be doing, but other than that we didn’t plan much in advance as we thought.

A week before our retreat we…

• Finally chose a hotel and made reservations.

• Decided that one night was not enough time. Extended our stay to 2 nights and extended our budget to accommodate the extra day.

• Finalized our realistic budget to $650 based on the extra money we made during the Holidays.

• Decided not to have any extra paid outings so that we could stay in the nice hotel and afford an extra day.

• Decided to go on a weekday (Sunday to Tuesday) instead of a weekend to save more money.

And finally the day arrived

There is something special about stepping away from our routine and allowing new experiences in our lives. We definitely value the inspiring enchantment that comes from that special space. That’s what I was thinking as my sister drove us through the California coast. I also thought about what can we share here from our experience that can be valuable to you.

 

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So instead of telling you what we did down to the minute, I decided to break it down into the following categories:

Time well spent during our retreat

• Exercising and keeping moving between work sessions.

• Looking very closely at our 2015 review.

• Being honest about the changes we would like to see in 2016.

• Creating and defining our 2016 launches.

• Preparing for our appointment with our marketing strategist.

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What we would do differently

• Add more inspiring and social activities between planning sessions.

• Be more prepared for the cold weather.

• Allocate more money for adventures.

• Prepare in advance skill sessions that we would like to share/learn from each other.

Ideas for a retreat if you are a solopreneur

• Go to a conference or weekend business activity that involves socializing with entrepreneurs. Plan to do your own business retreat maybe the days after or prior to the event. If the event schedule allows, you can also interlace your working retreat sessions with the conference activities.

• Ask entrepreneurs you admire that you know and also consider the ones you don’t know yet, and plan a co-working business retreat with them. If the expenses are too much do a two day virtual retreat on a weekend with everyone

• It’s important to involve others into your retreat. You will need to balance out ideas, brainstorm and accountability. If in the end it’s really hard to find a group you feel affinity with, we suggest you still take 2 days away to plan and organize your business and then make sure you share what you did with other people. Ask them to give you their opinion. Make sure this person cares about your story and business, and understands it enough to give you constructive feedback.

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Inspiring spaces help a LOT! All these spaces are at The Goodland hotel.
 

What exactly did you guys do there business wise?

  • We did a 2015 review: We used “Your Best Year” book by Lisa Jacobs to guide us on this review. Out of all the planners we reviewed for 2016 we thought she really asked the right questions. So it looked like this. We sat down and started listening to our different answers (we answered them before hand). Then we talked about it and the conversation started about what was time well spent in 2015, what wasn’t, and why. We made notes and put all of our information in our Trello board.
  • We brainstormed about what made us super happy and how to bring that into 2016: Another conversation and taking notes session about realizing what we really love doing and what we want to focus on. We both have different passions within our company’s mission. This is a good thing! We bring variety to the table and we help each other see the role we perform best.
  • We created GOALS and broke them down for the first quarter of the year: We are breaking down our strategy in increments of 90 days. Once our goals were defined we created a visual map for the ones we’ll start implementing right away and then added a timeline to our calendar.

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  • We dedicated some time for creative activities: The first two days we made sure we did in-between fun activities where we doodled or did an exercise to warm up our brains and start thinking creatively. We grabbed these exercises from Gamestorming. I wish we’d have done more! there are so many great creative games there.
  • We outlined and decided about the products we were going to launch in 2016: This was super fun!! It was also challenging because we realized we have to let go of many things we do now in order to welcome time and energy for our new products. Also because we implemented for the first time the “start at the end method” by having a yearly money goal in mind first and then working our way to it.
  • We also worked on a very important questionnaire for our new marketing strategist and copywriter Michelle Hunter. We know marketing is going to be essential  for our new products. We are super thrilled to start working with Michelle!
  • We talked about a new update to our website that reflects all of the changes and new products that are coming: This was key for our retreat. Our website is like our office, it needs to reflect our current work and services right away. This goal went first on our timeline. Once our site is renewed we can do everything else, but no worries we’ll be working on both things at the same time.

 

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Whew! Looking back, we accomplished so much in such a short but fun and creative time period. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about our experiences planning and going on a creative business retreat. Did our story spark any new ideas or inspire you to consider a retreat? We hope so! Let us know if you went on retreat this year or if you now plan to do one! 

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