What I learned from hosting my first retreat

It’s been a little over a month since I hosted my very first retreat (in BALI, eeeek) and I feel like I’ve finally had the space to process this whole experience and report back. 

When the idea of hosting a retreat first came to me, it was more of a “life goal” than a business one. 

I remember, around the time I became a registered yoga teacher I made my first vision board, and the first thing I slapped on there was a picture of a hippie-looking woman meditating while overlooking the jungle. Hosting a retreat was on my vision board before anything else (I’ve been obsessed with mixing work and travel for a while) but I suspected my retreat dream was dead when I became less interested in downward dog and more interested in figuring out how the top dogs get productive.

But when I decided I actually COULD host a retreat, (who made the rules anyway) I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t know the first thing about event profit margins and conversions. What I DID know was that I wanted this to be a business gamechanger. This wasn’t about networking and drinking mimosas by the pool (although we did that too lol). I wanted it to be the most productive vacation we’d ever been on. AND, minor detail, I knew it had to be in Bali (not ambitious at all, right?)

After scouring Pinterest and google (in that order) for as many details as I could find about hosting your own retreat I came up pretty empty handed. So, to fill that gap and share my own insights, I’m writing this blog.

🤓 How i structured a 5 day retreat curriculum

What I intended… 

The goal of the retreat was to take 5 days to plan out the exact steps you’ll take for the entire year. We covered every important part of my year planning process including: 

Day 1 – Created the specific daily activities that guarantee they’ll get the results they want in 2020 

Day 2 – Got nerdy about the exact numbers everyone needs to hit each quarter, and workshopped each of their offers using my 5 step scale method.

Day 3 – Planned our entire year, mapped out every launch, and scheduled their biggest moves for 2020 🤤🤤.   

Day 4 – Created their brand specific content strategy and workflow for the. entire. year.

Day 5 – Created quarterly project plans for each of their biggest goals & mapped out an automation strategy for 2020.

👉 what I learned…

One BIG lesson that I’ll be taking with me next year is to become even MORE minimal. This process is about going DEEP not wide, and we could have happily spent sunrise to sunset powering through the deep work in the curriculum. 

I learned that putting 10 high powered women in a room who are tapped TF in to flow carries a wild energy that can easily execute even the most complex business tasks and, if left unchecked, it just. keeps. going. LOL! BUT this retreat was about more than just work. We wanted to explore, adventure, and get to know each other so I needed to be VERY intentional with our time to make that a reality. 

🌴 how i secured the perfect retreat spot

🔮 What I envisioned:

I had a pretty tall order when I told Lauren (my incredible event planner) what I had in mind for the retreat. I think my exact description was:  “Luxury, boho-feel, private, modern, with pools and a good vibe” 

Turns out, you need a few more details when finding the perfect space…..

So, with her help, we started narrowing things down and eventually landed on a cool surf town called Uluwatu that was close to the beach and had a trendy feel. Seriously, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by the location.

Affectionately nicknamed “the compound” (by us), the actual retreat location was a cluster of private villas surrounding a main gathering space, THREE pools, and private outdoor showers for each of the attendees. I can’t decide if my favorite spot was the outdoor dining room with its beautiful basket light fixtures or my own little villa courtyard/pool combo.

👉 what I learned…

I was really nervous about this part, because we really couldn’t go “check the place out” before the retreat and I knew that the space itself can make or break the entire retreat. I was worried about wifi, cleanliness, privacy, safety, and BUGS. 

  1. Trust your event planner to do their due diligence and to communicate with the venue. I stopped feeling nervous and started really trusting the location when they were SO accommodating. And the level of service really went above and beyond once we were actually there. That alone was invaluable. 
  2. I stand by finding the perfect space. It really allowed us to go MUCH deeper into the work when our surroundings were not just comfortable but BEAUTIFUL. The vibe of the space really helped us tap into the work we were here to do.

how to create a memorable retreat experiences 101

This was one of the more fun parts of planning the retreat and the type of little details I most enjoyed putting together. 

As soon as everyone arrived they each had a private massage in their rooms. Most of us had just finished traveling so this was a way to practice a little self care before jumping into the big work.

We followed that up with a healthy lunch cooked by our in-house, private chef from @thekitchenhouse_bali  who we grew to love. They accommodated a variety of dietary needs (legit, everyone had something different) in a way that was SEAMLESS and ensured no one felt left out. That PLUS an introduction to traditional Balinese food and my new fav fruit (snake fruit) made the food an unforgettable part of this experience. 

On most days, there was a photoshoot set up so each attendee went home with a brand shoot that they felt confident about.

On the third night, we hired a local artist to come to the villa and host a private sound bath that  zenned us out and was a perfect nervous system reboot after an intense start to the retreat!

Our evenings were spent  chatting over dinner and sipping local Sababay (balinese) wine (a perfect way to wind down) and both the owner of Sabababy and Xoe, the woman who performed our sound bath stayed for dinner on two separate occasions. We had such an abundance of food and it was really cool to share a meal with these other local entrepreneurs. This totally enhanced the experience without us even planning it! 

On our last night, we planned a dinner at a gorgeous beach club. Not gonna lie, the sunset over the water, ordering a drool-worthy dinner spread, live music… It was the perfect moment to reflect on how far we’d come, how much each of us had bonded, and how real this vision board dream of mine had really become. 

👉 what I learned…

These experiences really enhanced the experience. It was scary to shell out the cash for all of these, but made a big difference. Invest here. 

😎 How we secured partnerships and sponsors for our first retreat

So, I had no idea this was really an option…

When my retreat planner suggested bringing in sponsors and partners, I instantly envisioned myself hocking skinny tea and I panicked. 

But, after the initial thoughts wore off, we saw an opportunity to be really intentional about showcasing local, female owned, and sustainable products that would enhance (not distract from) the experience we already had planned. 

Here are a few of the epic brands we partnered with to make this retreat even more impactful: 

  • Tula a natural skincare company generously gifted everyone a 6 piece Glow Getter Skincare Kit 
  • Intelligent Change gifted everyone a Productivity Planner
  • Four Sigmatic sent Reishi Cacao & Lion’s Mane Coffee
  • Coola Organic kept us safe in the sun with their Sunscreen Spray
  • Flight Fud was an incredible partner who sent everyone an 8 Pack Inflight Elixir which was a god send on our long haul flights
  • Vital Proteins sent us coconut collagen creamers, because its not as easy as you might think to find oat milk lattes in Bali (lol)
  • Holistick is a Bali inspired, Toronto based Perfume company and sent us beautiful perfume rollers 
  • Love Squared Kids sent everyone an adorable scrunchie that came in handy almost every day in the crazy Bainese heat
  • We partnered with Valerie LaVigne who sent us  Essential Oil blend Rollers
  • And the female owned company Evio kept us fresh with some biodegradable Hemp Face Wipes 

🌈 The lesson……

Only work with aligned brands. This made it super easy to promote each brand appropriately and they only enhanced our experience rather than feeling forced or out of place.

Start early. Securing aligned partners takes A LOT of work, I’m really grateful I had an incredibly diligent team on my side to help with the outreat & follow up, but if you’re DIYing make sure you have a sick pitch deck and time on your side.

This part of the retreat went so well and we absolutely LOVED giving these gifts away. So much so, in fact, that we decided to give the retreat gift experience to ONE MORE PERSON! 

👯‍♀️ the perfect retreat guest list

I couldn’t have orchestrated a better group of women. Not only were they inspirational and high vibe, they were incredibly supportive of one another and a great group to hang around. I’d vacation with them any day.

🤎 Katie Costa – Founder of The Wellness Marketer, a digital marketing guru for Health & Wellness Pros and our retreat firecracker. She brought the energy!

🤎 Baillie Thornhill – Creator of Profitable Studios a Marketing, Finance and Mindset program designed for studio owners. She runs her company alongside her parents bringing a new and innovative perspective to the studio world. Baillie ALSO lived in Bali for a couple years, so she was quick with interpretations when we needed them most, and came in full-force with the NEED TO KNOW facts.

🤎 Rachel Kelly – Creator and Founder of Make Lemonade the hottest co working space for women in Toronto. Rachel is way funnier than anyone could have imagined and a ball of fun, cheerful energy.

🤎 Kristine Lo – Founder of Nature and Intent a boutique creative agency for conscious, holistic, & wellness brands and our daily dose of zen. 

🤎 Lauren Smith Event Planner extraordinaire at Modern Collective, I couldn’t have hosted this event without her, and as an attendee she kept us all aiming higher, and brought the silly energy with us everywhere.

🤎 Stacia Ashe A Transformation coach for people ready to make MASSIVE leaps in their life and creator of The Uplevel Academy. Stacia was one of my first clients and a great friend so having here at the retreat made the whole thing a little more rewarding. PLUS she was our resident bug killer, lizard catcher and risk taker.

👉 what I learned…

The QUALITY of retreat attendees really matters! We were VERY intentional with the applicants and it resulted in the most high vibe group of women in Bali! Hosting a retreat can be stressful enough. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if there was any negativity or drama. Make sure you’re attracting the RIGHT type of people into your community so that your attendees are the perfect fit for the program AND each other. HIGH VIBE. 

Everyone TRULY complimented each other and brought something incredible to the group. This was incredible while we were together AND it’s continuing to be an invaluable resource as the year long mastermind continues.

☀️ uluwatu bali retreat: the best local hotspots

No real lesson here but we did find a few great spots in Uluwatu you should check out if you’re in the area.

  • Uluwatu beach: incredible landscape, massive waves🌊, and an abundance of places to snag a coconut.
  • Sundays beach club: picture perfect views and tables on the beach. This place feels luxurious and super cool.
  • CASHEW TREE: I highly recommend the vegan ice cream and burrito bowls. 

Some other lessons I learned: 

  • A retreat launch takes a lot more work than a regular digital product launch & you have to think of it differently, the same tactics won’t work for both.
  • Massages cost anywhere from $10-$40 in Bali and you’re gonna want one DAILY.
  • Some buyers are into a last minute retreat purchase & others are planners, you need to cater to both when selling out your retreat
  • There’s a significant increase in your overhead with in person events, and last minute expenses really add up, make sure you budget for this when planning your retreat
  • Running an in person event is a much more impactful experience, that I haven’t been able to replicate online
  • Things take more time in person – each lesson took longer than expected because of the incredible conversation and brainstorming we all did as a group. Make sure to plan for this. 
  • Don’t brush your teeth with the water in Bali (just, don’t. 🤢)

We not only left the Freedom Rebellion retreat SUPER inspired but we also had a clear plan for the rest of the year. It was so much better than I could have ever imagined!🥰

If you’re interested in coming with us on the next retreat, it’s time to start thinking about it now, spots for Mexico 2021 are filling up FAST with some badass women so don’t wait it out! For more details on our next Freedom Rebellion Retreat click here and to Apply for a spot click here