As we come upon our blog's 1st year anniversary this September, Karen and I knew we had to make time for some big picture thinking about our business. Earlier this week, we shared our ideas on how to hold a creative retreat for exploring artistic endeavors. Today, we're going to show you how we put together our business retreat. We encourage all of you other small business owners (bloggers, indie creatives, artisans) to take time out to reassess your big picture, drill down into the nitty-gritty of the "to-do" lists and dream about the near and far future. And leave a little time for some beach combing, too.
Since our theme this month is "On The Waterfront," we have beaches, lakes and rivers on our minds as the perfect retreat settings. We were lucky enough to use a beach cottage owned by Karen's parents on the South Shore of Massachusetts. (Thank you, Barbara and James! ).
Preparation and Logistics
If you're a solo entrepreneur, ask a few friends who are also running a small business and go in on this together. You can keep each other on task and afterwards, you'll have the benefit of being accountable to each other for the goals you've written on the retreat. As the host, you might want to consider preparing a little welcome gift for your guests. Or, when you invite your friends, you could ask that everyone bring something for someone else. Sort of a summer time "Secret Santa" kind of thing. Here are the baskets that Karen and I made up for each other:
Karen put together all of the pieces I'd need to make a bespoke journal, specially designed for our retreat. She cut up small squares of nautical paper and sewed smaller squares on top creating labels for some of the most important things we'd talk about. To attach the labels, there's some nifty blue and white striped fabric tape (very beach-y!) as well as a dispenser for blank tape. She also included a rubber stamp that's laid out like a to-do list so I could keep myself in check. She then decoupaged a blank journal with some of my favorite whale paper (and added another whale inside the cover). But probably my favorite thing was the vintage trading card picturing my favorite seaside bird, the Loon.
For Karen's basket, I tried to think of objects that would make her feel a little pampered on the retreat. I found her a drinking glass to have at her side as we were planning and scheming. It's painted with two girls rowing a canoe, in keeping with our waterfront theme. There's a chocolate bar because that's pretty much a necessity. I also embellished a journal for Karen and added some festive looking sticky note flags and a set of colored pencils. She loves scented candles so one of those made it in the stash so she could light it before bed. And speaking of bed, I appliqued a big number 3 (that's her favorite number) on a pillowcase for her to use over the weekend.
Everyone can get a little punchy when they're spending lots of time hashing out big picture thoughts. To embrace this, we came up with a bright idea (pun intended...keep reading). We cut out yellow lightbulb shapes and glued them onto skewers, keeping them within reach. Whenever one of us had a brilliant brainstorm, we'd grab a lightbulb, jump up and down and scream out our idea. (Karen and I are known to be quite loud when we're excited). We also had strips of paper at the ready so we could record the idea and stick it on the lightbulb. I highly recommend making a batch of your own lightbulbs before your retreat.
And here's where the magic happens, people! (Oh, yes, retreats do encourage magical thinking!).
We spent quite a few hours here, writing on a big sheet of butcher paper we rolled out on the table. And when we needed a change of scenery, we took our laptops and moved a few feet over to the couch. We had antipasto for dinner (no cooking, no clean-up, no leaving the cottage) and reveled in the knowledge that we didn't have to stop talking at a specific time. To make the most of the weekend, we put together an agenda and stuck to it. We've made a template for you to use for your own retreat. If you work alone and are bringing a few other solo-preneurs with you, you can all use the same template but obviously, you'll each write out your own agendas and then share them with the group. (The sharing is the important part, bouncing ideas around and challenging each other to push past insecurities while not biting off more than you can chew).
TEMPLATE FOR YOUR AGENDA
Click on this link to download a printable agenda for you to follow on your own creative business retreat.
If you do decide to create a retreat for yourself and a few colleagues, please, please let us know! We'd love to share your photos and stories with the rest of our readers!