Lori + Sarah's awesome mini-retreat planner

One weekend in early June, Sarah and I zoomed off to Jasper with stacks of workbooks, craft plans, and a bag of mini-smores. Perfect for our first mini-retreat!

Here’s how it all began.

Sarah is a committed mom. She loves her kids and doesn’t take much time away from them. However. . . her husband had been away for a few weekends in a row, and promised her a break when he had a weekend at home. Bingo! We’re getting outta Dodge. I had already been completely overhauled and energized (and spent my retreats budget!) at Spark, and had tons of ideas to share and projects to follow up on. We had invited other friends, but for various reasons, no one else could come. As it turned out, a mini-retreat for two was simply perfect.

Tip: Pick a date and commit. We all have a million things to do. If we don’t plan it, it won’t happen. Find a date, even if it’s 3-4 months away, and stick to it. Book a hotel + carve it in stone. It’s your retreat and you need to make it happen!

Sarah and Lori’s plan: to work through as many creative biz workbooks as possible. To craft a little. To stop at the Bear’s Paw Bakery for hot chai and raspberry white chocolate scones. To be awed by nature.

Perfect mini-retreat weather at Pyramid Lake. Photo credit: Sarah Stickland

Your plan: this is your retreat, and, while it will be cheek-achingly happy-fun, it’s also business. Get serious!

You will need structure and form. Responsibilities and follow-through.

First, decide who will be coming. For an effective mini-retreat, choose four retreatlettes who can all work and play reasonably well together. Four people works, because if you need to retreat on the cheap-cheap, you can travel in the same vehicle and rent your accommodations with two double beds per room and share. Cheap!

Tip: When booking your accommodations, consider that you will be doing book-work and creative (possibly messy) work, and that you will need space to do it in. Perhaps a cabin suits you best? Or maybe a suite? Or your location is near public space that you could use, like a library breakout room or park.

Prepare! Each retreatlette is to plan and present a primary session, and also bring a smaller, “giveaway” session, like a workbook or inspirational print, for each other to ponder in free moments or to take home. The primary sessions should be crafted to both surprise and challenge each other. You should have a mix of nose-to-the-grindstone, detailed, entrepreneurial-business-y sessions and creative-visionary sessions. Sarah and I each printed off and brought two or three workbooks, and we decided as we went which ones we should work on when.

Tip: Work with the other retreatlettes to divide and conquer your planning of the sessions. Decide the overall theme of the weekend (creative artist retreat, business planning, soul searching, etc.) and then have each member research, prepare materials, and present to the rest of the group.

Be sure that you all agree to the purpose of the mini-retreat. It is not a party or a hiking trip or a spa weekend. You will be working and exploring. (Unless, of course, you would prefer a spa weekend. In which case, you should go and book it already. Go!) Also, personal and sensitive topics might arise that should be kept confidential to the group. Agree that you will respect each others’ space and revelations. Talk about it, even if it seems awkward. You will dig the deepest and move the furthest when you all have the same understanding and feel like it’s safe to share.

Plan your mini-retreat over a weekend, and prepare to leave on Friday at noon. Make sure that your travel time is four hours or less. This way, you can unwind on the trip, and get to know your new retreat compadres, if you haven’t already.

inspiringly awesome Marc Johns + tattly tattoo

Friday night: settle in and attend (or present!) your first session. You could draw straws, randomize, or arm wrestle to see who goes first: the point is that you get started right away, and let the ideas begin to ping!

You know that you’ll need to eat, too, so why not consider a working dinner? I know, it sounds so downtown-deadline, but you can find a way to make it fun. You could order in and mess up the room. Or, do as Sarah and I did. We went later and purposely chose a slow-at-this-time family-style Greek-and-pizza joint and spread all of our papers out over our seats-eight banquette-booth table, and got comfortable. It was important to us to start the weekend with the more touchy-feely aspects of business. That is: what are we most confident with and about? How do we want to feel, and how do we want the people we interact with to feel? Some souvlaki, calamari, and a few pots of tea later, we both had visions and were ready to head back to the cabin and rest up for our big working day.

Saturday. Get up early, get your hot drinks and sweet things or power shakes, and dig in. Today, you are going to tackle two sessions and a creative outlet. Oh. Did I forget to mention the creative outlet? Then I will now. You’ll need one. To adapt a quote from the wise Tania of manusmade, “Get out of your heads and into your hands!”

Tip: Possible creative outlets might include crafting, free-form painting, creatively exploratory collage-ing or bundling, collecting objects on the beach, a full-on dance party, or creative work like interviewing each other and videotaping it. You are creative people! You know what I mean.

After lunch, carry on with your third session. This is when energy tends to sag a little, so find a way to re-energize and re-capture your group flow. Maybe you will want to check in with each other first, to see how everyone is progressing over the weekend. Some of you may be having big biz-epiphanies now; others might be right into the exploration and sitting with ideas. Reiterate that you are all there for yourselves and each other. Support and be supported. Retreatlettes unite! And move on.

Saturday night has a few options, and it’s really best to let the group decide. If you have ploughed through big work all day, take a break for dinner and let the ideas surface naturally over good food. If you feel like you’re making good progress and want to continue, carry on. Check out each others’ “giveaway” sessions over dinner and see what nuggets of beauty and wisdom lie there. And then, follow Sarah’s lead with a pre-bedtime mindless craft: macrame bracelets!

Sunday. Session four. Try to stay focused. Hit the road by noon. Discuss on the way home. Lunch: hash through secret project ideas and plan next steps.

Sarah and Lori’s synopsis

The weekend was a success on many levels. It was mindblowing to step away from our everyday lives and take a few days to breathe fresh mountain air; to stop and really focus on what we wanted for our lives and businesses. It helped both of us to circle in on what we know and how to package that knowledge into a sell-able form. Once we arrived home, Sarah had a few days of clarity and spent time writing down all her knowledge–which is turning into a fantastic top-secret-work-in-progress-workbook. I’ve already edited it for her, and am desperate to see the completed version! For me: I realized that I know more than I thought I did, and I just need to get moving and let the words out!

Workbooks + Inspiration

Jessika Hepburn:: OMHG Guide to Businessy Goodness
Laura Simms:: Roadmap to Action
Tara Gentile:: The Art of Earning
Jessica Swift + Michelle Ward The When I Grow Up Coach:: The Declaration of You
Danielle LaPorte:: The Fire Starter Sessions
Mayi Carles:: Action Planner
Rena Tom:: Goal-setting to Grow Your Business
Mayi Carles:: Action Kills Thought prints
Zü:: DIY-Geoball
Uppercase magazines
Making magazine
Martha Stewart Living magazine
Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
Rolling Stone magazine
McCalls Book of Handcrafts
Tattly:: temporary tattoos
How About Orange:: bookmarks

Sarah and Lori’s awesome creative projects

honestly. . . wtf:: macrame bracelets (mindless)
weatherable disintegration collaboration bundles (creative exploration)

Now tell me, have you picked your dates yet?

If you could take a weekend to mini-retreat, what would you focus on? Who would you not leave home without?

Have you staged your own mini-retreat? What were the absolute rockingest biz- or soul-building moments? How did the concentrated time away effect your business? . . . the rest of your life?

Download Lori & Sarah’s awesome printable checklist and get started!

Checklist made with thoughtful planning and get-it-done follow-through by Sarah Stickland at CHILDish. Go check out her new site. It’s super awesome.


  1. Oh, I love this Lori! I remember you mentioning your retreat, and I’m so thrilled it was so successful for you!

    Sometimes taking a day or two out of the ordinary, and really committing to writing out thoughts, sorting out all the ideas in your head, and bouncing things of a kindred spirit is exactly what is needed. Especially as solo entrepreneurs, we can get caught up in our own busyness and self-imposed limitations, and it is sooo good to be able to work through that with someone. And that the fact that the generosity is reciprical is the BEST.

    And yes, getting out of your head and into your hands is so freeing! So is getting into your feet – I highly recommend a dance party at every retreat 🙂

  2. Love Sarah’s site! I am fascinated by the manufacturing process…would love a post that took a walk through that.

    As for your retreat, I am so all in. Loved your ideas and how focused you were.

    I go to Squam this fall by myself (first far away art retreat!)…and I usually go away a few days to create on my own in silence each year. This seems like middle ground here…love that. Thank you again for sharing and inspiring…

  3. Lori-Ann says:

    Tania: yes, exactly.
    People: check out Tania’s video interview by Laura Simms on How to host a retreat–http://bit.ly/Q9oTXQ

    Colleen: we were laser-focused. It shocked even us! And Squam! I can’t wait to hear all about it.

  4. Sarah says:

    Happy to see other people embracing our mini-retreat. The truth is that a week before our retreat we really hadn’t planned anything other than book a hotel. Lori and I both spent an hour or two pulling resources together a few days before we left. You don’t need a lot of time and planning, just do it!

    Colleen, thank you for the nice complement on my new website! It’s been a long road to get to this point. Love your idea about a post about the manufacturing process.

  5. Lori-Ann says:

    Tracey: do it! Hmmm. . . I would love to see what you come up with (or attend, for that matter)
    Sarah: without planning to, I think we totally embraced the idea of “just showing up.” it really *is* a magical concept. And speaking of magical–your site! It’s gorgeous!
    Sarah Lee: the RBBP sounds perfect for your mini-retreat! Do it!

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