Six months ago, Naomi Mdudu (founder of The Lifestyle Edit) and I talked about putting together a weekend retreat — not for a typical getaway, but to regroup on one important question. How can we build our business while maintaining the lifestyle we love? We settled on finding the answer in the town of Woodstock, a quirky and historic little village only a few hours from NYC. We recruited attendees from both of our networks and were thrilled with the variety of business owners and those exploring the entrepreneurial world while still in corporate. Below is my candid diary from the retreat, which spotlights 10 incredible women in one house, all brought together by similar goals and ambitions.
Walking into a house full of strangers could have been intimidating. Yet as each woman walked into a room scattered with golden balloons, hugs and mimosas made with Natalie’s Orange Juice, each effused excitement and relief to be there. I think the relief was breathing in fresh air and being away from the crippling heat hitting the cities.
The guests arrived at our house in Woodstock around 2pm, and once armed with a mimosa and bagel, were led to their rooms where welcome gift bags awaited. The bags perched on their beds were filled with electric reads including Something in The Water and Heartbreaker from Random House and the business book Applied Empathy from Sub Rosa. Other gifts included a delicate bracelet from Kendra Scott, a cozy eye mask from Lunya, and a fragrant candle from The White Company. For makeup and essentials, the girls got Dagne Dover pouches and Hudson & Bleeker jewelry sleeves.
We welcomed LCSW Rebecca Kronman to kick off the retreat with mindfulness practices. She started her session by taking the “temperature” of the attendees, which meant tuning into our bodies and checking the sensations such as tension, tightness, etc. (often it was tightness in chest, nervousness, anxiety, and pain in the shoulders). From there we practiced a variety of breathing techniques to help reduce the pain and stress commonly found in everyday life. My favorite practice involved music. Rebecca had each attendee turn on the song most recently played on their phone (I had Carly Simon’s “I Feel The Earth Move”). As we played our song, we were challenged to focus on our breathing and personal tune while letting the others blend into background noise. Takeaway: No matter how much noise, stress, and anxiety is around you, you have the power to tune it out.
Around 5pm, Chef Julia Chebotar was a welcome surprise when she delivered a platter of assorted cheeses and veggies before firing up the grill. We took that as our cue to freshen up and change into cocktail attire for dinner. Outside a rustic farm table with fresh flowers awaited, and refreshing beverages from WINC and Mighty Swell welcomed guests to loosen up and enjoy the evening.
The women offered intimate stories of children, husbands, boyfriends and the “why” behind starting their business or their hopes to eventually take the next step. We sat down to a beautiful dinner and Naomi led a toast to the weekend ahead. With that, we dug into the perfectly grilled vegetables and chicken before devouring s’mores (and wine) for dessert.
Groggy from too much wine, we began the day with a whooping compliment of trainer Shelby Albo and Travel Fit Love. She worked our core, booty, and arms and left us all very aware of how in shape we are…
Starved after the workout, Chef Julia put together an incredible frittata accompanied by bacon and a fresh fruit platter. We simultaneously snacked on homemade granola from Casey’s Krunch.
Half in workout clothes and half showered, we moved to the sunroom for our first session of the day with Sam Vander Wielen of Sam Vander Wielen LLC. Her company creates downloadable legal templates (SO HELPFUL!) Sam walked us through setting up your business entity, the importance of website disclaimers, terms and conditions, and privacy policies, especially with GDRP. Her session really made the business aspect come alive as she explained the tactical nuts and bolts needed to start a business. Leaving slightly terrified about the many layers to legal we begrudgingly headed into our next session knowing that we now have Sam’s emails for all future questions.
Moving into the living room we sat down for a fireside chat with Elaine Pofeldt and Naomi. You can also catch their conversation on The Lifestyle Edit Podcast here. Elaine Pofeldt is the author of The Million Dollar, One Person Business and famed entrepreneurial journalist and ghostwriter. She walked us through the trials and tribulations of being an entrepreneur and the various examples and business models that were used in her book. She also spoke about ways to prepare to be an entrepreneur, like learning to live small and live within your means. Yet, what resonated most to me was when Elaine said, “As an entrepreneur, if you don’t have a strong drive to do it, don’t do it.”
Once Elaine’s session wrapped, Chef Julia brought out another delicious spread filled with grilled vegetables and salads. Everything we ate was healthy and filled with flavor! We took the afternoon to venture into the town of Woodstock, NY to shop around and get ice cream at a little artisanal spot called Nancy’s (highly recommend the sour cherry and banana fosters).
When we got home the weather was drizzly so we changed into comfy clothes and took some downtime. Some curled up with books, others typed away at their computers while a few napped. Ultimately conversation flowed back to business and we started talking about funnels. We brought our dinner into the living room and listened to Naomi share her expertise on marketing funnels and we worked together to come up with potential funnels or hooks for all of the attendees. Words like “lead magnet” and “opt-in” danced around the room.
As people kept talking business a few of us snuck up for an early bed, with our SOM in tow to help us fall asleep.
Shelby Albo whipped our butts a second time, but this time with a boot-camp style workout. We split into pairs and had three, one-minute workouts at each station until we all collapsed into a sweaty heap.
On our last day, we had a proper brunch and put on our Sunday best to sit down to a decadent spread of chia seed and granola parfaits, frittatas, more bacon and of course a cocktail from gin liquor Pomp & Whimsy mixed with Hottie Totties.
Our first speaker of the day was branding and marketing expert Tracy Dungo of Uno Dos Trae. She went through the importance of visuals for your brand, especially your website. We ran a website audit with our partners to make sure it matched a checklist she created. It was super helpful and I was able to spot a few things that needed to be tweaked.
We ended the weekend with Aggie Burnett of AB Creative NYC. She taught us the art of the pitch and how we can leverage subject lines and personal connections to connect with editors and media. She also emphasized how important it is to make your headlines newsworthy and clickable (hello clickbait, jk!).
After a hearty taco lunch, we hugged goodbye and headed back to our worlds of Philly, NYC, Boston and beyond. What was once a group of strangers left as a group of friends.
To get information about our next retreat, please sign up here.