How to Plan and Host a Retreat

Written by Christine Kane

Plan a RetreatIf you’re passionate about the work you do, you’ve probably considered offering a getaway retreat so your clients can spend some intense high-focus time with you and other like-minded souls.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

It is!

For 9 years, I hosted my own retreats, several times each year, that almost always sold out.  Not only was it a gratifying experience each and every time, but it also was a great income generator.  (The combination of passion and profits is a game-changer!)

My list has now grown so much that I no longer offer these more intimate retreats. (My events now attract 200+ people.)  Now, I meet many coaches, consultants, trainers and healers who want to host their own retreats.

If this sounds like you, here are some tips — straight from my personal “been-there-done-that” files — for how to plan and host your own retreats

1 – Build a List of Ideal Clients

It’s one thing to have a great idea for a retreat. But it’s a whole other thing to find people to come!

The great news about retreats is that your list doesn’t have to be huge in order to fill the spaces.  Many retreat centers offer options for 10-person retreats.

Still, you need to have a list – whether it’s your client database, or your eZine list – in order to market your retreat.

2 – Name your Retreat

Give your retreat a name.   This grounds your idea with a vision and purpose.

At first, I just called my retreat: “Women’s Retreat.”  (Not particularly exciting, huh?)

When I finally created the name, “The Unstoppable Power of Intention Retreat,” I was much more excited at the prospect of my retreats – and many more women expressed interest!

3 – Decide How Many People You Want at Your Retreat

My retreats had anywhere from 22 – 35 people in them.  Many of my clients have offered retreats for as few as 6 people. The choice is yours. What is ideal for you?

4 – Choose a Time-span for your Retreat

Retreats can range anywhere from 1 – 9 days. Or longer!  If you’re just getting started, I recommend a 3-day format.   This makes it easy for your participants to plan, to arrange travel, and doesn’t require too many days off from work.   Of course, this is also dependent upon the content you want to deliver.

5 – Choose a Location for Your Retreat

Where do you want to host your retreat?

First, let’s start with region.

I recommend that, at first, you keep your retreat close to home.   It’s great to have familiar surroundings and not have to travel far.  If you want to consider a more exotic location, it will obviously take a lot more planning on your part.

Next, let’s talk about choosing a retreat center.

If you do a Google search in your area, you may discover that there are a few small retreat centers that provide amazing options.  Many of these places are not luxurious – but they do allow for an affordable retreat experience for you as a host – and for your clients!

I recommend that you choose a space that offers lodging and meals.  Something special happens to a group of people when they dine and sleep on site – without the distractions of the outer world.

Take time to shop around and explore your options, review your pricing and weigh the pros and cons of each location.

6 – Price your Retreat

Putting a price tag on your retreat can bring up lots of stuff.

But you must challenge yourself NOT to play small.  Low prices can position your retreat as low-value.

Also, do not price your retreat just above the per-person price you’re paying the retreat center.    If you have cancellations or any unforeseen costs arise, you’ll be screwed.

I encourage you to stretch yourself.  Crunch the numbers and make sure you are making a profit!

Note: If the money and pricing is a little tricky for you – then you need to get my free DVD pronto!  It’ll give you the strategies you need to get over this hurdle. Click here immediately to grab your copy.

7 – Outline the Content of Your Retreat

Create a structure or framework that will guide the flow of each day.  There’s probably a natural beginning, middle and end you will follow.  In each element, map out the activities and teaching that will be included.

The key thing about content is this:

Don’t “over teach.”

Retreats (and events, too!) are meant to get participants to actually experience the work they never get to do at home. This means you have to give them the space to learn and take part in activities.

8 -  Commit to a Date for Your Retreat.

Many people play the “Ready Aim” game. They never actually fire. In other words, they never commit.

Yes, it can be scary to offer your first retreat – but commitment and decision are half the battle. Choose a date. And start marketing.  If you don’t know how to market, then join me at my Uplevel Your Business LIVE Retreat at the end of July!

Bonus Tip #1:  Keep it simple

If you’re just getting started, don’t try to plan a retreat on that Greek island you’ve always wanted to visit.  Retreats are about learning and experience. Though adventure can be a component, many times retreat hosts make it harder on themselves by being too aggressive with their early retreat goals.

(HINT: This is often because they fear that they themselves are not “enough” – so they try to superficially make the retreat seem more exciting. Don’t do this.)

Bonus Tip #2:  Allow space

Many years ago, I went to a personal growth retreat that literally exhausted me. The hosts were obviously so frightened of not giving enough content that they dragged the participants around from one activity to the next.

The best thing about this retreat? It taught me what NOT to do when I was hosting my own retreats!

My retreats had lots of space built into them.  Yes, it can be scary to allow space because it feels like you’re not working!   But the gift of holding space for your participants IS working. And it provides a great value.  Be strong enough to allow for this.

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In the comments below, let me know: have you ever considered hosting or leading a retreat? What stops you?

 

If you've ever believed it was impossible to be totally authentic AND make lots of money in your business - then you're not alone. Purposeful entrepreneurs want it REAL - and I promise to deliver! Get my FREE VIDEO, and I will walk you step-by-step through my own Uplevel Fast Track Formula for making money... on your own terms and in your own way. Enter your email and let's get started!

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{55 comments ... read them below or add one}

Nneka, Working Mystic July 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

Hi Christine, I actually started all this with workshops and small group classes. I sooo want to do a retreat, but I don’t think my list is there yet. I also don’t think that I have enough experience to host 3 days.

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Christine Kane Reply:

Nneka – You’re probably more ready than you think. Jus’ sayin’. :)

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Suzanne G July 18, 2012 at 8:55 am

Christine, I would love to host a retreat. The biggest thing stopping me is self-doubt. Would any of my clients or their friends consider what I have to say worth their time and money. Really need to work on that, because it is holding me back big time.

Thanks for the step-by-step process. This will be a great motivator to step past the fear and just do it.

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Christine Kane Reply:

Suzanne – Unfortunately (or rather, FORTUNATELY) the ONLY way to get over this is to offer it and see what happens. Start with a very small number at first. But you do have to choose a date and go for it. (It really helps to map it all out at first too – that way you KNOW that you’re offering something amazing!)

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Kathy McD Reply:

Christine, your advice to Suzanne is spot on. I’m been wanting to do a retreat, and actually got a nudge from the Universe. I’m holding my first retreat this weekend – a one day event “Simply Happy Living”. I’m starting out small, but I’ll learn a ton from the experience and will deliver a great experience to my participants.

Do I wish it were bigger? Sure. But I’ll get there. Right?

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Leah Campbell Badertscher July 18, 2012 at 9:21 am

Hi Christine,

I’m hosting my first retreat ever in three weeks: WHAT WANTS TO HAPPEN: The Ultimate Creativity Retreat. Although I already have things in the works and participants coming (though not sold out…yet), I still found your advice helpful and the timing felt like a nod from the Universe at a time when I’m feeling excited but also pretty nervous, so thank you. Your two bonus tips resonate with me especially. I’ve been feeling inclined to include more and more material/activities because I so want to over-deliver, so to read what you wrote about the tremendous value of being strong enough to hold the space for others was EXACTLY what I needed to be reminded of at this time. Thank you again, Christine!
XO-
Leah

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Christine Kane Reply:

Leah – Congratulations! That’s great! And yes, I’m very happy you can spot this piece of advice. It will be so amazing for you and them for that space to be there. Let me know how it goes!!!

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Kimberly Wills Reply:

I *LOVE* the name “What Wants to Happen”!! It’s so great; it instantly reminds me to get in touch with the Universe and stop blocking the flow. Thanks for the mini-reminder, and good luck with your retreat!

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Alice Osborn July 18, 2012 at 10:03 am

Hi Christine,
Thank you so much for this very timely post! I’ve been giving writing workshops for six years now and am ready to host my own retreat in NC in the mountains. I have a great mailing list and now need to find the perfect retreat center–I’ll be a retreat participant at Wild Acres in Little Switzerland, NC next month to see how it all works. Thank you again for these tips–especially the one on pricing!
Alice Osborn, Raleigh, NC

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Christine Kane Reply:

You’re welcome Alice! And I used to use Bend of Ivy near Asheville. They have a fabulous and very sacred 64 acres north of Asheville. Your writers will love it! Good luck!

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Alice Osborn Reply:

Hi Christine,

I just booked my writers’ retreat at Bend of Ivy next Aug 23-25 with Walker, who says “hi” to you, BTW. Thanks so much for the support–it means the world to me!

Alice

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bobbie johnson Reply:

hi,im doing a women reteat in nov.im trying to see if someone can give me samples of a good name for my reteat,its just a girly get away,thanks

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Pamela Reply:

Bobbie- ‘ just a girly getaway ‘ sounds just fine to me!

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Ulla Thøgersen July 18, 2012 at 11:18 am

Thank you for your great advice Christine. I have decided on the number 4, as the number of participants for my one day workshop at my office space. I’ve sent out 3 marketing mails for my small list and shared them with 800 people on LinkedIn, which is where my traffic is. I have activated friends. I have one participant and 10 days (workshop is on July 30th) to have another 3 participant find me and share the day with the participant I already have. What is your best advice besides keep believing in the project? The workshop is a ‘Empower you – from vision to reality’ workshop.

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Christine Kane Reply:

Ulla – Well, one thing to recognize is that a Linked In following isn’t going to be as devoted to you as your own list of people. So I would suggest putting the word out there via your own contacts, friends, former co-workers and really spread the word. See what happens with basic “warm letter” work. Internet marketing isn’t always the best marketing path when it comes to something as intimate as your first retreat! Let me know how it goes!

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Kelly Pfeiffer July 18, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Christine,

I’m planning a 3 day retreat for March of 2013. I want to have time to add to my list of clients between now and then and revamp my website after returning from your UpLevel Retreat next week!! I know that while I’m in Atlanta with you, I’m going to learn some great ways to connect with clients and I want to take time to do that this fall and winter before hosting the retreat in March. I also want to plan some other tele-classes and write my VFO to be able to build a list and create interest so that I am able to fill my retreat with my numbers I’ve set as my “must have” number to make profits from my retreat. Of course I’d love to sell out my retreat too!!!!
I’m so excited about attending your retreat in Atlanta next week!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Me too Kelly! I’ll see you there! And congratulations on setting a date for 2013!

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moyra July 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

thanks, I am at the dreaming stage of hosting a retreat. to be honest its just something I want to do for me and my friends. like a holiday but with an intention and activities. it would be about creativity, forging connections and support. thanks for the tips, I am evernoting your page for future reference. at the same time I can see that biting the bullet and creating the space is also a good move. thinking!

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Christine Kane Reply:

That’s great Moyra! The women who used to be regulars at my retreats have now created a once a year reunion retreat just to hang out as friends and share and make vision boards. Whenever any group comes together with intention, great things can happen — have fun!

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Christina Ammerman July 18, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Hi Christine!
I went to one of those earlier retreats you had at Bend of Ivy Lodge outside Asheville. You called that one the “Great Big Dreams” retreat. I can’t remember anymore what year it was – maybe 2007? You provided an amazing experience, and in the years that followed it was my dream to hold my own retreat. I finally took action on that last November, offering my first “Angel Immersion Retreat.”

If I were to add a Bonus Tip #3 to your list, based on my experience, it would be to Let the Event Unfold Imperfectly. There were many things that did not happen quite the way I expected, including having some of my own “stuff” come up and having some very human moments instead of being the enlightened spiritual leader that I was supposed to be. (That last part is verbatim from one of the participants; she and I were co-Creators in digging up our respective “stuff” that weekend.)

I was so traumatized by the event’s imperfections that it took me till last month to open and read the feedback forms that the participants had submitted; I assumed they’d all have scathing things to say about how unprofessional I was. But you know what? The feedback was very complimentary: No one mentioned the embarrassing human moment, and one woman gave me an awesome testimonial. As with most things, it wasn’t the train wreck I thought it was.

P.S. One of the participants asked on Facebook just last week whether we’re having another retreat this fall. :)

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Christine Kane Reply:

That’s great Chris! And I remember you well! Congratulations — and next time, be willing to move forward with your own forgiveness for the not-so-great stuff and let go and create the next great experience for your peeps! (So — when IS the next retreat? this fall??) :)

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Araceli July 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I have a question about the open spaces you mentioned vs. cramming a bunch of stuff during 3 days. By spaces do you mean completely free time during the three days or light activities that are voluntary…I was wondering and would appreciate your reply :)
Thanks!

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Christine Kane Reply:

Araceli – Great question! The space was them taking time to integrate or be alone or go into the woods – and I built it in throughout the three days. I got better and better at knowing when to do that for the very best results. But there was a lot of time for them to get quiet, ask questions, discover and be alone. then we would come back together for some teaching or experiential activity — all structured around a framework that I created and designed. Does that make sense?

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Kimberly Wills Reply:

May I reaffirm the need for FREE time? … I went to a martial arts retreat that was jam-packed with activities; some were voluntary like a volleyball match and a nighttime trek into the woods. I did not do the night trek because I wanted enough sleep to be refreshed for the first morning activity, and I felt a little disappointed and jealous when I awoke around midnight to hear the crowd coming back laughing & loudly talking, as if I had missed something fun. Don’t let anyone feel like they’re missing something. Maybe you could offer a certain room if they want to meet others & socialize during a break, but nothing someone would feel bad missing if they need a nap or to be alone a while. It is definitely a *need* for some people to not be around people too much.

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Kalia July 19, 2012 at 3:45 am

Aahhh Christine- Feel like this was written just for me : ) Thanks for the timely retreat, and for all the awesome support in UYB!! My retreats are taking shape, and I just need to set a date and do it!!

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Kalia Reply:

Okay, so of course I meant the timely post… freudian slip?

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Christine Kane Reply:

Great news Kalia! And you will choose a date – and your retreat will be perfect!

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Chris July 19, 2012 at 8:18 am

I’ve been trying to do this very thing. Maybe now i will and can!

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Thea van Dijk July 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

With two collega we are planning a retreat next year. This is exactly what we need. Exspeccially the free time between. And not being afraid to do to little.

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Herdis Pala July 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Worrying about not having enough content and/or how to structure my content in a way that people value it and what I deliver.

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Christine Kane Reply:

Herdis – Start by asking “What would I most want out of a three day retreat?” Your guidance is a great starting point! Don’t try to get it perfect. Just start creating the framework. Baby steps!

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Hilary August 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I’m reading this late, and even if no one sees this, I still want to PROCLAIM IT! I am going to host my first retreat March 9th and 10th 2013.

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Dawn Reply:

Did you make it?

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Christine Kane August 4, 2012 at 1:46 am

Rock on Hilary! (I saw it!) :)

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Sally Ferguson October 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Christine,
I’ve planned retreats for our women at church for 8 years. Your formula for planning is right along the pattern I’ve used. Retreats are important for connecting!

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celia January 7, 2013 at 1:46 am

I have been dreaming of planning a retreat for 3 years now. Your website is just another sign that I am getting closer to accomplishing my dream. Part of my plan is for 5 amazing women, two nights two days, I will be offering hikes, massages, and reflecting by the river or just relaxing alone or retreating to an area on the property to journal. I need to work on pricing, date and a name. Your website is a gem and I love reading all the comments.

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Kaz Pollard January 27, 2013 at 5:01 am

Thank You for the info. Love your photo on the chair – really cool – and real… Kaz

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Ani March 3, 2013 at 7:25 pm

I would love to, but am worried about the funding aspect prior to. What steps would I need to take to build up that financial foundation to start hosting retreats. Love the insight you’ve given too by the way :)

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faith duncan March 15, 2013 at 6:38 am

hi christine. i want to plan a 3day treat for 6 workaholic friends, very young at heart too. i need ideas on activities that would give them optimum relaxation, take their minds totally off work, create some bonding and add value to their lives. i also need ideas on a name for the retreat. thank you

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Sarah Christiansen August 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Hi Christine, My business partner and I need your help. We started a retreat not too long ago and really need to revamp it. We advertised on adwords for about 3 months and did not get one person interested in it. The retreat is in St. Croix, USVI. I am from there and visit often. We found the perfect place to have it. Can you visit our website and let give us your input? We would greatly appreciate it. Thank you. Sarah

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Sarah Christiansen August 3, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Christine, I did not realize you are a singer! You are wonderful!! I myself am a singer……..

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Mark August 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Thanks for the info…especially about SPACE!

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Zakiyyah Lana October 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Blessings Christine,

I am grateful to have found your blog just by googling how to create a retreat. Everything you said is perfect for me especially about feeling like I am not enough.
I have given several retreats in the past both locally and internationally and they have been great. But I have also had those insecurties about not being creative enough…or knowledgeable enough or speaking eloquently enough. ..so I have played it small and comfortable with close friends. They all enjoyed but I haven’t built a new list and old friends don’t want to keep going to same place.

My niche is Jamaica and the retreat center is very rustic but comfortable. So I am having to find women who are not looking for luxury but rather for the sacredness of the experience. I have begun planning a retreat for Sept 2014 and have contemplated going to a resort for accommodations and having the workshops at the retreat center. I realize I am doing that out of Fear.

My soul purpose is to offer these retreat experiences as my Brand. ..so I feel like I need to stay the course and trust the Universe to bring the right and perfect people.

Also your advice about pricing not just what retreat center is charging is divine timing because I have never made any money on my retreats because I didn’t want it to cost too much for Fear no one would come. So I never included anything for myself and sometimes have lost money because I had to put out extra money. Through your encouragement and that of friends I am going to create an income from this retreat and believe I am worthy and deserving of doing what I Love and prospering!

I am looking forward to receiving your DVD and learning more from you.

Namaste
Zakiyyah

A

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Dale Anne Potter November 4, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I am trying to plan a retreat and my limitations right now are:
a) local is Saskatchewan for me – Regina and/or Saskatoon are not discounted or regular direct flight airports.
b) prices for hotels or facilities here in Saskatchewan are almost double for the same thing or more amenities in the US.

My list is worldwide and I am thinking a destination that is easy to fly to would be better…
Am I being too limiting?

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Anne December 19, 2013 at 4:07 am

Thank you for such an awesome article! I am in the beginning stages of planning my first retreat. Your article reinforced much of what I already knew along with giving me some things I hadn’t thought of. Thanks!

Anne

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Amy LaBossiere January 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Excellent article. I own a retreat center in Connecticut and our successful group leaders use this mindset. Thank you for the inspiration.

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Sunita January 8, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Dear Christine,
I’m still playing with the idea of becoming a coach.
As I don’t know where to start, I was thinking I could maybe do a retreat for some of my friends, make it fun and inspirational, and there give my abilities a test. Is that a good idea?
I expect my friends to be supportive, so my first so called coaching session doesn’t burst the bubble too soon :)

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Nicky Reply:

Hi, sunita, I was in the same situation as you and set up workshops – half or one day a month. They are beginning to grow, and it’s incredible fo see the effect on groups and that what I coach works! This has given me the courage to take it a step further and do retreats. It alsogives you testimonials to put on your retreat details;) good look!

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Beth February 3, 2014 at 10:51 am

We actually had a “retreat” a few times at Hard Knocks in Raleigh. Its a great indoor laser tag place, but its not just about Laser tag, its way above and beyond that.

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Lisa February 10, 2014 at 12:21 am

Hi Christine,

great article, thank you! Especially the “overdoing it” part – you got me there!

One questions, how far in advance do you plan your retreats?
I sent out a newsletter a few days ago, announcing retreats for November – so 9 months to go – and someone got back to me saying they have to file they leave requests for a year by the first of January and whether there will be anything in 2015 – woah. I didn’t expect that .. and I have no clue about 2015 .. Or should I?

Thanks a lot,

Lisa

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Elena Belloiu Reply:

I live in Ca. but I also have a house in Transylvania, Romania ( just finishing the construction ), I am seriously thinking to start some kind of retreat ( maybe a writer retreat )…for longer periods of time. I need advice, advice, advice.

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Shawn Fugett April 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I am in the beginning stages of starting my blog but feel the urge to start a retreat. The name is Soul Sisters Annual Retreat. I want it to be 3 days. I have no client list and want to know how to get started.

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Wendy April 24, 2014 at 12:31 am

Christine, I am looking at holding my first retreat and would like to invite various speakers to talk, how do I know how much to offer them, especially if they are not famous?
Do I ask them to speak and offer them whatever private meeting they have, they can ask a charge?
It’s a little overwhelming at times lol.
Wendy.

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Nicky July 1, 2014 at 1:38 am

Hi, this is JUST the sign I’ve been looking for! I have been wanting to set up a happiness retreat here in France, initially from home as my home is well situated. My only block is the list and marketing! Gojng to have to sit down and do some brainstorming! Thank you for the nudge!

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Aesha Jarmon October 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Hello my name is Aesha Jarmon and I would like to have a Women’s retreat that would help compell Women to Christ and have a powerful relationship with him and I would like to have workshops and praise dancers to make it memorable. Any advice you have for me?

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