Creative Vacay: Musings on a weekend-long creative retreat

 All photos by Eyes of Love Photography.

All photos by Eyes of Love Photography.

Ed's note: You'll notice that this issue of Raspberry Magazine has a bit of a difference - a group of women on the cover! And I am one of those women! I decided to share behind the scenes of a creative business retreat I went on a few months ago, because I've come to learn that in small business, community is essential. Yes, we can carry along just fine working from home in our PJs (maybe that's just me?) and for a few years I did just that; but there is really nothing so joyful, uplifting, clarifying and galvanising than spending face-to-face time with women on similar paths to you. It's like sunshine for your soul and rocket fuel for your business.

I share to show you that you can absolutely do this for yourself. Creative Vacay is not some fancy business retreat - we just made it up! Some of us met for the first time here. So gather your biz mates (online and 3D), hire a cool Airbnb house, and get planning!  ~Alana.

Business, Bonding and Bunk Beds - By Kirra Smith.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

Picture this: a balmy spring afternoon in the breathtaking Byron Bay hinterland, a luxurious (and somewhat spooky) old church and a group of women gathered together to share ideas and inspire one another to go big in business.

To many, it would seem an unlikely situation – eleven women, many of whom run similar businesses – staying together (in bunk beds no less) for a weekend of laughter, lavish lunches and list-making.  

Not so for Dani Hunt, owner of Neverland Studio, and the women she brought together for the second time for a weekend she deemed ‘Creative Vacay’.

The premise is simple. Dani is a creative genius, and like many creative geniuses she thrives in the company of other creative geniuses.

Enter the ladies of Eyes of Love Photography, Love Indigo Creative, The Fifth Element Life, The Darling Tree, Georgie McKenzie Design, JuJu Creative Hub, Steph Blaszak, Renee Carmody, Alana Wimmer and yours truly.

It was my first time, so I by no means considered myself a creative genius upon arriving at said spooky church, but by the end of the weekend I was certain that, with the support of those ten women, I was well on my way to becoming one.

Ranging from fresh to seasoned, each one is at a different stage of their business which means collectively, we were a powerhouse of knowledge and good intention.

Essentially, this was what made the weekend so unique – where else could you spend time intimately with a group of women from such a wide range of backgrounds? Nowhere, that’s where.  

Speaking of which, I highly recommend trying a Creative Vacay type situation for yourselves.

Here’s how it went down:

About a month earlier I received an (extremely upbeat and excited) email from Dani asking if I’d like to join her and nine other brilliant women who would be gathering for a weekend of biz talk and bonding.

Ahh yes, obviously I would.

Scary, "stepping out of my comfort zone" heart palpitations aside – I’m terrified in group situations in which I hardly know anyone and need to offer somewhat useful advice to people who know far more than I do – I arrived to an abundance of hugs and welcomes and a sense that this might have been the best choice I’d ever made.

That night we chatted, we ate, we laughed and some of us met famous people in restaurant bathrooms (if I remember correctly it was someone from Australia's Next Top Model).

The next day it was on. Dani had beautifully branded (of course) our Creative Vacay with welcome packs of pink pencils, sweet candles and notes to jot down our ‘burning questions’ - some areas of our businesses we wanted advice on.

Ranging from “Help, I have no idea what to do next” (me) to “How do I include client expectations in my professional contracts” (someone who knows a lot of things), we drew questions out of a jar and jammed on business until we broke for lunch.

Which was, FYI, a stunning selection of goodies from Harvest at Newrybar. Take. Me. Back.

In the afternoon, Alana (owner of the magazine you’re currently reading (HI!)) showed us how to create our own essential oil blend from her collection. Following a short guided meditation, we each intuitively chose oils to combine into a personalised glass bottle. Everything smelled great after that!

Another session of creative brainstorming, then before dusk we traipsed outside to the gypsy caravan while Michelle, the photographer of the group, managed to capture the moment (that's it on the cover!).

Then: a whole new day of ideas and inspiration on Sunday.

I can’t speak for the other girls (but I will because they’re not here) – Creative Vacay changed my life in all the good ways.

Not only did I come away with a to-do list as long as my arm, I left feeling part of something extremely rare and really quite magical.

Most importantly though (excuse me while I get serious) was the realisation that women are the most incredible beings in the world and that together, we can create communities that spread light and love and endless creative knowledge.

Best of all though, I realised that the support of women is more powerful than any other force there is and that together, we really can create positive change.

Both for one another and for the world.

So, off I go to spruce up my (fairly non-existent) sales page, write a little guide on how copywriters benefit businesses and email my new friends with about 4,678 new questions.

Thanks ladies, that really was something else.

Kirra is the creator of Archer Mala Beads - meditation beads handmade with the intention of bringing meditation to the modern world through the creation of stylin' soul treasures. She is also a writer and word wrangler at written pretty. She is passionate about using words to initiate connection and change. 

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Raspberry interviews Laura Youngkin of The Brave Millennial

Hi Laura! Let’s jump right in. What is your purpose here on planet Earth?

Oh, keeping it light for the first question – excellent! Wow. My purpose here on earth. The word “purpose” always make me giggle and I’ll quickly tell you why. Summer after my freshman year of college, I was working part-time at a golf course and babysitting for a family after my summer school classes. The family had two boys, one about nine months and the other barely three years old. They were moving houses, and the older boy had gotten into a box and pulled out long metal rod that I think belonged to a piece of furniture. He was waving it around wildly, destined to break something or hurt someone. His Mom and I chased after him.  

Mom: Ryan, put that down! You could hurt yourself!
Ryan: No, I need it!
Mom: Ryan, that’s unsafe, please give it back!
Ryan: No, it’s mine! I need it!
Mom: Ryan, that has a purpose! Put it down!

I could not stop laughing. Even at three years old, whether he truly realised what he was saying or not, Ryan knew he needed a purpose. We all do. It is an intrinsic value of the human experience. I’m only 31 years old, so I don’t think I’ve yet to discover all the purposes my life will hold, but for now my purpose is to be a mindful and vocal advocate for causes I care about and do work that feels intuitive to who I am. I’m also here to add value to the lives of the people I know, whether they are in my most inner circle, or a mere acquaintance. I’m here to give voice to change, and tell stories that make a difference.

How did you come to be where you are right now?

It all began on a Tuesday in April of 1985 just outside Dallas, Texas. Kidding! We can fast forward. I came to be where I am right now because I had to make a few hard and unexpected choices about the direction of my life, career, and the way they intersect. This meant saying goodbye to a “dream” job and company, and going out on my own. I came to be where I’m at right now because I believe in my ability – and responsibility – to blaze a new trail for myself and other millennial women.

Why did you decide to create The Brave Millennial?

I initially decided to create The Brave Millennial because I wanted to make a space where women could discuss the bias they experience at work, and outside work, in a judgement-free space without fear of retaliation. Of course, it has evolved to become much more than that. After ten years in the entertainment business, I felt I had seen, heard, and experienced enough to know that there were still problems and inequalities in the workplace. I instinctively enjoy bringing people together, and I wanted to connect all these separate conversations I was having and stories I was hearing into one space – and show my peers that they were not alone in their concerns. I wanted to give them a place to share their stories – their successes, and their challenges – and host a discussion that focused on actionable solutions for advancement. I wanted to build community around that. What’s happened since then has exceeded my expectations.

The Brave Millennial

What is your dream-level goal for The Brave Millennial?

My dream-level goal for The Brave Millennial is synonymous with what I dream for myself. I view TBM as one vehicle for moving towards those goals. My dream is to channel my passion for the advancement of women and girls, my gift for storytelling, my skills as a creative producer, and my compassion for others into meaningful work that creates positive change and impact. I’m interested in the role storytelling and media play in the progress of social justice, not just for women, but for all people fighting for equality in systems of oppression. I dream of opportunities to collaborate with talented partners on projects that will have influence, and to create work and tell stories that incite laughter, empathy, action, and change. Sustaining that for the duration of my life is ultimate dream. For this season of life, The Brave Millennial is how I’m acting on that dream.

What does your current business model look like? 

TBM is led and operated by me, and I assemble small teams and partner with other organisations as needed. My amazing creative/PR team at Jane Layne Creative supports the digital footprint and helps propel the business. My partner Christy Johnson at Artemis Connection is there on the consulting side when companies need our help building cultures that support inclusive leadership and diverse teams. Sponsors and strategic partners help make the public events possible around the US. And of course my husband, family, friends, colleagues, and TBM Tribe are an invaluable source of support in every way imaginable.

Talk us through what typical day (or week!) in the Laura Youngkin world might look like.

Well, no two days or weeks are the same! This year has been unlike any other year in my adult life. Apart from TBM, I run my own creative practice and still support entertainment clients, so there’s quite a balancing act going on. I am traveling for a couple of weeks every month for both businesses. My favourite days right now are usually days I’m hosting Brave Millennial events in a new city. My typical day is comprised of meetings, calls, working on partnerships, building new client relationships, writing, strategising, you know – the hustle. I also carve out quality time with my spouse, try to keep up with friends, talk to my parents on the phone, attend events/theatre/live performances, and try to move my body in a way that resembles exercise for a least a few minutes.

Any advice for the many of us who are working full time but with dreams to start something of our own?

The first thing you have to do is accept the fact that there will never be a “right time” to do this. Life will never hand you the perfect set of circumstances to take a huge risk, strike out on your own, and build something for yourself. You have to choose to do the thing. You have to make the best with what you’ve got, create opportunities, and own the responsibility for your own success. Don’t quit your full-time job until you have the financial stability to support the hustle – this could take some time. Work as hard as you can in the time you have to build what you want. Know that there will be failures, rejections, and trials. People will question you, criticise you, and possibly attempt to sabotage you. Don’t let them and don’t listen to them. Push through the barriers as hard as you can. Commit yourself to the unwavering belief that you can do it. Then be kind to yourself.

Work vs life balance – how do you keep this in check?

I learned the importance of work/life balance and personal health the hard way. A few months after turning 30, I wound up in the hospital, very ill with multiple health problems. All the issues had been brought on by stress, and my allowance of that stress to permeate every aspect of my mind, body, and spirit. Don’t do this. It’s a painful (and expensive) wake-up call that you can avoid by making your personal health a very high priority in your life, which I know is easier said than done. But you are the only person who can take care of your body, and you can’t be a great leader, collaborator, friend, spouse, partner, anything, if you can’t take care of yourself. I keep myself in check now by setting boundaries. I’ve learned what works for me: how much sleep I need, how much down-time I need, which foods mess me up, and how to schedule my days to support the balance. Some weeks are harder than others, and I am still working on my physical health and fitness.

At first it felt selfish and uncomfortable to put my wellness first, but it is absolutely necessary. Now it’s empowering.

What three key lessons have you learnt in your entrepreneurial path, which continue to carry you forward?

This is where I whip out my handy book of life lessons and Leslie Knope quotes. The first lesson is to acknowledge that none of us achieves anything alone.  Surrounding yourself with the right people is key. Invest in relationships that are mutually beneficial both personally and professionally. Give back. Look for the right mentors, and learn when it’s time to cut ties with the wrong people. I am inspired by the people in my circle and gain tremendous value from maintaining those relationships.

Secondly, learn to be flexible. As a producer, I used to pride myself on my ability to make a plan and then work the plan. Don’t get me wrong, planning and preparation is very important! But I’ve learned that embracing the uncertainty of what’s to come actually allows you to be open to opportunities / events / developments that are better than what you could have envisioned for yourself. I find leaning into the discomfort of the unknown very liberating now.

Lastly, protect your integrity with all you have.

Your name, your brand, your work, everything you do needs to be in line with your ethics and integrity. There will be times when opportunities come your way that require you to bend your ethics beyond an appropriate boundary – learn to say no to these. It may mean walking away from exposure, money, or a high-profile partner, but it’s worth it. Trust your instincts.

What doubts or fears have you had to face through running a company?

How much time do we have? I deal with a rotating slate of fears and doubts, like anyone else. Fear of failure, mistakes, doubts about my abilities, doubts on whether I’m doing enough, and I think that’s normal for anyone who is ambitious and practices self-awareness. We all have those little “vampires” our heads telling us what we can’t do. My friend Susan Blackwell does an incredible workshop called “Die, Vampire! Die!” based on the track from the hit musical that focuses on identifying and removing barriers (vampires) that hold us back from true creative self-expression. Whenever doubts and fears creep in, sometimes I play that track and let Susan’s voice remind me to kill off those vampires. I highly recommend it for your empowerment playlist.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Whether you’re just starting your career, starting your own business, or making the transition to something new – be patient with yourself. Results take time and tremendous effort. Don’t give up the first or second time something doesn’t turn out the way you imagined. There will always be roadblocks to work around, over, and under. Extend the compassion you would show someone else to yourself – and keep going.

What's next for you?

Who knows? I have high hopes for the next chapter in my career, but I’m loosening the reins on the plan. First I have to finish the Brave Millennial Tour and gather some more research. There are places to go, stories to hear, and stories to tell. Then I will keep waking up every day and acting on my authentic desire to do all the good I can for as long as I can. I trust that if I keep showing up, great things can happen.


Please tell us your favourite:

Book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.

Website: For work – Gmail. For keeping up with the world – Facebook. It’s the best for aggregating news and articles I want to see from other great content makers.

Early morning activity: Drinking coffee (nothing happens before the coffee) and reading the news. Oh my god, that may be the most adult thing I’ve ever said.

Late night activity: Sometimes I get into my best work grooves at 10pm, and end up staying up 'til 3am knocking something out. I just have to go with it! I also love to curl up with Dylan and catch up on my favourite TV shows.

Gourmet snack: Anything with a sweet/salty combo. If my trainer Liz is reading this, then, organic berries. 

Laura Youngkin is a theatrical producer, creative consultant, and proud millennial originally from Dallas, Texas. With a decade of experience in the entertainment industry, Laura's work covers a broad range of disciplines including off-Broadway and commercial theatre, opera, independent film, television development, advanced robotics, and large-scale themed attractions. Laura spent five years at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, CA where she produced projects for Shanghai Disney Resort, Disney Research & Development, Walt Disney World, and Disney Creative Entertainment. She also oversaw creative development for Na'vi River Journey, a new attraction coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a part of Pandora, the World of AVATAR. Laura holds an MFA in Producing from CalArts, a BFA in Theatre from Baylor University, and a Certificate in Virtual Design & Construction from Stanford University. In addition to theatre, storytelling, and Millennials, Laura is passionate about arts education in underserved communities, student debt recovery, and social entrepreneurship. She lives in her newly adopted hometown of Orlando, Florida with her husband, Dylan. 

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Work/life balance struggles? Try shifting focus instead

By Claire Mansell.

As a busy mum of two young children and an owner of two businesses, finding work/life balance is something I have struggled with for years. It was only when I realised that for me, balance was impossible to achieve, and I was instead better off ‘shifting focus’ between family, life and work, that I started to become more productive and content.

It’s a way of life that works really well for me. I choose to focus on one thing at a time, and find myself so much more engaged and capable of achieving what I need to. By adopting the following five tactics and letting go of the stress of trying to achieve balance, my life has been transformed.

1.     Focus on one major task at a time

Women are talented at multi-tasking. As a mother and business owner this skill has served me well. Yet juggling a few large tasks at one time made me increasingly unproductive. As I have two businesses, it’s important for me to create space and designate times to work on each. When I’m working on one, I focus solely on it. I don’t jump between email accounts. This is something I used to do and it just made me frustrated, stressed and lowered my productivity.

The same goes when I’m spending time with my children. I have a strict rule of turning my phone off and being fully present at certain times of the day such as in the mornings and before their bedtime.

2.     Work in sprints

I know this doesn’t work for everyone but it works for me. I choose to work by having productive periods, followed by downtime. I have recently launched my second business, which was more of a marathon than a sprint, as it was an intense six months. But I’m now rewarding myself with down time.

3.     Always allow time to refuel

Holidays have always been very important to me. It is not as easy as it used to be, but my husband and I book in at least one big holiday a year, and try to get away on weekends. Even when I’m going through an intensive sprint period with my businesses, I try not to work on weekends and instead spend this time with my family and refuelling.

4.     Be flexible

As a mum and business owner, I always plan for the unexpected! The launch of my second business recently coincided with my 18 month old getting so sick he was hospitalised. Family always come first and everything had to wait. Things always work out; you just need to move your focus to the priority.

5.     Be organised and plan, plan, plan

The only way I have been able to provide an environment to shift between family and work is by planning in advance. When I decided to launch my second business last year, I made plans way ahead of time to have my parents, who live in South Africa, to come and live with us for a year so they could assist. They have been an amazing support this last year. I also make sure I’m extremely organised with both businesses. When I finish up working on each business for the day I will write a list of everything that needs to be done the next day. Being organised ensures that most of the time there is a smooth transition between life and business. This is a win for my businesses, family and most importantly myself ensuring I am productive, content and happy.

Claire Mansell is the proud mother of 2 and the Director of Mansell Taylor Consulting and the Founder of Motivated Mummy Entrepreneurship.

Her career has taken her from South Africa, to the UK to Australia. For over 15 years she has worked in professional services partnering with executives of corporate businesses. While on maternity leave in 2013 her managerial role was made redundant and within a few days she had set up her own consulting business. 

With her business consulting knowledge, sales background and her entrepreneur skills she is now ‘paying it forward’, motivating and supporting mum entrepreneurs to live the life they dream of and deserve. 



Raspberry interviews Lauren Jane of Inactive Wear

Hey Lauren! Tell us your purpose here on planet Earth.

Ohh yes. Good start. My purpose is to grow. It’s so simple yet it can break you at times. I am obsessed with personal development, growth hacking (both digitally and in life) and my personal and professional growth but constantly being in a growing phase can be hard, sometimes you just want to be the super awesome expert and something.

How did you come to be where you are right now?

This is a novel right here! I guess the best way to explain this would be to my curious personality and again, my desire to grow. I have always investigated ways to expand my experience and that would probably be the broad explanation of how I got to be where I am now.

On a more granular level, I grew up in North East Victoria and always had a drive to see the world i.e. not live and die in a country town. I ended up in Noosa for 9 years where I connected with some of the best people from all over the world and was inspired to travel more. I lived in Indo, South America, travelled to UAE, Europe, Asia, New Zealand. Noosa also led me to meeting my current CEO who led me to a role in Brisbane. From living in Brisbane I wanted to be more active and well, I guess the rest is history…  

Why did you decide to start your company, Inactive Wear?

It actually started as a bit of a joke at my gym. I was posting slogans on Facebook during a challenge and people just seemed to respond really positively. Inactive Wear was all market driven.  People kept asking for shirts so I thought ok, let’s do this and see where it goes.

What is your dream-level goal for Inactive Wear?

I want Inactive Wear to be the most likeable, recognisable and charitable active wear brand in the world.  I want to see Katy Perry in Hot Mess, I want J-lo in Booty Gains. I want Chris Hemsworth in my arms but also in For Quad Sake… I have big goals…  

Tell us about the journey to get Inactive Wear in your hot little hands. What did it take to go from idea, to design, to production?

Well actually the idea was put on me from people at the gym rather than me sitting and thinking “Oh what do I want to do?” After that all happened I investigated how I would take it to market. Having a career in start-up I knew a few things about taking a product to market for example: MVP, minimum viable product. Essentially, you test the market before you go to market. This was my pre-sale. I did mock up designs, I created my own website and I promoted via social media to see what would sell first.

When it came to production, it was very important to me to use an ethical manufacturing company and I chose a New Zealand company that has transparency all along their supply chain.  And finally, my favourite little quirk is our packaging, which I won’t share as it’s always a fun surprise when people receive it but it is recyclable too. I really wanted this to be a fun brand with a big heart and be as ethically responsible as possible.  

What does your current business model look like?

Sole trader, online, with the occasional pop-up location. Next steps will be partnerships and brand affiliates.

Talk us through what typical day (or week!) in the Lauren Jane world might look like.

I am crossfit training right now so I am up early. It’s really hard. Like, scared to get out of bed hard. But this morning I was gifted a pair of shoes by an amazing team member, so I am on top of the world. I also hit a PB on my deadlift so I can’t complain too much. I normally touch base with a girlfriend and my mum. I’m then onto my Inactive Wear work in the mornings. That could be promoting, connecting, responding to email etc. I love to listen to podcasts in the morning; they get me jacked up for the day.

I am then off to my job at Tappr. There I could be doing anything from SEO, to content creation, event management, website updates…anything digital marketing or communications. In the evenings I try to get some work done but often I am beat and want to Netflix so hard. I may write some notes but it’s normally a hot shower and a deep sleep (fingers crossed). I am pretty low-key during the week to get this stuff done. On the weekend I NEED to do nature things. Walk with a girlfriend or head up the coast. I need trees and water and sun. Will surely die otherwise.  

Any advice for the many of us who are juggling a start up business with a job?

Have no shame.

There’s so much entrepreneurial guilt about having a *gasp* JOB but like, guess what? I am paying my bills, building my business with no stress and learning transferable skills. I enjoy both, why would I not what to do both? Sure, over time when I have built the brand to a sustainable level I will move into it full time but right now it’s all pretty perfect.

My other advice is to be present with whatever task you are doing. You get nothing done thinking about one thing while you are trying to do another.

Set yourself goals. My goal is to work on Inactive Wear 2 hours a day. That takes my workday to 10 hours. That’s fairly achievable. You time schedule will be different, plan it to work for YOU!! Be realistic and time -manage yourself with Pomodoro method.

Remember when inspiration wears off you need discipline. Write EVERYTHING down. You WILL forget! Evernote is my saviour.

Ok, so I was just making it rain with advice but there’s a lot to learn and you have to know where you are and what information is relevant to YOU.

The work vs life balance – how do you keep this in check?

Don’t they say its work-life harmony now? Haha. I don’t know, actually. I go hard when I can and have time away to the coast or the hinterland the other times.  I have chosen an awesome selection of kick-ass friends all who understand me and thus support my aspirations and me. I am a huge fan of rest and recovery so any sort of mediation or relaxing music, I am all about it. Laughing at yourself and constantly check in to see if you’re actually ok. You have to do what works for you, find that out and you will be winning.  

What three key lessons have you learnt in your entrepreneurial path, which continue to carry you forward?

Learn your MVP on each project/launch/product/service and take ACTION to refine!

Work out how you can build SYSTEMS to make your life easier!

When inspiration fades you need DISCIPLINE!

Also just one more: GIVE A SHIT about yourself and your customers. It goes a long way.

These aren’t very romantic statements, well except the last one but in my experience you need more than quote to go pro, bank cash and give back.  

What doubts or fears have you had to face through running a company?

The usual suspects:

Will anyone like my gear?

Will someone steal my ideas?

Will I turn into someone with no friends or be a woman who is un-dateable due to success?

Am I doing it right?

Can I keep this going?

All the standard shit you got to bop on the head to keep going… punch fear in the throat, but cry a bit first if you need.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

START. Honestly, ACTION is the only way to move forward. Each thing leads to the next even if you can’t see the bigger picture right now. I only knew how to build my current website because of a website I had built for my consulting business, of which I had no clients. That could have been seen as a failure but it’s got me here, now. Reframe failing to learning and you will be much easier on yourself and go further for sure.  

What's next for you?

Expansion, both personally and professionally. I am always on the look out for new opportunities for Inactive Wear and myself. I have my sights set on winning some award in my field and I would love to win Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year, but I have a lot more to do before I am recognised there. More of this too please universe, this is really fun to be involved with such a great publication with such high vibes. I love it.  


Please tell us your favourite:

Book: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. It was my first love.

Website: Google, sorry but it’s the gateway to everything.

Early morning activity: Podcasts

Late night activity: Errr, um…self exploration?

Gourmet snack: That bloody beautiful goats cheese from Meredith Dairy. Last meal thanks. 

Lauren Jane is the founder of Inactive Wear - ethical active wear for the super fun!



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