Retreat or Event Hosting
Steps to build your own retreat and event center
- Learn the business. You might gain related work experience and attend many events at a variety of retreat and event centers. Try to focus on one type of event so that you and the rest of the staff can get familiar and proficient in the work more quickly.
- Make a team. Add to your leadership team or advisory board others who have familiarity with the hospitality industry and living in intentional community. Use ICmatch.org to build up your core leadership team and other values-aligned volunteers who might start by working in exchange for room and board plus training, as your group levels up. Make sure you have plenty of extroverts on staff who will welcome the constant inflow of new guests.
- Plan it. Create your business plan. You’ll need this for loans, and it will help your team coordinate.
- Fund it. To be eligible for grants, you might team up with non-profits who need fundraising event hosting or their own team-building retreats. You host also free or discounted retreats for grant-supported projects or populations. Identify disadvantaged groups you care about and could include in the client base and on your staff as part of your residential community. One of your team members joining the board of a local nonprofit with a joint goal could help coordinate your efforts; just be upfront about the intention.
- Make it legit. Obtain the professional certifications, permits, licenses, and insurance you need for the hospitality industry.
- Iterate. Don’t wear out your group by taking on too large of events too soon, unless you pair your group members with professional catering staff and event management staff who they can work alongside and learn from.
- Market it. Online marketing includes creating an informative website, social media accounts, and postings on related forums. Local community involvement is sometimes overlooked as an important way to spread the word. You want locals to know you are contributing to your area. Especially in rural areas, you can gain support and help the local economy by hiring locals as extra help for large events. Promote your business with brochures in related businesses and ads in related publications.
Successful event centers include Sahale in Washington State (run by the Goodenough Community) and Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center in New York. Many other top retreat centers are run largely by resident staff that is sometimes more and sometimes less an intentional community.
If you are looking for existing ecologically sustainable communities, IC.org searches can help you sort out which existing intentional communities in North America have a self-sufficiency focus. See also the Global Ecovillage Network , NuMundo.org/centers (emphasis on Central & South America), and Ecobasa.org (emphasis on Europe).
Starting with a manual for urban ecovillages can help you learn from others’ mistakes.
More reading and viewing resources:
- Bang, J. M. (2005). Ecovillages. New Society Press.
- Bang, J. M. (2007). Growing eco-communities: Practical ways to create sustainability. Floris Books.
- Drecovillage. (2014). Full-length tour of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage at their 2013 open house.
- Nelson, A. (2018). Ecovillages: Sustainability and system change. In Small is necessary: Shared living on a shared planet (pp. 130-158). Pluto Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctt1zk0mpz.12
- Training for natural building.