Margaritas can be very productive

Shireen Bawnlavery in Costa Rica at a business retreat

When Ash Ambirge proposed we all meet in Costa Rica for a business retreat, I was ALL IN. Twenty brilliant, caring women and Ash herself, in an infinity pool, drinking margaritas, bonding and sharing wisdom. Um... hello! 

I’d been pondering a new business project, so the timing was perfect. I know from experience (my own mistakes and big-headedness) that you HAVE to get outside of your own head. Diligently answering emails, keeping your records straight and perfecting your website is just an illusion of productivity. Trust me on this.

You need to talk it out, share your ideas, get feedback, hear the perspectives of others. It will often surprise you. But you need the right people. Not the friend who says it can’t be done, or the partner who says everything you do is wonderful. You need like-minded business owners. Who GET IT.

So I bought my retreat ticket, booked the seriously arduous journey to Manuel Antonio (three jets, an overnight and a puddle jumper) and found myself a little casita in the jungle.

I arrived sweltering hot at my hotel (after a ride in an un-airconditioned taxi with a driver who got lost). The hotel owner, Juan, proudly showed me the best part of my casita - a large balcony surrounded by gigantic palms, flying monkeys and toucans. 

That was the beginning of an adventure I’ll never forget.

During the day, I was surrounded by the most lovely women, in a swanky villa, where Ash spoiled us rotten. Private chefs and scrumptious local dishes, Costa Rican coffee and our own masseuses! We drank margaritas in the infinity pool after lunch. We played, we brainstormed, we cried, and we laughed.

See all the photos on Facebook...


At night, I talked myself out of being scared of the mysterious sounds of the dark jungle outside (like monkeys throwing coconuts onto tin roofs).

The balcony entrance to my place had no door. Only a sheer curtain between me and that jungle. And there were strange creatures inside my bedroom. One night there was such a horrendous crash, I swore a lightning bolt had shredded a nearby tin roof. The lightning lit up my room all through the night, like a backdrop for a horror movie (yes I’m a city girl, can’t you tell). 

I was challenged by day and challenged by night, in completely different ways.

Ashley, of Miniskirt Ninja, made me roar (something I've never done in my life). Heidi, a personal brand photographer, made me fake laugh, to catch my afterglow for a photograph (a brilliant trick of hers). I learned things I never expected to. I even experienced some personal transformation - like how to let go of my composure.

Those brilliant girlfriends gave me a treasure chest full of ideas that are so ME, they make me want to jump up and scream YAAAY!! I’ve got twenty cheerleaders who really want me to make this happen. I start free weekly coaching sessions with Tarryne, a wicked cool woman I totally hit it off with (we trade our expertise). (Just yesterday, she gave me a fantastic idea; a total game changer!)

It’s not cheap to hang out with Ash, or in a swanky villa being spoiled rotten (because Ash knows how to treat her girlfriends). But add a few zeros to the cost and that’s the value I came home with. 

Seriously, I saved myself months of trial and error, spinning thoughts around inside my own head, wondering if I’m doing the right thing. And that’s worth A LOT more than I spent.

Working 24/7 at your desk creates just that: a life of working 24/7 at your desk. Getting out of your comfort zone, being real with real people who GET YOU - that's what makes dreams come true. So here are my takeaways for you...

1. Masterminding with like-minded entrepreneurs is the single most important thing you can do for your business. Your assumptions will be challenged (and this is crucial to your success). Your perspective will shift. Ideas will flow and build momentum with each person’s contribution. The synergy of the right group is so empowering, you'll wish you started your first day in business.

2. Committing to a small group creates lasting value. When people help you, they become invested in you and want to see you succeed. They become your cheerleaders.

3. Being real (human, transparent, vulnerable) is better for your business than pretending to be perfect. People feel a devotion to you that doesn’t happen when you act superior to them. And that feeling will buy more loyalty than any slick marketing campaign.

So give your business a gift. Book a day or a week with the girls somewhere fancy. Devote the day to brainstorming - and start feeling like the wealthy goddess you're meant to be.

Next post: My personal story about my Costa Rican adventure, including a little secret I told everyone.