A Winding Road to 2021
Building a Business, Failing and Rising Again.
“It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.” Eddie Cantor
2020. We can all agree, it was a hard year for everyone. The world shut down. There was sadness and suffering. To be honest, it comes after a few bad years.
The Narrows Art Retreat has had a number of false starts….but 2021 is going to be different. Although we’ve had a substantial number of artists since we started, running the retreat, with all the setbacks has been challenging. Hope, however, is actually my middle name and that is what I have for the future, for all of us.
Starting from the beginning: Building the retreat, while extremely satisfying had its challenges because we built it ourselves, which basically means ‘it took a lot of time.’ My husband has his own company, so we had to do it mostly on nights and weekends, when he wasn’t working. So much love, fun and hard work was poured into this place but it did take us four years to go from bare land to having a yurt, retreat/studio space and cabin on the property. This is hard for impatient people, but rewarding in the end and taught us a lot. After a community straw bale raising, and teaching our kids the importance of green building….we were finally finished and able to open the doors. All I wanted to do was share this special place with other creatives. I opened the retreat at the end of summer 2016. I held workshops, artist residencies and kids camps. I loved teaching, meeting artists, and sharing enthusiasm for art with kids. I thought this could be something, yes business wise, but mostly to fuel my soul. And isn’t that what it’s all about? To find something that motivates and fills your soul up.
2017: During the spring/summer, which is the busy season for The Narrows, I had 8 screws put in my foot, and was laid up for most of the summer. One of the very special attractions of The Narrows is the remoteness. It is difficult getting there (travel by boat, load your supplies up in a wagon, walk down a dirt road, then through a winding trail to the retreat), which also makes it less than easy to do while in a cast for 3 months. So, while this is a draw most of the time, the difficult logistics meant I couldn’t host workshops or get artists over there on a regular basis. My kids and husband pitched in and brought some artists over for residencies, but mostly as my foot healed, workshops and residencies were put on hold. No worries, there is always next year.
2018 -Fast forward to 2018, artistic things were happening at The Narrows, the word was getting out about residencies. I held workshops and retreat gatherings, while balancing my own personal art practice and having shows. Then, another setback - a more serious one this time. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2018. Another big pause on the retreat, as going through treatment and a life threatening diagnosis really threw me both emotionally and physically. There was much healing, time spent reflecting and battling, getting through a treatment regime that left me absolutely exhausted and worn out. I could hardly walk up stairs and was mostly bed ridden for 4 months. So, the retreat once again was on hold. I could not run a business going through treatment, and for those who do, I have the utmost respect. But my mind and body needed time to heal, and I needed to take it.
2019- So, the year was pretty much a write off. I had a few artists in residence, but it was low key and the workshop portion was again shut down. Cancer treatment was finally over in January 2020, I was back on my feet, feeling better, made it through everything, albeit emotionally scathed and while I’m continually working on that, I did feel strong physically and came to the business recharged and ready to make a difference in the art community. I rebranded to The Narrows Art Retreat - poured more money, time and energy into the place. I was excited for this new year.
2020 - In January/Feb, I had two dancers from Australia doing a residency, excited for the space, their new choreography and the snow that they had never experienced. They left, and I thought this is it, this is the year that this thing really gets off the ground. International art community come and create! Word was getting out. I am a woman entrepreneur, I’ve got this! I can do art for a living and run a business. Smooth sailing from now on….
And then the world changed. For everyone…not just me. Covid hit and shut everyone down…and my little business in the interior of British Columbia was closed indefinitely. Because I was in treatment the year before, none of the covid financial measures/relief applied to me. But that was OK. We can always borrow money and we’re way better off than much of the rest of the world.
If you’re still with me, I say none of this to invoke sympathy or pity. I say this to share what creating and running a business is really about. The pivot, the failing, the rising again. The false starts, the new beginnings. The things you don't see on social media. I tell my kids you have to fail to succeed ALL.THE.TIME. Running a business, no matter what your personal circumstances are, takes time, effort, dedication and passion.
So once again in 2021, as Covid hopefully comes to a close, we focus again on Artist Residencies. There is seldom a straight path in business ventures. They say the successful arrival at a destination is the result of course corrections to numerous failures. Our path so far has been anything but straight, but that is what makes the destination so special.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!