I just got back from Cancun, Mexico from the Indie Business Cruise (or, #notcruise as jokingly called it now that it’s moved onto land). Donna Maria Coles Johnson has hosted #IndieCruise Mastermind since 2011. They have visited several exotic Caribbean destinations including St. Thomas, Belize, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cancun. In her own words, she says: “The #IndieCruise Mastermind for Creative Entrepreneurs grew out of my desire to host an intimate retreat for people who want to gain increased clarity and take specific actions that will grow their business in ways that complement their lives. We separate ourselves from the demands of everyday life, in the company of like-minded entrepreneurs, to work “on” rather than “in” our businesses. A super highlight every year is the amazing speakers. Our 2016 event was no exception, as we welcomed amazing speakers, including Bramble Berry founder, Anne-Marie. Her presentation and workshop on life planning and productivity was a special highlight of #IndieCruise 2016.”
Though I had always wanted to go, I had never been on the Indie Business Cruise. Either I was having babies or was their only nutritional support or any number of business reasons (cash flow, schedule, you name it!). This year, the stars aligned and I could hardly believe it when I realized I was going to Mexico, on business! Talk about a fantastic location (Cancun). I gave a 3.5 hour workshop on designing your life for unsurpassed productivity and fulfillment. The group was attentive and engaged, and best of all, they were enthusiastic about doing the homework.
I loved every minute of Indie Business Cruise (on land). The entire environment that Donna Maria has fostered is supportive and judgement free. Everyone feels like a friend immediately and, more importantly, your cheerleader. If you’ve ever been on the fence about going, go for the blessed 4 days to just focus on your business and get away from the daily hustle and bustle. Even the trip down to Mexico from SeaTac airport was a treat for me; I can’t remember the last time I sat without any responsibilities for 6 hours. I got my 4 year professional development goals done and sketched out my 10 year plan. That was a LOT of thinking and dreaming big. I am thankful for the space and time that Indie Business Cruise gave me to be expansive.
My big business takeaways from Indie Business Cruise presenters were:
- HARO – Help a Reporter Out is a fantastic FREE press and publicity generator for businesses large and small. Roberta Perry talked to us about her experience with the medium, the importance of follow-up and shared anecdotal stories of press success. It was inspiring! With everything she shared, from tips from how to craft your pitch to the best days to pitch a reporter, everyone in the audience agreed that Roberta has a book in her for sure! I’ll be the first in line to buy it.
- Video is a deeper way to connect with your customers. It can be as easy as you with a camera; it doesn’t have to be fancy and it’s a great medium for you to connect with potential buyers and showcase your brand personality. Stacia Guzzo killed it with her talk; she was funny, prepared and authoritative. She also inspired everyone in the room to try their hands at using videos to help their products and personality stand out.
- To get off the rat race of setting goals, not achieving them, getting depressed and then doing it all again the next year, it’s key to set values driven goals. Values are key for setting goals that matter to you; there is no point in setting a goal that society makes you think you should have if it doesn’t ultimately serve your ultimate purpose. The way you find out what your purpose is is by figuring out your values and going through a personal mission statement exercise. There are a variety of ways to find your values; here is one idea by Inc magazine and here’s another one, by me (that hasn’t changed much since I first posted about it in 2010; hello throwback!)
- Community building is key to brand success. Donna Maria gave an inspiring talk about the importance of building a community for your brand. She talked about the different types of communities and pointed out that if you have a fan base at a Farmer’s Market, that’s a ‘community.’ It doesn’t need to be this big, scary, highly organized thing. Just start with one thing and build from there – a mailing list, an email list, a Twitter following, a Snapchat account, a Facebook page – start with one thing and gently cultivate friendship and conversation and that will eventually translate to loyalty and sales. Find your tribe to help your business grow.
These were just the highlights of the Indie Business Cruise. I really want to go back. Next year is Dominican Republic! Thank you Donna Maria and Indie Business Network for an amazing and inspiring four days.