The Wilderness Tonic Retreat

The Wilderness Tonic Retreat

At the end of January I went on my first ever business retreat day. It was held at The Gathering in Edale, in the Peak District – a beautiful and peaceful location.

Now, I’m not a fan of meeting people I don’t know. Especially when the purpose of the day is to talk about our businesses. And recently I’ve been feeling a little…. wobbly seems to be a good word to use… about my side of B Double E.

I started freelancing as a graphic designer in Manchester in 2014 as I lost a long-term contract sooner than expected and had to find a way of earning some money! In April 2017 I joined forces with husband Rob. We started working together because our accountant suggested it. It would make tax easier, mean less accountancy fees (as it would be for 1 company not 2) and would mean we could share all the fun expenses like insurance!. It made sense to work as one business.

What neither of us were expecting was how this would change our business too. We had some cross-over and some mutual clients, but we had been operating separately – each of us getting on with our own stuff. But, the more we started going to the same events and conferences, the more we started to realise that we could offer something combined. I’d already worked with voiceovers on design projects, and the more I did the more I realised that I loved it. Whilst at the same time I was realising that working as a freelancer wasn’t quite what I wanted to do – I was still commuting (which I hate!), still working 9 to 5, still had little flexibility and – as I was out at client’s offices most days – I didn’t have much time to take on direct projects either. I wanted this to change.

So, I booked onto the Wilderness Tonic Retreat. I was feeling nervous, excited, apprehensive but mostly (I’ll admit) I was expecting to just have a nice peaceful day and some time to relax, but not much more.

I was so wrong.

After a train ride from the hustle and bustle of Manchester Piccadilly, the light drizzle met me in the fabulous Peak District. Within minutes I’d met a couple of people who were also heading to the retreat. As we started the 15 minute walk to the venue, someone else stopped to offer us a lift. I hadn’t even arrived and the friendliness of the group was already evident.

During the day I began to realise that my moving into voiceover specific services isn’t just a result of working with Rob. It’s my passion. I have so much admiration for the work voiceovers do. I’m in total awe that someone can shave a couple of seconds off a read, just like that. The range and type of work is huge. And it’s such an amazingly collaborative industry. So much more than anything I’ve ever experienced within corporate design agency work. I love it and I want to help those who do it too. It can be a misunderstood industry – it’s just talking out loud right?! So when it comes to branding and web, designers can sometimes miss the mark as they don’t have an understanding of the industry.

I’ve also seen far too many voices get a poor or half-done job when they go to designers. Not getting proper logo files or logos that have been designed to be used at different sizes and shapes (essential in these days of social media platforms and such high mobile use) – you can read more about what you should get from a logo designer in my blog post. I’ve heard that some logo companies demand expensive and unnecessary trademarking and add other hidden costs after a project has been ‘completed’. I’ve seen web designers that have built sites that are not mobile-friendly (another essential when 52% of all website traffic is from mobile devices). Quite simply, I couldn’t stand back and watch people get shoddy, poor quality, bad value and unsuitable services.

The day itself was full of different activities. Having to introduce the person we were sat next to after a 5 minute chat completely un-nerved me. Listening to someone I’d only just met do the same to me – describing what my business does – was bizarre and surprising. I felt so proud of the business Rob and I have built.

We talked, we ate cake, we walked and talked, we had lunch together (the curry was amazing!), we laughed and we learnt. Within minutes of arriving I felt so completely at ease with everyone there, most of whom I’d never met. As I listened to people talk about their own businesses I realised that, even though we were all doing very different things, one thing was common – we did what we do because we love it. We care about our clients and we want the very best for them.

At the end of the day, we were given time to ourselves. With questions as prompts we were asked to think of 1 commitment (no matter how tiny) to make to our own business. I went and hid in a darkened corner and started to write and doodle. I was surprised by the results.

  1. I admitted to myself that I felt like I started my business all over again in summer 2019 (the 3rd time since going self-employed) but that this time, I had found my passion.
  2. This meant that I had to start thinking about re-designing and building our website again (I knew Rob would hate me for this – it’s the 4th time in 2 years)
  3. I also knew that Rob and I needed to re-think our business branding from a more joined-up point-of-view. And we needed to find our ‘why’ (check out this YouTube clip where Simon Sinek explains why your business needs a why).

My commitment was to have a day with Rob where we looked at the website, re-structured it and found our why. We did. At a local coffee shop in Sale. This is B Double E’s why…

“Helping voiceovers to be seen and heard.”

I’d love to know what you think. We believe it captures everything we both do and love. It joins us, meaning we can support each other more, which also means a better service for our clients. The website will take a while to re-build as I do still need to work on my clients brand and websites too!

The Wilderness Tonic was a truly inspiring day. Proof that us business owners need to allow ourselves space and time to think and breathe. Proof that spending time with other like-minded business owners can inspire your own business. It has given me confidence and excited me.

I will be going again – although next time I really don’t want to come away wanting to re-build my website for a 5th time!


The Wilderness Tonic retreat – run by Katya Willem, EasyInstaMcr and Karen Webber, Goodness Marketing. Thank you for running such a great event.

All photos in this blog were taken by Kenny Clayton who very generously let me use them. Go check out his work.

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