Learning the Curves in the Road

“WBDC is a wonderful place for people to come with their ideas and see if they’re viable or not.”


 Karla Downing of Alive Retreats

As a grandmother, Karla Downing feels it is time to pass her knowledge on. As the host of Alive Retreats, she hopes to empower her guest to make their own health choices by creating a sanctuary where they can experience whole foods and the positive effect on their bodies.

When I visited her home in the hills of Willits, she served me fresh watermelon with rind juice and explained with a smile that all the vitamins are in the rind. She told me about her journey from student to teacher, which has been marked by the joy of hosting her first retreat and the struggle of becoming a first time business woman.

Having worked as a massage therapist for forty years, she felt ready for a new career path and when a friend suggested she attend a Body Mind Restoration retreat in Upstate New York, she went twice as a guest and then stayed on as staff. “”I was just like, Yes! This is what I want to do.”

Four years later, she has hosted her first 10 day retreat and is planning the next phase, which will include shorter retreats and retreats designed specifically for new parents who want to raise their kids holistically.

Right now Karla is funding herself with savings and feels it will be a good investment. Her hope is to grow a business that would pay her and her staff a salary, as well as sustain a meditation center. It’s a lot more work than she expected, but the joy and satisfaction of her first successful retreat keeps her going.

She has sought help from West Business Development Center, to learn about money management, organization and social media. “I guess I just hadn't anticipated what it would take to brand a business, to get it out into the world. I’ve never tracked money, it’s not my strong point. That’s why I went to WBDC. They hold my hand.”

It has been overwhelming and she’s had nights of sitting at her lap top in tears, but her support system is strong. Her team, which includes her husband Rick and her son and his wife have been volunteering their time and energy. She also adds that WBDC have been great cheerleaders for her. “WBDC is a wonderful place for people to come with their ideas and see if they’re viable or not.”

Diving into the world of business has been quite an education and her husband jokes that it’s like she’s going to business school. “It’s a huge learning curve and I still have a long way to go, but I’m growing and getting better. I’m glad WBDC is here. I can always ask for help.”

As we talked Karla looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Sometimes I feel like Bilbo Baggins. It’s like I have this ring to carry and sometimes I think I don’t want to, but I do.” She knows she is on the right path and has been amazed at how many people believe in her.

Right now, she is still working as a massage therapist and devotes 20 hours a week toward ALIVE. She’s motivated by a deep desire to collaborate with others and create something larger then herself, after years of being a solo practitioner. It also gives her something meaningful to do with her son. “I feel like I’ve been preparing for this my whole life. It brings all my skills together to one platform.”


Torrey Douglass