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

Karla Downing, a Willits native, has worked as a massage therapist for forty years. Five years ago, she attended a body-mind restoration retreat in Upstate New York. At first, she went twice as a guest, but then she ended up staying on as staff. As she came to the end of her time there, a light went on for Karla, who had been thinking about how she would pass on all of her knowledge.  She also had been pondering how to collaborate and work with others after years of being a solo practitioner. She felt ready for a new career path, but what? As Downing tells it, after attending the retreat, “I was just like, yes! This is what I want to do.”

Four years later, Alive Retreats was born out of a deep desire to collaborate with others, create something larger then herself and to give 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.” She has hosted her first 10-day retreat in 2018 and is rolling out shorter retreats, and retreats designed specifically for new parents who want to raise their kids holistically. Her hope is to empower her guests to make their own health choices by creating a sanctuary where they can experience whole foods and the positive effect on their bodies.

Karla sought out business advising and workshops from West Business Development Center to learn about money management, organization and social media. “I 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.”

Right now Karla is funding her new business with savings and will grow the business to 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.

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.”

It has been overwhelming and she’s had nights of sitting at her laptop 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.”

As Karla says “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.”

To learn more about Alive Retreats in Ukiah, https://www.aliveretreats.com/