Inspirational Woman – Kim Bennett

Here’s a testament to the power of networking! I travelled to Marlow recently to give a talk to a business networking group. Kim wasn’t actually at the event but some friends of hers were. They thought I would find Kim’s story of interest, and they are right. More importantly I think you will find it interesting and inspirational too!

Jane: Kim, can you tell us a little about Serenity Retreat (great name) and how the idea for your business came about?
Kim: Well, I went and lived and worked on a kibbutz in Israel when I was 19 and I loved it.  I promised myself that I would go back once I’d saved some money.  I got sucked back into London life and believing that money and a successful career are the most important things on the planet.

I am wise to this now!  Starting Serenity Retreat  was less a decision and more a realisation that I have no option. I got sober 7 years ago and have made some pretty poor choices in the past.  I didn’t want to get to 60 and look back over the previous 25 years and wish I’d done something differently.  My choice is to either live a satisfactory life or to explore the opportunity of living an EXTRAordinary life – see? No choice!

I loved my current job but wanted to follow my passion.  I’ve been on a number of singles holidays.  I have never had the money to go on most of the self development type holidays available and I was getting majorly fed up with having to pay a single supplement with ‘normal’ holidays.    I tried the budget singles holidays but didn’t feel as though I was meeting my kind of people – people on a spiritual or self development journey.

Importantly, when I first got sober I wanted to go somewhere that felt ‘safe’ and wasn’t going to be a binge drinking  destination –  I couldn’t really find any holidays that catered to me.  I don’t want special treatment or an alcohol lockdown, just somewhere that I could meet some interesting people and not feel as though my NOT drinking was going to be an issue.

Regardless of our backgrounds, our jobs, our history – we all need some time out, some balance and some escape from the madness that our lives can become…

So I decided to do something about it.  Serenity Retreat was born.

What has been the biggest challenge in setting up the business?
To accept that I won’t go from standing start to Olympian overnight.  I am, by nature, very impatient.  I want things to be a success immediately.  It’s taken me two years to go from idea to fruition, and the first year is unlikely to see any profit.  However, I’m learning lessons…

I’m in this for the long haul, so am planning to be open to change and opportunity but always to keep my eye on the main prize – providing great holidays for single people.  I accept that I have to be patient and that I have to keep chipping away at the things that will make my business a success –  providing a great service,  using social media, being creative with marketing and accepting that there’s an awful lot of stuff I don’t know… yet!

What has been your biggest personal challenge?
I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict, so my greatest success has been to recognise my powerlessness and get help.  I am grateful every single day for the life I now have, one day at a time.

I was so very close to killing myself at the end of my drinking (I tried 3 times) that I’m now very alive to the possibilities that exist for me.  I feel obligated to follow my dreams because I have been given a second chance.  It’s an obligation I embrace.

Who have been your key supporters? Do you have a mentor?
My mentor would be John Dicey, Director at Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking.  This is my other business.  John has been a great mentor along the way and continues to be.  I’m always really impressed with the way he balances business acumen with maintaining his integrity and showing incredible empathy and kindness to just about everyone.

My friends and family have listened to my plans and have been encouraging and supportive.  Incredibly so. In fact a number of them are coming to Serenity Retreat this year – so they really have put their faith in me (and their hard earned cash….!).

The therapists who are coming along have also been great.  They are completely involved and interested and helpful.  They are as passionate about Serenity Retreat as I am – and that’s really important to me.  I feel as though I am part of a great team – how can we be anything other than a success.

It’s a tough and competitive business. Has being a woman helped or hindered you in any way?

I don’t  know whether being a woman has helped or hindered, to be honest.  I hadn’t given it any thought until you asked the question.  I suppose as I’m a woman and it’s mostly women who come on self development or singles holidays then I know my target market quite well….

I’m very good at going on holiday… So that’s a good start.  I have had good and bad experiences, so I’m putting together the most favourable bits.  I have a background in customer service having been in both the recruitment and hospitality industries.  I currently run my own successful business so am happy with the logistical side of it all together.
Most importantly, I really like people.

How do you relax and unwind?
Books.  I love reading.  Modern classics, beach junk, crime, thrillers, classics.  I love them all.  The odd bit of Law and Order (TV programme) doesn’t go amiss either!

What do you think is the most important decision you made in your life?
To ask for help when I needed it and to accept it when it was offered.

Do  you remember what  your first paid job was? And how much did you earn?
I was a chalet cleaner for Butlins in Wales! £12 a day.  My sister and I would get collected at 6am and deposited at 6pm.  I never cleaned a bath that had a spider in though…

If you could give the 18 year old Kim one piece of advice, what would it be?
Wow.  That’s a big question.  I wouldn’t have listened anyway come to think of it.  But something along the lines of accepting that you’re perfect as you are and to have faith that this is the case.  As I said, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it!


What would you say to women who are looking to take the plunge and go into business?

Do it.  Do great research.  Be honest with yourself regarding both your strengths and weaknesses.  Ask for help from family and friends with the weaker areas. Write a business plan.  If someone asks you a question regarding your business that makes you squirm – don’t shy away from it.  It’s the universe’s way of getting your attention!
Have passion.  Go for the extraordinary life….

Kim, thank you so much for your honest and inspirational account!

If you’d like to learn more about Serenity Retreat, this link will take you there.

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Posted on April 29th, 2010 by

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