40 days until my next Mastermind retreat—reflecting on 12 years and 8 life-changing gatherings

2013: I hosted the first storytelling retreat for my business in Florence, Italy

(I struggled to fill it.)

2014: I hosted my second retreat in Sonoma, California.

(The women are still friends today.)

2016: I hosted a retreat in Jackson Hole, WY

(Four women dumped out last minute.)

I stopped to re-tool for a few years

2019: Hosted a retreat in Paris

2021: Hosted a retreat in Paris

2022: Upped it to 2 retreats. The deserts of Marrakech and a private yacht charter off the coast of Croatia.

(With 30 members and their families, it was my most ambitious retreat yet.)

2023: Two retreats again. A villa in Tuscany and a private yacht charter off the coast of Turkey.

(2x-ed my income.)

2024: Hosting a retreat in Nice, France in 40 days

I’m hosting members of my Mastermind, who are actively seeking their next level of life. Nice serves as the half way point of their year with me. I’ll be sharing exercises to harvest stories they haven’t told before in service of their TED style talks on stage come November. I’ll be offering action steps from there and see them through it.

My travel agent back in 2013 said, “Joya, why don’t you just host your retreat in like..I dunno…Connecticut or something?”

Here is what I have learned from planning my 8th retreat in 12 years of business:

  • Have a vision
  • Paint that vision
  • Look at it everyday (Pictures of my retreat in Nice line my entire mirror)
  • Don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise

Just because it seems impossible today.

Doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Big spaces.

Big ideas.

Go for it.

What I did last week

  • Monday. I went with my friend Gino Perotte, who teaches a class on Executive Presence at Baruch, to the Fashion Institute of Technology to listen to Michael Edwards, author of American Legends, detail the history of legendary American perfumes. My Mastermind members are doing a perfume making class in Nice. Learning the “top notes, heart notes, and base notes” (architecture of perfume) becomes a metaphor for building a personal brand.
  • Tuesday I was one of three entrepreneurs presenting at a workshop hosted by Awakenhub. Video. When building a business, it’s key to speak to platforms other than your own.
  • Thursday. It was the monthly meeting of my Samita Lab Mastermind. Come June, I start to interview new candidates for the Class of 2025. Waitlist here.
  • Friday I got a haircut at Whiteroom Brooklyn with my rockstar hairstylist Steven. Life is returning to normal after surgery.
  • Saturday. My client Chef Nitin hosted his first supper club, launching his storytelling concept around 5 courses of food. We worked hard on his storytelling and he killed it. Reel. Photo essay.
  • Sunday. Matt and I walked the Brooklyn Promenade before I sat down to do my Sunday Strategy sessions. I binge-watched “This is Gonna Hurt,” One Day star Ambika Mod’s big breakout role was in this BBC series. It’s Fleabag meets Grey’s Anatomy, minus the schmaltzy romance. The lead character, played by Ben Whishaw, is gay.

What I am looking forward to

  • Friday. Sakhi Gala. I’m a secondary survivor of a home of domestic violence. For as long as my friend and member of the WLL Kavita Mehra has been Executive Director, I have attended this gala. With 600 attendees, this gala is her biggest turnout yet. I’ll be joined by at least 2 other members of the Women’s Leadership Lab. I’m looking forward slipping into my Sachin and Babi gown for the evening at Glasshouse.
  • Saturday. Matt’s birthday celebration continues with dinner with friends at Jose Andres’ Bazaar.
  • Wednesday May 1 I’m co hosting Tech walk! in Central Park


Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

  • 1.Join the Samita Lab Mastermind. Join 8 other women leaders in the core program that sits at the center of my business model. The Mastermind teaches you exactly how to build a powerful person brand and the mindset to support it. Learn how to do storytelling for business. Then harvest 1 thing that is universal and needs to be heard now for your TEDx talk on stage in front of 200 people at the end of the 12 months. Apply for the 2025 waitlist here

    2. Download my E-book   Join 50 women in reading this comprehensive book where I teach you how I landed my own TEDx Talk in 2013 and break down, step by step, how to land yours.

    3. **Take my “Art of Influence” masterclass**:  Join 3500 people in taking my mini-public speaking Masterclass. Learn to organize a compelling talk and my framework for making it super easy.

Janice Whaley CEO, Donor Network West

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