Women Who Cowork is headed to majestic Banff in Alberta, Canada. Co-founders Laura Shook Guzman and Iris Kavanagh have partnered with GCUC Canada to create an unforgettable retreat and conference experience for our Women Who Cowork community and the extended coworking community.
I recently chatted with GCUC Canada producer Ashley Proctor about the inspiration for the partnership, how event participants will be able to create a custom experience that fits their interests and pace, and how the GCUC team has made this once-in-a-lifetime experience as accessible as possible.
Cat Johnson: Why did you choose Banff for this year’s GCUC Canada?
Ashley Proctor: Banff is Canada’s oldest national park and it is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world. It’s also an important historical place for indigenous people in Canada. There’s a lot of history in the mountains and you can feel it.
Banff is a unique experience for Canadians, and a great way to showcase the natural beauty of Canada for people who are visiting for the first time, or who haven’t explored Alberta.
What makes Banff a great location for GCUC Canada?
It’s really important, going into an event, to ground yourself and to think carefully what it is you want to bring to the table and what you want to take home from the event.
GCUC Canada is a very intentional event—it’s not an industry event in a typical sense. It’s very unique. Putting it in Banff is really setting the table for everyone.
If you fly into Calgary and take the shuttle up to Banff, you’re going to experience an hour-long, majestic mountain ride. There is no way you can arrive in Banff stressed out if you take that ride. Once you get there, it’s one of the most awe-inspiring, natural, beautiful places you’ve ever seen. Banff can set your mind right for what you’re about to undertake.
GCUC Canada attendees will have the opportunity to dig really deep into personal reflection, or get some downtime, relaxing time, retreat time.
There are a lot of activities there, so you have the option of being introspective and reflective, or you can jump in and do activities. There are a lot of collaborative facilities and opportunities for people, so you can step in and out and really customize your experience. That gives everyone an opportunity to get what they need out of this time.
How did the partnership with Women Who Cowork come about? How do you see the two events working together?
The Women Who Cowork were looking to provide a space for owner-operators to work on what it is they need to work on. They wanted to create a safe, comfortable, open, inspiring, supportive space, with the same intention that you can step in or out at your own pace.
I really love the idea of working with them, having attended one of the previous Women Who Cowork events and seeing how well it would fit as an introduction to GCUC Canada. People can come earlier and unwind, then really bring their best selves to GCUCU Canada. We’re all so busy juggling so many things that sometimes it takes a day or two just to figure out where you’re at and what you need.
If you’re not a woman, or not part of the Women Who Cowork group, the facilities at Banff would allow you to come up a few days earlier and guide your own retreat: take a hike, meditate, spend some time in the woods, go to the hot springs, do the climbing wall.
Iris and Laura have done a really great job of facilitating these events in the past and it’s just a perfect introduction to the reflections and the learning we’re going to do at GCUC.
Banff can be very expensive. How are you working around this for GCUC Canada?
One of my concerns about having the event at Banff is that it’s a world-class destination. Around the world, people know how beautiful it is. They also assume that it’s very expensive—and it can be if you don’t do it right.
We’ve done a lot of work getting group rates and securing partnerships through GCUC. We’ve secured a lot of discounted opportunities for everyone, making Banff accessible to more people. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience such a beautiful place at a reasonable rate.
You fly into Calgary, which—nothing against Calgary—but it seems pretty uneventful when you land. You can’t see the mountains from there and you need to take either a rental car or the Banff Airporter, which is the best value and experience. We secured a GCUC discount and the ride is really lovely. You sit back and relax in leather seats with full windows and a skylight and just take in the mountains and gorgeous beauty on your way up.
Once you get to Banff, we have an amazing opportunity for the GCUC group to stay together on campus. The Banff Center for Arts and Creativity is an incredible hotel, conference facility, recreational facility, with a beautiful pool and amenities that a traditional hotel would not have. It’s halfway up a mountain, in the midst of a forest. There are deer and elk, and rabbits and foxes will just show up at your door in the morning. It’s just incredible.
At the Banff Center, everything is included while you’re there for the events. You have your accommodations as part of the group rate. You can get a beautiful, private room for $120 Canadian per night, or share a double room for $60 Canadian per night. We encourage everyone to stay together at the Banff Center because there are a lot of activities on campus. If you’re there, you don’t need to take any public transportation, you don’t need to rent a car, you can just walk to all the different conference venues, you can walk to all the after-parties with nothing further than a five or 10-minute walk.
If you’re staying on campus, you can come and go as you need. If a session isn’t speaking to you, you can leave and climb a mountain or go to the climbing wall, or go to the hot springs. Being all together is great to meet the other people, and it gives you a lot of flexibility.
Do you have any suggestions for getting the most out of both GCUC Canada and the Women Who Cowork retreat?
The way we’ve designed it, with the retreat upfront—whether you’re here for the retreat or not—you can take time and think about what you can bring to the table. This is a participatory event—this is not us standing on-stage and talking at you for three days. This is an event where we want you to be involved and engaged.
Take some time to think about what it is you need, and what it is you can offer, in terms of advice, or experience, or just support for others. Show up with an open mind and an open heart and prepare yourself to give and take at this event.
On day one, we have Camp, which is not just for beginners. We have two tracks and you can customize your experience from the beginning. At each turn, you can pick whether you want a coworking 101 workshop or a more advanced workshop or masterclass. You can go back and forth between the two tracks, depending on your expertise and interest—you can customize an experience that makes sense for you.
Day two is full of panels and talks, so there’s a lot to learn. I suggest being a giant sponge and taking as much as you can from that, then enjoying the social events—the happy hours and parties—to get to know one another. The most valuable things you take from GCUC are usually the connections and friendships you make.
Day three is the unconference, which gives everyone an opportunity to share their best practices and ask questions that weren’t answered, and dive deeper into some pretty fantastic conversations. It’s about participation so, if you’re going to show up, show up with your full self and you’ll get the most out of it.
Get your tickets before October 1, when prices go up!
Get tickets to the Women Who Cowork Retreat
Get tickets to GCUC Canada
Note: Tickets to the Women Who Cowork Retreat does not include access to Camp GCUC or GCUC Canada. This is a partnership between Women Who Cowork and GCUC Canada. To attend both, you must purchase tickets to both events.