Foreword: What happens when you take 80 members and friends of COCO, the Minneapolis-based co-working and collaborative space, to the wilderness for a weekend retreat? Sublime awesomeness, due in part to the liberal doses of sunshine, inspiring speakers, craft cocktails and beer.
Of course, this is just a glimpse of what was truly a “you had to be there” experience. The location, the weather, the speakers, the friendships – it all came together to create a perfect event. Here is a recap of the first-ever Camp COCO event, as experienced by our very own Field Nation Ambassador, Mollie Grey.
“I didn’t know what to expect traveling to the North Shore of Lake Superior for the first-ever weekend retreat with Camp COCO. As far as I knew, our company was a sponsor and I was traveling to (practically) Canada with about 100 strangers. Although my expectations might have been extremely skewed going into the weekend, I didn’t know that I would leave on Sunday inspired and motivated by a guy who makes commuter bikes and a gal who makes doughnuts out of brioche bread dough. It wasn’t just them who caught my eye – it was every person I talked, listened, and interacted with. Everyone was a dreamer, a life-long learner, and on a mission. It was a weekend because everyone was on their own journey and had a story to tell – and I’m happy to say I got to leave with a few great stories of my own!
Let’s rewind to the day we arrived: Friday, mid-afternoon. We were greeted with a cold beer (reminder: this was an adult retreat, so don’t frown upon my beer- I needed it!) and our dormitories. Dinner started at five where we were assigned seats based on the animal attached to our nametags. I was a skunk and sat at the skunk table. “Team Skunk” we called ourselves the remainder of the weekend. You could already tell the amount of planning that went into the weekend just by the effort put into getting guests to escape from their comfort zones and talk… and it worked! Team Skunk all the way!
Following dinner was our first keynote speaker, Nancy Lyons from Clockwork, who truly set the tone for the entire weekend. Her inspirational speech was all about being your happiest self and a good human. She captured the attention of the entire room and it was then that I realized I was attending something special; guests could actually leave this place with substance and meaning instead of the guilt of drinking too much and staying up too late.
We would listen to more presenters and speakers throughout the weekend, like Will Steger (who is a polar explorer, educator, and environmental activist), Chris Cloud (the CoFounder of MPLS.TV), and Greg Burdulis (of 21st Century Monk). We attended small workshops and listened to entrepreneurs like Matt Kenevan (from Beer Dabbler and the founder of The Growler Magazine), Ashlee Olds (founder of Sweet Science Ice Cream), Bob McManus (from 11 Wells Distillery), Anne Rucker (of Bogarts Doughnuts), Ben Morrison (of Handsome Bicycles), and Heidi Andermack (from Chowgirls Killer Catering).
The activities at Camp COCO were endless. There were optional night or 6:30am Saturday morning hikes to watch the sunrise, s’mores, beer and bonfires in the evenings, rock climbing, canoeing, and musical entertainment. Fall in northern Minnesota is unlike anything I’ve seen in a while – it was so cool! The trees were vibrant in color, the backdrop was awe-inspiring, the stars were bright at night (I kept saying that the stars looked like they were fake because they were that bright), and the trails seemed endless.
I could go on and on about how great the whole weekend was. I think that the retreat COCO put on was not an easy task. For their first-ever entrepreneurial getaway, COCO and their team members kept everything very organized and streamlined while keeping the mood light and fun. They captured what I would think 80+ adults would want to get out of a retreat or a weekend away from their life, family and friends. I left thinking they did an amazing job, from the travel, lodging, etc. I don’t think any of us really understand what goes into planning something like that so I think I can speak on behalf of everyone in attendance that we are very grateful to them!
Looking back, my pre-weekend thoughts were definitely skewed! Of course, it wasn’t like I had been running around complaining about a free trip to the North Shore, but I was definitely mistaken with regards to what the whole weekend was going to be about. By the time Sunday came, I did not want to leave. I made many friends and I left feeling inspired; I had too many bourbon hot ciders, beers, and s’mores, but they were definitely worth every calorie. And I learned so much from everyone who was in attendance regarding their life’s journey and how they got to where they are today.
I want to wrap this up by saying I hope this is the first of many Camp COCOs, where companies send representatives like Field Nation did with me. I went there and talked about Field Nation all weekend. It was absolutely worthwhile getting to hear about other start-ups within the Twin Cities and networking with other entrepreneurs, and I am excited to build the relationships I made and apply everything I learned at Field Nation!