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Last week we braved the rapids and embarked on Koia’s 2nd annual retreat – an experience that ultimately epitomized two of our company’s key core values: challenge conventional thinking (growth mindset!) and have fun! As we doubled our team this year from 10 – 22 (we are a small but mighty group!) people, it was so important for us to take a moment to spend quality face to face time with each other, celebrate our growth thus far and discuss our future expansion/innovation. Over the course of 3 jam-packed days and 2 nights, we quickly bonded over amazing activities that challenged us both physically and mentally – while encouraging us to rely on each other and have a blast! 

– DAY 1 –

We started off our 3-day excursion in Ashland Oregon at the beautiful Ashland Hill Suites and Resort. Team members that arrived early enjoyed a nice lunch while others were eager to get active with a scenic bike ride.

Once all team members arrived, we gathered in the meeting room for a meet and greet then sat down for an hour long company overview. During the company overview, we discussed company mission and values, team structure, goal alignment and product innovations.

Now, to the fun part of the evening… Everyone hopped in a car and headed over to MAS for a private dining experience by Top Chef Josh Dorcak.

Now, to the fun part of the evening… Everyone hopped in a car and headed over to MAS for a private dining experience by Top Chef Josh Dorcak.

A room that fits exactly 22 people was perfect for an unforgettable dining experience featuring unique dishes like Poached Oyster and Snap Pea Tea (pictured – left to right)

– DAY 2 – 

Hoping that we didn’t have TOO much fun the previous night, everyone gathered in the meeting room at 7:30am for a surprise activity. Thank God it was a surprise to say the least. 😉 

Our next exercise would be a first for nearly everyone in the room. An intimidating, yet rewarding activity that tested our mental capacity to the fullest. 

Reis Paluso came all the way from San Diego to teach us breathing exercises from the Wim Hof Method that eventually led to a 2 minute ice bath. The breathing exercises consisted of 30-40 full quick deep breaths (think hyperventilating ) then holding your breath for longer than you think you possibly could. We did this for a total of 4 times.

After the second and third time, we were able to do things such as increase the amount of pushups we could do in one setting; and some of us were able to hold our breath for longer than two minutes! During the breathing exercises, we experienced anything from out of body experiences, temporary paralysis and even uncontrollable laughter. Crazy, right? Crazy yet effective! 

Now, for the ice bath…. 

The breathing and meditation definitely helped prep us for the ultimate test. But who would ever put themselves through this type of torture? Well, here are a few key benefits of “Cold Therapy”:

  • Decreases inflammation 
  • Increases blood circulation 
  • Increased mental clarity and strength which will carry over to other important areas of your life 
  • Reduces stress 
  • Look like a badass 

“THE WIM HOF METHOD CAN BE CHARACTERIZED BY ITS SIMPLICITY, APPLICABILITY AND A STRONG SCIENTIFIC UNDERPINNING. IT IS A PRACTICAL WAY TO BECOME HAPPIER, HEALTHIER AND MORE POWERFUL.” 

Before we had arrived to our lunch spot, we had already had four members of Team Koia join the Swim Club. What’s the swim club? When you fall out of the raft into the water. Those were some scary moments! One notable mention was when our CEO, Chris Hunter went for a deep dive during a run nicknamed “Hell’s Kitchen” and handled it like a champ. Thank God for accountability partners to pull you back in. Teamwork makes the dream work! 

We arrived at camp by 5pm and the arrival was both relaxing and rewarding. Everyone gathered around to play card games, taste wine and get to know each other better. After a few hours, we all gathered for an amazing freshly prepared dinner by our guides. 

Before dessert we squeezed in a quick marketing exercise challenging us to think bigger. What’s a great idea for Koia to make a lot of noise? Now or in the future. I would share a few ideas, but those are trade secrets. 😉 

– DAY 3 – 

Wakeup call at 7 am to pack up and 8 am to eat another amazing meal freshly prepared by our guides (we’re spoiled!) For our next journey, we’d be given the choice of hiking or mountain biking 6 miles to the river. Around four people decide to hike, with the rest opting for a mountain bike ride. All in all, 4 miles straight of any strenuous activity on a mountain sounds intimidating. No doubt it was challenging!

Mountain biking (which was another first for many) required the first 2.5 miles uphill with a skill for pacing when it’s easy and giving your all when it became tough. 

On the other end, hiking required a steady pace to keep up with time, attention to detail when navigating the path, and faith to know that you’re eventually going to finish even when everyone has left and it appears to be no end in sight. 

Oh, the lessons you can learn from the great outdoors!

After we all completed the 6 mile extravaganza, we enjoyed yet ANOTHER freshly prepared meal by our guides. It was there way of buttering us up for the final rafting run!

Although this run was told to be the most difficult, we somehow managed to complete it with only one swimmer. My guess is that everyone learned from the mistakes of the previous day. Those who were too comfortable at first, learned to become uncomfortable and more attentive. Survival tactics 😉 

To close out the day, we gathered in a circle for each of us to share our key takeaways from the trip. 

“Loved the experience, the mind, body, and personal cleansing and decluttering was spectacular.”
 
“We have a great team that can do great things! Getting out of your comfort zone leads to success.”
 
“Take time to reconnect with nature, some of my best ideas happen when I’m hiking in the middle of nowhere.”

Our experience was a blast to say the least. On our trip, we learned the importance of bonding on a different level. We shared new experiences and grew together. Moments like this create lasting memories. Our new bond will help us create a more productive work environment full of motivation, vulnerability, and willingness to face challenges head on. We are so grateful to be a part of a company that offers unique and life changing experiences to teach us leadership, teamwork and growth. Our team includes those who are brave, self-starters and willing to get uncomfortable in order to grow. The lessons we learned will last a lifetime.

Written by co-founder, Maya French.

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