THE 'ADVENTURES' OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP.

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CALL ME BEAR

My river name is Bear. Short for 'Daddy Bear' as my daughter calls me. Short for 'Mr. Bear' as her friends call me. Bear isn't my chosen river name, rather it was given to me after talking to other attendees of the adVentures Academy on our first day in camp. Like any good nick name, Bear had significance for me that tied me back to my family, even though I was hours away from them without any connectivity for the next four days.

Ironically, this was the first time that most of us had met each other, but all of our nicknames were given or chosen with the help of the team. By getting to know one another on a personal level, these names were drummed up from our personal history, how we grew up, where we live, our personality, or in the case of 'Thunderball Smarge the Third' - from a group conglomeration encompassing all four. It is amazing, but I remember everyone by their nick names because of the stories that came with them. Their real name is where i struggled. Of the other 30 in attendance this year were Fargo, Fugs, The Darcenator, Swell Shocked, Flex, Fee-Nom, K-Dub, Catalina, All-G, Panther, Pilot, Sweets, Elvis, Casper, Doughnuts, Coop-A-Loop, Bart, Flame, MLB, Thunderball Smarge the third, Progress, Torch, Deezel, Chiquita, Linwood, The Boofman, Freedom, Wolf, Totem, and Forrest. With names like this, we were prepared for anything- or so we thought.


EIGHT MONTHS PRIOR

I was participating in a Mastermind Group for founders at the Sandbox in Santa Barbara, and was told that I needed take Alissa and Gillian out to coffee. No reason was given, other than they were very deeply rooted in the Organic food industry, which was the industry I was serving. Rather than waiting for the email introduction, I took a deep dive online to find their contact information, and cold called Alissa. A few days later I had a great meeting in their office, and had a nice lunch in Santa Barbara with them. We were definitely aligned as far as our goals and the impact that we wanted to have in the industry.

Gillian and Alissa told me how they operate, that they only take on clients that are trying to make a significant impact in the world. Not a financial impact, but something deeper and meaningful. An example I was given was bringing Stevia to the USA to provide a healthy alternative to the sweetener market, and to get people off of processed sugar.

I was also told about the adventures that they have had climbing what they thought was a dormant volcano in Equador, snowshoeing in the Colorado back country, and surfing in the central California coast at Jalama. (if you go, get the Jalama Burger... OMG!) While these are all awesome trips at face value, imagine how deep these trips became with the custom curated content, structured talks, and hand picked attendees that consist of ten entrepreneurs from the natural products, and outdoors industries, ten Venture Capitalists that invest in these industries, and ten industry advisers. WOW.

I went to their website and applied immediately. The next few months would go by so slowly, with feelings of anticipation, nervousness, and excitement at the possibility of attending this awesomely formatted event. At the time I was not even aware of where this event would be held, or what it consisted of so I started to dust off all my camping equipment. I re-sealed my near 20 year old North Face tent, sent my LOWA's off to Germany to be resoled, and started to acquire the things that I thought I might need if I were to be selected.

In later conversations, I was told that I would get so much out of the trip, and that I would fit in with the types of people who generally attend, and that I would have many things to offer the entire group. These conversations always ended with 'I hope you are selected.' Previously there were custom curated review committees that were reflective of each program. They selected founders first and then invited investors on the program that were relevant to that group of founders. The review committees have always been comprised of investors (many of whom have been on previous trips too). It is so great to see the integrity of those who are chosen remain independent, and the results speak volumes for those that are selected.


MAY 2019

The official email calling for all last minute submissions for the Buena Vista adVentures Academy has arrived in my inbox, and I can not help but feel that it is only a matter of time before I receive the email confirming my place in the trip. Then the additional emails start rolling in. Meanwhile I have booked my flights, with Southwest of course, in case I am not selected, and need to cancel the trip.

June rolls around, and I receive the first email. Like a college applicant, I am nervous to open it, but excited at the possibility of attending. I open this message and read the first line "We are all so excited you have applied to be part of adVentures Academy..." and my heart sinks. That is how all denial letters start to soften the blow of not being selected. I keep reading, and find that it is not a denial situation, rather asking for samples to be sent if we wish for them to be taken into account when they make their selections. Being the Co-Founder of a Saas Tech company, I have no samples to send. So I record a high level video demo of what our system does, and what makes it special.

At the end of June I receive another email, but this one is titled "adVentures Academy Action Alert - Your "WHY" Video Due Wednesday" so I know that this is not the email that I have been waiting for. They are asking for all applicants to create a short video that will go beyond 'the spreadsheet' and give a sense of who we are to the people who are making the decisions. It is just a bit more effort, but that is OK with me. It shows me that they have many talented applicants that have applied, and they want to have another data point to help make their selections. I like to see that its not a case of pulling names out of a hat. There is real thought and effort being put into the selection.


JULY 1ST

July first is the day that we are supposed to get notification of if we are invited to attend or not. The email comes, and I read "After much thorough, thoughtful review of your application..." Oh no. This is the day, this is the email, and this is the line that I have been dreading to read. My eyes have glazed over, and I am trying to regain my focus to read the rest of the email, but I can not. As I strain to keep reading words keep popping out at me "Accept" - "Confirm" - "Participation" - "Congratulations" and I realize that this is an acceptance letter! I have to read it again from the beginning to fully accept that I have been chosen. Ahhh... I feel a sense of relief, and even accomplishment to have been accepted. I can not wait to meet the other attendees.


AUGUST 9TH

I could not sleep at all last night knowing that an amazing adventure awaited me the next day. Due to family logistics, I had to take a flight out early in the morning to Denver, really cutting it close to the arrival deadline to catch the Shuttle to our first camping spot. Everything went smoothly up to the point of departure, but we were delayed 15 minutes due to fog in Denver. Not a big deal. I landed and took the train to Union Station and met up with the group that had already gathered.

As I started to introduce myself to the others, I realized the magnitude of this situation. These people were the Creme de la Creme of the Natural Products, and Outdoors industries! I felt even more honored to be included in this amazing group of people, and could not wait to see what the weekend would hold.

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We piled into the shuttles, and began to get to know each other. Gillian had given us each a conversation primer with questions that we should ask one another. I was sitting next to Marshall Lebovits of 911 Funding, and Kate Flynn of Sun and Swell Foods. Marshall was already a wealth of knowledge, and Kate had some great questions to get us started. So far so good!

As we arrived at the RMOC (Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center) in Buena Vista, we all gathered near the river for a few comfort zone exercises lead by Linwood. There was an exercise to show us how hard it is to focus on self preservation, versus attaining what you are going after. It is a hard thing to balance, and most people were unable to do both. We spent some time with a "Stomp" exercise that encouraged us to perform as a team, and to be flexible in our thinking. We did learn a great lesson on encouragement, when one member of the team did not perform correctly, we jokingly sighed loudly. This did nothing to encourage that member, and rather made him a bit embarrassed. Linwood taught us to perform an "autopsy without blame" when things go wrong. You can spend time singling people out, or you can spend time encouraging and moving forward. Check out the Stomp Exercise link at the bottom of this article.

There was an exercise that we did to select our tent mates at random, where we thought of a number 1-3, and went around shaking hands until we came to someone with the same number as us. This was really interesting to me, as it had the potential to not be as random of a selection as one thought. As an example, my number was 3 and when I shook hands with someone of the opposite sex I changed it to not match their number. I just knew that I would not be comfortable, and could only imagine how a woman would feel about sharing a tent with a complete stranger. I felt that it was in both of our interests to have the opportunity to sleep comfortably. Magically, all the Women had female tent mates, and all the Men had male tent mates, with only one exception.

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I was partnered with Panther, and our first task was to set up a tent that we had never seen, without instructions. Thank goodness that we had some easily assembled tents provided for us, and erecting it was a cinch. It was amazing to see how he and I took turns "leading" setting up the tent, without any issues, arguing, or blame. We each were happy with our work, and tent placement. We were right on the bank of the Arkansas river, high enough above it that if there were to be any flooding we would not be affected. We were close enough that we could hear the river rushing by, moving so fast as if it were driven to just go. Ironically all of us who attended slowed down for the first time that anyone could remember. There was a bit of anxiety for me with this being the first time that I would not be available for my clients.

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That first night, after a surprisingly tasty meal cooked by the camp hosts, and guides, we had our first program around the camp fire. I know what you are thinking, and the answer is yes, there were S'mores... The program was lead by Lauren Iverson, an investor-turned-Leadership Coach. Lauren's organization is called Totem Leadership, and that nights talk was titled "Building Adaptive Growth, and Leadership: From your Board to the Shelf. There were so many takeaways from this talk, and Lauren did a great job pulling everyone into the conversation. Especially on our first night where everyone was still feeling each other out, finding our comfort zone boundaries, and how far outside those boundaries we wanted to extend ourselves. By the time the marshmallows came out, we were all warming up to one another.



AUGUST 10TH

Each day we woke with the sun. Some of us woke before the sun started to warm the ground, or dry the dew from our tents, and we packed up camp. Trying to stay as quiet as we could to not wake the others that were still asleep, we rolled our sleeping bags, packed our gear, and put on clean socks. I often woke a bit earlier than most to have a few moments of contemplation. Mostly about the previous days activities, and what lessons I could draw from them, but always with thoughts of my family. I did have another motivation for rising early- I wanted to beat the crowd to the coffee percolator, and get that prized first cup without the grounds. In a percolator, you boil the coffee grounds in the water, and have to pour slowly to avoid eating them. The first cup is the best cup, as it runs the best chance of having no grounds, and a perfect strength brew. If you want to chew your coffee- let a few people pour their cups before you.

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Matt D'Amour (AKA 'The Boofman') lead us in his morning routine to wake up our bodies with stretching and tapping. Tapping is a combination of Ancient Chinese Acupressure and Modern Psychology that works to stimulate your energy system and body all at once. I didn't know it, but my whole life I have been using tapping to help alleviate muscle pains and headaches. Specifically for the headaches, I even use tapping on my daughters forehead to help her relax as her headaches run their course. The session culminated with an early morning cold water river plunge. The water was cold, but it felt nice to jump in. I am not sure if it was the ritual of bathing in water that made it feel familiar and relaxing, or if the shock to the system released serotonin and dopamine into our bodies. Whatever the reason, I was surprised at how good I felt after.

After Breakfast was finished, we headed back down to camp to gather our things. We were limited on what we could bring with us to what would fit in the dry bags provided, and our personal dry bags. Most of us left a majority of our things behind at the RMOC for safe storage. It was hard for me to leave my gear, as I tend to pack lightly, but efficiently so that everything I need is in a single bag. Those that know me will tell you that I usually have a back pack on my back. Unfortunately my 3 day pack was too big to haul with us, since we needed to pack our tent, sleeping bags, 2 days of clothing, and supplies into the single bag. Yvon Chouinard wrote in his book 'Let My People Go Surfing' - "The more you know, the less you need." This was true of our overnight trip down the river. None of us knew what the future held for us, so we packed for the worst case scenario. If we would have had the knowledge of what to expect, we could have parsed our packing down significantly.

Once we were geared up for the river with wet suits, splash jackets, and helmets - we headed out to our put-in. Before we launched, we had a safety lesson from our river guides, and chose the boat we were to be in over the next 2 days. I had made a conscious decision to try and connect to each person on the trip without preconceived expectations or goals. I had written down "Genuin-Osity" on a chip of Aspen wood as part of an exercise earlier that day. I wanted to curate genuine curiosity and allow myself to learn as much about people as I could.

About the river guides, let me say that I started with hesitation about them. They were young. Amy B was the guide in our boat, and she had just graduated from college. The guides lived on a piece of property for four months out of the year. Some stayed in campers, some in tents, and some in their cars. They spent their days guiding boats through the rapids, kyaking, or leading climbing trips. These are not easy things to lead, and I found myself thinking about how long I have been rock climbing, and still would not be comfortable leading a large group up a crag. My hesitation started to wane when Amy was practicing the commands on the first quiet part of the river. When a mistake was made, she was stern and confident in how she addressed it. She let the potential consequences of our actions speak for themselves, and showed us that she was a natural leader. I learned that to be certified as a river guide required a month of training, and running the sections of river that would be guided multiple times, culminating in what is called a "Turkey Boat." The Turkey boat was a trial by fire - so to speak - where the guide in training led a raft full of other guides down the river. These other guides would purposefully make mistakes, direct the boat in the wrong direction, and challenge the guide more than would a normal raft of people. I went from underestimation, to admiration for Amy B's skills. The Turkey Boat sounds like pitching to a group of investors, where everyone is trying to see how much you really know, and how much stress you can take.

Immediately the correlation of white water rafting and starting a business was evident. Amy B's role as our river guide could have seen her as a CEO of any one of our organizations. Like a good leader she started off with her expectations, and instructions. She gave us the knowledge that we needed to traverse the river safely, but gave us the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. The one thing we all knew was that she was in charge. If she called a command "Left forward" "Right Reverse" - the left paddled one way while the right paddled opposite, and if we did not trust her decision to do so- we would end up in the water or on the rocks. As a boat crew we decided to repeat her commands so that everyone knew we were on the same page, and Amy knew we understood. We also decided that we would count our given number of paddles aloud to keep everyone on a cadence. There was not a word from Amy about this. She allowed us to make the small decisions that would help her overall goal of guiding us on the broader goal of arriving safely.

Another great lunch was prepared for us at a small stop along the river, and before we were back underway we had talk given to us by Chris Sword of Pearl iZUMi. This was a treat especially for me as I have been on two wheels as long as I can remember, and worked in bike shops as a mechanic for many years. Pearl iZUMi has been a part of the cycling world since wheels were square. His talk was titled "Navigating Multi-channel Strategy." Chris spoke of the meaning of a mission statement and how it differs from that of your branding. That what you do and why you are doing it can be two completely separate things. He told the story of how Pearl iZUMi started with a father producing Japan's first bicycle racing apparel for his son, a promising racer. The story goes that his son went on to win the race with the new Jersey, and the rest is history. But Chris put a different spin on it by asking why? Why did the father make the jersey? The answer was out of love for his son. It was not a magic jersey that caused his son to win, it was the support that his father gave him in the form of love that encouraged his son to push that extra little bit to win. If you are doing something for the right reasons, there is no wrong outcome.

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Back on the water for another 5 miles took us through some of the most beautiful riverbank that I have ever seen. The rock formations that towered above us with cottonwood trees lining the banks. This was not even the "pretty" part- according to the guides. We had some challenges getting downstream due to the low level of the water. There were many rocks exposed that rafts were getting caught on. We were caught on a particularity nasty little bugger that provided quite a challenge to us. First, since there were so many boats behind us, we were intentionally bumped by the guides to try and loosen the rocks grip. This did nothing. So we started to try and leverage our weight to one side of the boat or the other, and the front and back of the boat all to no avail. Next came the wiggle- Amy instructed us to rock back and forth to try and get the water to pick us up off the rock, and it seemed that it would work, but it took us getting in sync to make it happen. Our team called out "Right" and we leaned right, "left" and we leaned left- back and forth, left and right, one and two, and we were let free! When your team is pulling in different directions you go nowhere, if you fail to plan - even pulling together in the wrong direction will lead you down the wrong path together, but if you slow down and create a plan, and execute it in concert - you arrive together at the correct destination.


CAMP

We arrived at a beautiful sandy riverbank that would be our camp, and the guides had already begun to set up, and unloaded our dry bags. The first order of business was to be given some training on proper "Groover" etiquette. Not to long ago, on river expeditions like this, the travelers would sit on the ammo can to do their business, and the hard metal walls would leave grooves in their backsides, hence the name "Groover." Contrary to what I had previously been taught, urination should not happen on the ground, or in the groovers. We were told, not so subtly, that peeing into the river was mandatory when inside of a national monument. Not a big deal for most of us on the trip, but we had people with us who had never even slept outside. Just another area of growth, or an experience to talk about when we get back.

One of the activities that the guides set up for us was a brief introduction to 'Swift Water Rescue' in the river. We split into two groups and practiced what happens when a boat flips, how to flip it back over, and still stay safe. The other group started with tossing a throw bag with floating rope to try and save a person floating down river. The throw bag operation was one that I was familiar with, but the technique was a bit different as far as anchoring the line to you. The big difference was that after throwing the bag to the victim you held the rope in one hand behind your back- using your waist as a friction device so you could let go and prevent being pulled in the river as a victim as well.

Turning a flipped boat was fairly straight forward where you clipped into the side line with other members of your team, and lean backward righting the boat in the process of falling. This was another team building exercise in disguise, and took coordination on all members of the team. We witnessed some people struggling to get the momentum to right the boat due to a failure to be in sync. One of the guides showed us how he was able to do this all on his own, and of course I wanted to try as well. One of the other guides had to pit me against the guide to see who could do it faster, and an amazing thing happened. I was able to beat the guides time by 14 seconds. He was at 34 seconds from start to finish, and I was at 20 seconds flat. Now this is not because I am secretly a coxswain, or some other boatman- I was just 'in-flow' - that spot where everything just clicks, no errors made, and it just happens as if it were the intention of the universe to make it so. I attribute this to my earlier statement of genuine curiosity. Being there in the moment, not distracted by any outside triggers, just being.


FUNDING

During the course of this trip there were many conversations that happened between the attendees that could have been great topical lectures around the fire. If I were able to recite each of these verbatim from memory I could save you $200,000 in college tuition. One of the most eye opening talks started at lunch time one day, and continued around the campfire that night, but did not culminate until the following day. "Sweets" (AKA Melissa Baker) of Fenwick Brands lead the conversation, with help from many other VC's in attendance on Funding in general. She started with asking the entrepreneurs what our biggest challenge with raising funds is. She was able to whittle down the answers that we provided to just a few areas to focus on.

One of the biggest topics that were discussed was how to formulate your financials. It is not uncommon for a startup to be post revenue, and right on the precipice of large scale growth, but not able to get passed the tight rope of client care and growth. In most cases an influx of cash will help to propel them forward and enable hires, marketing, sales, and general client acquisition at a pace not previously seen. For these companies, the financials need to show that you have had a history of growth, and that with an investment that growth will increase X times. It is a balancing act that needs to reflect truths, hopes, and expectations. VC's are not going to look at your financials as a make or break part of due diligence, but if you are untruthful in the history it does not matter what the upside potential is, you have lost credibility.

Another topic that was on the tips of everyone's tongue was how to make "the best pitch deck" that would cover any investor that you speak with. The short answer is that you can not. It takes so much time and energy to make a great pitch deck that will satisfy a small handful of investors, that you should keep that deck fresh, and make revisions as needed. The caveat to this thought was that if you are going to be speaking to hundreds of potential funding sources, you should be taking the time to understand what the differences are for each of them, and tailor the deck to their liking. So many firms have examples of "the perfect deck" on their website, and not one of them are the same. Take advantage of that fact and create multiple versions of your deck, and name them so you remember who, or what kind of investor that it was for.

The last topic that I want to mention is the thought that the VC invests more in the entrepreneur than in the business. This one caused a lot of conversation to happen between the different investors in attendance. The idea that someone would invest in a person or team above the business is a misstatement. It is not that the business takes the back seat in the deal, it is the fact that the founders are just as important if not more so than the potential of the business. Imagine that you have an unlimited source of business ideas that have legs (can stand on their own), which business do you choose to pursue? For people like myself, and many others that were a part of the adventures academy this year, you choose the one with the most chance of meaningful impact. For others it may be to choose the business with the greatest potential of making them millionaires. In the investors mind, the business has to have a clear path to profitability, it has to be able to sustain market fluctuations, and must not be so niche that the corner of an industry that it serves is not going to disappear. If two businesses meet these requirements, which do you choose to support? The business with the people that you can see yourself working with day in and day out that are more than able to deliver on their goals. This is why the 'adVentures Academy' is so powerfully different- Cultivation of meaningful relationships before possibility of business engagement.

One of the goals of this trip is to get to know the people that you could potentially be working with, how they operate, and how they handle adversity. The entire trip consisted of little challenges to break free from your comfort zone, but one moment in time captured this perfectly. While having lunch mid-day and listening to the final portion of the funding discussions, the weather changed from hot and sunny, to dark and cold as a thunderstorm blew over. This is not abnormal for Colorado weather, in fact- afternoon showers are to be expected, but as the lightning cracked at the mountain peaks near us, and the thunder sent roars echoing down the canyon, people started to feel uncomfortable. There could not have been better timing for this onslaught of cold rain then during a discussion about the tribulations of raising funds.

The rain was ice cold, and those of us had shed our outer river layers as to avoid overheating found ourselves soaked through and shivering. The rain was coming down with such force that it made the river look as if it were a rushing mass of boiling water. This was the moment that some wanted to call time out for safety reasons. Was this worth the risk? I am no Meteorologist, but I do know that water is a great conductor of electricity. Most of us decided to wait out the storm- assuming that it would pass shortly, and we would find ourselves back on the water. Others understandingly decided to ride back to camp in the bus that was there to pick up our gear. There were no judgments made one way or the other, and had I not wanted to complete the trip from start to intended finish, I may have found myself on that bus as well. The last part of the river was quiet and relaxing, having just experienced a small challenge as a team, as part of a larger goal was rewarding. This was the moment that the trip was meant to create for me.

Once we were back in camp, with our tents set up, we took the opportunity to change into some dry clothes. Gillian gathered us all under the large canopy to discuss the importance of branding, and aligning the way that you see yourself, with the way your clients see you. There were some amazing stories told of how they were able to help make massive changes in the level of sales for a product by researching how people felt about the product name containing "Soy." The changes that they made increased retail sales drastically. I would have never thought of such a thing. It made me realize that there is much more to a brands identity than its mission statement and logo.


WINDING DOWN

The last night that we spent in camp was a bit free form. By this time people had connected in ways that do not usually happen so quickly. High intensity activities as a group coupled with personal vulnerability in the team setting opened doors that would have stayed shut. We had one more activity to end the day. Remember the Aspen Chip I mentioned earlier? This was the time to bring those back out of our packs. We all formed a circle around the fire pit again, and placed our chips on the ground. We had been asked to write on these pieces of wood what it was that we wanted to gain from this experience, and now we were being asked to pick a different chip reflecting something that we had received from it.

The format was that one person would pick a chip, read the word and talk about why they chose this specific chip. The original person who wrote that chip would then talk about why they wrote what they did, and elaborate on it in any way that they wanted to. Some people were on such a wavelength that they picked each others chips. One of the people that I had been spending a lot of time with picked my chip, and then I picked one of the other persons chips that I had gotten to know very well. This happened a lot, and I realized that going through this event together we connected more that we knew, and we were "in flow" together. One of the most amazing things that I realized from this exercise was that with your intentions set you can attain what you are looking for, but you will also gain so much more. I had set out to experience this event with "Genuin-Osity" to experience the trip, and connect with people that I did not yet know. I left the trip having provided advice, insight, ideas, and having become helpful to others on this 'adVenture.' What an amazing paradigm shift.

 

We were given a surprise musical performance from Kaleigh Glanton around the campfire. She was quite a talented musician, and it was very surreal to hear live music with that much soul in such an intimate setting. The water bubbling down the river, and the fire crackling made a perfect time for reflection on the weekends activities and events. While it was amazing to have her playing guitar and singing for us, it made me anxious to get home and see my family.

Going Home

The day that we were to depart came with another beautiful sunrise. I was honored to have been given the very last "session" to lead the group in a gratitude circle. As we gathered around in a circle at the rivers edge I found myself thinking of so many things to be grateful for. There was a gratitude that I was going to share about friends, and family- but I wanted to share something that was deeper, more profound, or came spontaneously from the heart.

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I started by having everyone close there eyes and take a few deep breaths. Like a scene from a movie words just started to flow from me, and I found myself speaking about my own experiences with gratitude. I spoke of Carl Jung and his view of religious purpose, and how religion is not the only source of religious experiences. The topic came to the point of Brother David and how Gratitude creates Joyfulness.

What I shared with everyone was that I was grateful to have had the opportunity to have met every single one of these amazing people. That I was amazed how each had an internal drive to change the world in their own way, but always facing the commonality of increasing the availability of natural foods and sustainable clothing. How inspiration can be drawn from each and every story that was shared if you just take the time to listen. How thankful I was to have met everyone, and will have a fond memory of all of them. It was like I was 13 years old again leaving summer camp.

After the gratitude circle concluded, Wolf (AKA Ryan O'Donoghue) handed out pre-cut pieces of white cotton string for a 'Baci Ceremony.' The ceremony consisted of pairing off, and wrapping the string loosely around your partners right wrist three times, then knotting the string three times with overhand knots. This should remain on your wrist for a minimum of three days. There are many spiritual beliefs associated with the Baci, and originates from Laos and is associated with Animism. I was not aware of the traditions of Animism until this event. The summation could be 'the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe,' - it is a force that forms bonds and binds us all.

What a perfect end to a perfect trip. All of us that attended are bound in a tradition that predates modern cultures, and speaks to a part of our soul that we have become to busy with our fast paced lives to stop for a moment and listen to. We have shared in challenges, and grown within our own minds and bodies. My life has been changed as as result of catching a glimpse of what our future holds when we stop thinking, and start feeling more. That is what will bring you in flow, and open the opportunity for connection and growth.

The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.
— Brother David Steindl-Rast
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David Brien
Co-Founder
Cashmere Systems



Alissa SearsComment



REFLECTIONS ON ADVENTURESACADEMY JALAMA BY ANNE O’CONNOR, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR ORGANIC VALLEY

I knew as I rolled into the Jalama Valley that this was going to be no ordinary experience. I knew the planning was meticulous, the people involved stellar, and the point was about everything that matters.

 
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In late April along the Central California Coast, bright yellow wild mustard covered the mountainside, the moody sky changed from bright and sunny to dark and threatening as the cloud cover from the sea took over in midafternoon. At the ranch, horses ran wild—in pairs or in packs—through the hills.

The setting was just one of the extraordinary aspects of the latest adVenturesAcademy weekends. This weekend was designed to take people—including investors and potential investees—right to their core: How do you hold up while learning to surf on a cold day in choppy waters—and what about those sharks? How do you pitch in to help work on the ranch—hauling wood, chopping enormous roots out of the earth, hacking back an overgrown fence line? What do you bring to create a meal together? How do you listen—what do you hear? How far can you stretch and how do you hold your balance? How do you show up? How are you with someone looking at you— and really seeing you?

adVenturesAcademy weekends are designed to help answer all of these questions and more. The idea is that if you put people together in challenging situations, their true capacities and fundamental ways of being in the world become clear. When you adventure with people, it’s hard to hide your beauty or your pain.

 
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This weekend is a better way for investors and potential investees to find a good match. It certainly beats sitting across the table and interviewing. Here, both investors and investees begin to see who they may be considering working with.

And the weekend was designed to get us all considering the best way to run our businesses, to plan for the future, to keep your mission at the center of your decisions, and to find help along the way. This group is committed to triple-bottom-line forecasting, so the talk wasn’t based on simply the best way to make the most money fastest, but to considering the whole of the business and how we can better the people and the planet along the way.

This kind of commitment can waver in the face of myriad business challenges. But weekends like this help bolster our resolve to use business as a force for good.

Our weekend brought together a group of thoughtful, engaged, open, generous, and talented people. Our carefully-selected cadre went willingly into both the well-planned activities and the free time. We laughed and played and worked and ate (Oh, the food!) and listened to one another’s stories about how our business worked—and when it didn’t—and what we learned. We saw one another emerge from names and bios on a page to fully-formed people with skills and experiences and ways of being with others. We learned that you could run a business with a completely regenerative supply chain. Or help remove toxic cooking stoves from kitchens around the world. Or rethink the whole way that women are catered to as customers.

We huddled around the fire as the sun dropped and listened as a Chumash Native elder implored us to treat the earth with its due respect. We talked on the trail about what makes relationships—and so businesses—work.

Magic doesn’t always happen, no matter how brilliant the planning. But when it does, everyone knows: it’s the stuff of life. It’s connection and wonder and possibility and creation and how we get it done and how we do it differently and what makes it all worth every bit of the sweat and heart-strain to get there.

 
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I was honored to be a part of this group as a member of Organic Valley’s Mission Team. As the Director of Public Affairs at Organic Valley, part of my work is helping people understand why our cooperative, owned by our farmers across 36 states and four countries, is different than most billion-dollar organizations. For us—our 2,000 farmers and 900 employees—changing food means keeping our mission and meaning right out in front. It means taking the time to pause and consider each decision to ensure we’re staying true to our values. I was invited to share the story of hanging on to meaning, to purpose, as a company grows and becomes more complex. It’s not easy. But we’re not in it for easy—we’re in it to make the world work better.

It’s exactly that inspiration behind adVenturesAcademy and its participants: they know that business at its best is designed to serve the whole—the whole of humanity, the earth, and whatever cool thing we can do in service. As this particular adventure eventually fades, we’ll look to see what we might accomplish together in our united plot to change the world. Whatever comes next, I know that I’ll carry a bit of adVenturesAcademy and each of my new conspirators with me. And both the world and I are better for it.

Anne O’Connor
Director of Public Affairs
Organic Valley

 

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Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents more than 2,000 farmers in 36 U.S. states, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom and achieved $1.1 billion in 2016 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a wide range of organic dairy, soy, egg and produce products. With its regional model, milk is produced, bottled and distributed right in the region where it is farmed to ensure fewer miles from farm to table and to support our local economies.

For further information, please visit www.organicvalley.coop


 
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adVenturesAcademy was a fantastically unique experience. Unlike so many networking and pitch events, there was no hot air, no pomp and circumstance, and no need for anything other than good people coming together to work on some of the greatest challenges we all face. Programs like this will be the reason that businesses like ours succeed…Being a mission driven entrepreneur can, at times, be a lonely identity. The adVenturesAcademy helped me to see that not only are we not crazy in wanting to use business as a tool for social justice, but we’re not alone either. What a tremendous group of inspiring people.
— Tom McDougall, 4P Foods
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There’s not a lot you can hide behind as you emerge from a tent at 6 am and wipe the snot away from your nose. We were immediately thrust into a realness that allowed us to experience one another at a much deeper level. Our interactions, genuine. Our conversations, gritty. Those typical power dynamics that you find between entrepreneurs and investors, erased. Watching the carefully curated, yet completely unscripted, weekend unfold was beautiful and incredibly meaningful. From jumping into freezing shark infested waters, to warming up around the campfire, to sharing certain thoughts and feelings that we might have preferred to keep to ourselves, our three days together were peppered with crystallizing moments that will I will take with me and apply to this roller-coaster ride we call entrepreneurship. adVentures Academy spoke to my values as an entrepreneur, as a woman, and as a deconstructor of the status quo. What an incredible experience to take part in and truly amazing people to now call friends.
— Jen Gurecki, Coalition Snow
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I thoroughly enjoyed the few days at adVentures Academy. First, I love Jalama so being on that ranch itself was so special, WOW!! Being a new entrepreneur, I feel like my mind was blown with information and learning around fundraising, running a business and so much more. You guys provided an awesome opportunity to learn in a fun environment, which I love because I feel like I actually retain so much more in those situations. Everyone was so positive and it was hard not to get pulled right into the vortex of stoke and out of the comfort zone. Each activity was beautifully woven into some sort of learning parallel to being an entrepreneur and the group was so dynamic…I love jumping in and helping people out. Pushing people into waves for the first time was so fun for me. To share the stoke of surfing, my life’s passion, I felt like I was more pumped than they were on their first waves. And as a former personal chef and current owner of a social media agency, the chili cookoff was right up my alley. I actually would have been very disappointed if my team had not come thru victorious…But in all seriousness, from start to finish, the experience was top notch.
— Reis Paluso, MANDA
Alissa SearsComment



SEPARATE TO REACH THE SUMMIT!

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Running a business is analogous to climbing a mountain – great challenges and risks, often limited resources, infinite uncertainty.

I recently joined 25 participants in a Colorado Rocky Mountains Backcountry Immersion organized by adVenturesAcademy. The diverse cast included entrepreneurs, investors and advisors from the natural products sector.

Our challenge – hike eight miles through the snow to reach a backcountry hut at 12,000 feet elevation on the grounds used by the Tenth Mountain Army Division for training.

At breakfast prior to departing for the trailhead, each participant was asked to write a one word description on a wood cutting of what they hoped to achieve through their participation.

We gathered together after the following evening’s dinner, warmed by a wood burning stove, to share the reasons behind the word we each chose.

My peers chose words such as hope, growth, engage, share and connect.

My word, separate, seemed counter-intuitive to my fellow participants especially being that we spent the first two days engaged in teamwork, connecting and leaning in.

As my peers shared the explanations of their chosen words, many objectives were driven by themes including the desire for self-improvement, facing fears and overcoming despair and self-doubt. All of these emotions are absolutely normal. No one lives a life without struggle!

And that’s where separate comes into play.

I too have struggled - including on the way up the mountain. It was a challenging hike for me to say the least. (Let’s just say that I’m now very good friends with the group “sweep”!) I faced and made a personally agonizing decision over whether or not to fight through dehydration and pain to finish the ascent and put the team at risk of achieving its goal or cast aside my ego and make a decision that was best for the group.

To quote Sir Edmond Hillary, the first person to successfully climb Mt. Everest in 1953, “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”.

Everybody struggles in their own battles.

The ones who survive and successfully ascend the next summit are the ones who separatefrom their fears and the things holding them back. They lighten their load by leaving behind their egos and past failures. They separate from their weaknesses and play to their strengths.

Author Samuel Beckett once wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

To reach the summit - separate!

 

 
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 Marshall Lebovits advises growing companies on non-dilutive, asset based financing solutions. He swears going forward he will always wear the right layers and always remember to bring his electrolyte replacements! Marshall can be reached at 310-344-2522.

 

Alissa SearsComment