Three and a half years ago, after 20 years in the technology industry, Kri Edholm was inspired to make a change. She felt that businesses, particularly in corporate America, were doing a bad job of taking care of their employees and investing in their personal growth. And she also wanted to see more women in the tech industry.
So she left her executive-level job and started a business of her own focusing on leadership development. While the majority of her business is open to men and women, next month she will spend a weekend helping fulfill her personal mission.
The Spark Women’s Retreat, Sept 26-29 at Zion National Park, aims to bring women together to create a spark that ignites their life’s passion.
Edholm, CEO and founder of Leadership Excursion Co., launched the retreat after initially holding meetup groups when she started her own business. The meetings made her recognize that “women have a desire to connect and support each other.” As a believer in those concepts and as someone who wants to see more women be leaders in their communities, families and workplaces, Edholm created an opportunity for women to come together and challenge themselves while also focusing on their own needs.
“When you ask women what is standing in the way of achieving their goals, eight out of 10 times the answer is, ‘Myself,’” Edholm said. “My hope with this retreat is that women find the confidence and get that support they are yearning for so they can get out of their own way and do whatever they want to do.”
The retreat is all inclusive. Women stay at a tent site, glamping site or cabin suite and are provided with meals, access to workshops and outdoor activities including canyoneering, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, skeet shooting, sunset Jeep tours and more.
“Everybody has the chance to be in an environment where they can try something they may have never done before,” Edholm said. “It’s about seeing women realize they don’t have to wait on someone else to do something; they can do it themselves. It helps build confidence and gives them tools for everyday life.”
Even before the retreat starts, Edholm and her team allow potential attendees to shape their experience. Surveys are sent out to local leaders to ask “what is standing in their way,” Edholm explained. Those combined with the information she gathers while networking is how workshop topics and leaders are chosen.
Edholm and her business partner Katelynn Eddy are, of course, workshop leaders; Edholm’s presentation will be about finding time for connection and play, and Eddy will teach a workshop about confidence, using their signature horse-assisted training techniques. Other workshops will include “How to Design Your Life,” taught by Picture This Clothing Co-founder Jaimee Newberry; “Overcoming Burnout” with Jean Marie Munson, a program manager at the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada; “Boundaries, Healing, & Strength,” taught by public speaking coach Margaret Watts Romney; and lessons in self-care while caring for others from The Cupcake Girls Founder and President Joy Hoover.
The Cupcake Girls have a deep connection to the retreat. SInce founding her business, Edholm has dedicated herself to working a nonprofit element into as many aspects of her business as possible. So, for the first two years of the retreat, team members from The Cupcake Girls were given scholarships so they could enjoy the weekend free of charge. Last year, in addition to the scholarships, Leadership Excursions Co. donated to the organization. This year, Edholm and Eddy have provided support and scholarships for employees of The Cupcake Girls, Dress for Success of Southern Nevada and Get Outdoors Nevada.
As a whole, the hands-on workshops are meant to teach life and leadership skills and help with personal and professional development. But women are encouraged to make the retreat what they want and/or need, Edholm said. They can participate as little or as much as they want.
This year’s retreat is the third one, and while the general timeline is the same, every year is a little different depending on what the 50-70 women who come from all over the United States to attend make of it.
“The thing that is different every year is the group of women who attend,” Edholm said. They are what makes the retreat special. The structure is similar, but a different type of theme emerges based on the women who join every year. … It’s hard to describe. It’s just truly a magical, special experience.”
It’s an experience that has led to women quitting their jobs and pursuing lifelong dreams. Some have left the retreat and founded nonprofit organizations with others they met there. And several have informed Edholm they started their own business. It has been a dream come true for her.
“I hope that this acts as a conduit for women because in order to have success, women really want connection and support,” she said. “Because with that connection and support and new tools, you end up having the confidence to go after your dreams and do what you want to do in this life.”
And next year, Edholm’s passion goes to Zambia, with the first Spark International Retreat from June 11-19. After meeting the founder of Dazzle Africa at the first Spark retreat, Edholm decided to support the nonprofit while providing the same leadership training for women, all while having a great time during memorable experiences.
“I see it as setting an example for everyone else,” Edholm said. “We met, learned to support each other and now we’re going to do this cool project together.”
For more information or to register for the retreats, visit sparkwomensretreat.com. For more information about the Leadership Excursion Co., visit leadershipexcursion.co.