Going on an e-coworking retreat with Southwest Collective

Time for some well-being on the blog. Few weeks ago, we received a notification per email that someone submitted his/her space to COWORKIES. As usual, our smiles went from regular to banana shape. We opened the link and my mouth went from normal to this:

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And life is so well made sometimes that Ana, the founder of that space we are going to talk about now, sent me a message to introduce me to her space. We started to chat and I love the concept so much that I decided to do an interview with her.

So, dear COWORKIES, meet Ana, the founder of SOUTHWEST COLLECTIVE!

Hey Ana, thanks for accepting to do a blog interview 🙂 Could you please briefly introduce yourself and also the Southwest Collective concept?

Hello Pauline and my fellow COWORKIES! It’s my pleasure to be doing this interview, so thanks for the opportunity.

I’m originally from Portugal but have been living in London for almost 7 years. Prior to that I lived in Amsterdam, Lisbon and the Algarve, in the south of Portugal where I was born. I started my career as a software engineer 11 years ago, and then moved on to engineering leadership, a role I currently still do on my day job.

While working in the tech industry all these years, I have found that my passion lies in people dynamics, collaboration and authenticity. But the funny thing is that besides working in tech, the rise of the digital connectivity brought me a whole new realization. I discovered how important it is to unplug and connect with things that are really important in life, like friends, family, nature and the present moment. I experienced first hand that doing this makes yourself feel grounded and happy and it has a direct impact on how you perform in other areas of your life, such as work.

Southwest Collective was born by converging these two dimensions of work and life, which I believe should be in line with each other.

 

Why did you decide to create a coworking retreat?

I wanted people to experience this work, life, play intersection because I believe that the gap between passions, work and play is quite narrow and we need to stop putting up a persona when we go to work and just be ourselves with all that it encompasses. That’s what this retreat creates; a safe environment to work but at the same time be you, be vulnerable and discover things about yourself that you may not find the time to do elsewhere. The pillar of this coworking retreat is the science of happiness and with it, will come opportunities to grow, to make deep connections and to create something with purpose.

Is it going to be the first one? What is your main challenge?

Yes, this is our first retreat so we’re super excited The main challenge has been spreading the word, getting people to notice what we’re doing, but as soon as someone looks at our website or chats with us,the feedback is really positive. We’re fortunate to have quite a few people on board which totally believe in this concept and support us, and that gives us a lot of motivation!

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Did you have to look for investments to put that project on rail? If yes, how did you do to find investors?

We decided to bootstrap this idea, which means we are using our own budget to do everything. It’s very thought but when you believe in something that will create value and positivity, you chase it with all your heart. We’ve done a bit of advertising on Facebook and tried Google AdWords but you can’t do much with a very little budget. We’ve been fortunate to have partnered with some great companies that are helping us spread the word and are sponsoring the retreat, so that’s a huge help! For example, MOO sorted us out with printing budget for leaflets, they are awesome!

What are the criteria to be recruited / accepted in Southwest Collective?

There’s a certain level of selectivity indeed, so my co-founder Claudia Cristovao and I get to speak to every applicant and select the ones that believe in the concept, people that demonstrate a creative side, a passion for learning and sharing, because this is super important for the small but special community we’re building.

It’s been an incredible journey already to have meet so many interesting people. We can’t wait to see all of them coming together! There’s so much to absorb from all the stories that will be told amongst each other. I am already imagining us around a bonfire talking to each other about all sorts of things!

How long is the program lasting and how many people can you welcome?

The program lasts 7 days and we can accommodate 18 people. The places are getting snapped very fast (check the lovely people who are joining us right here!), but we still have some available. To apply simply fill in this form and we’ll get in touch to schedule a quick 10-15 min chat to get to know each other and give the applicant the opportunity to ask us any questions. We then get back with the selection result within 1-2 days and then it’s just a matter of reserving the place. We’re actually running a promo of 10% OFF the full ticket price, but you need to apply by 15th of May the latest. So don’t miss your opportunity if this retreat is right up your alley! 😉

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What do you offer to people aside from a workspace?

There is a lot of space to work and relax. We are staying in an absolutely gorgeous house with a touch of modern and traditional. Check the website and you’ll see what I am talking about! Accommodation is on-site in shared or single rooms with bathrooms, there is a shared kitchen (although we’ll have local home made food delivered that includes breakfast/lunch/dinner and snacks for all diets), two very spacious livings rooms, a games room with a snooker table, one patio, swimming pool with showers, and a beautiful huge garden.

The program which is designed to allow cross-pollination of ideas across multiple domains. We will facilitate goal setting, ideation, skills sharing and learning via workshops, flash-talks and deep-dives. Some of the talks and deep-dives will be run by guest speakers which are experts in their fields, for example Jacqueline Jensen of Piktochart will be sharing her knowledge of building online communities; and Howard Kingston of Adludio will run a couple of sessions on growth hacking, digital marketing, business development & startups.

But we also want people to focus on their passions, build deep connections, and look after their own well-being by exercising, meditating and unplugging from technology, and we have some resident volunteers on site to help us to just that. So expect meditation, yoga and sports sessions, and analog activities which will make you question your own digital habits. 🙂

Did I forget the field trips? Right! Well, there is no going to the Algarve without going to the beach. So we will be going down to dip our toes in the magnificent ocean, or rather, dive right in! We will also go on a day trip to the west coast “Costa Vicentina”, which is absolutely stunning with different landscapes, an abundance of greenery and some undiscovered rural towns worth visiting.

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The people who are going to attend have all different background, how will you create the community feeling?

That’s the beauty of it! There is so much to be learned from someone outside your domain, and I have found that out, just by talking with the applicants. For example I can learn a lot from someone that works in music. It sounds odd but actually there is point of convergence between any two fields.

But we’re already building the community! We have a Slack channel where the participants hangout. This is an opportunity to get to know each other a little bit before we meet in person. We also have an online profile for each participant, so you can read about them on the blog, and find out more about their passions, their intentions for the week and get a feeling for who they are. For example check out Frances Miller profile, she is a totally cool millennial, coming all the way from Baltimore, USA, to participate!

But nothing will top the feeling of when we all get together next September. There’s a lot of ways to intensify the connections of this community, first by breaking the ice on a welcome session where everyone will introduce each other and do a fun playshop (I can’t reveal everything…I don’t want to spoil it!). After that every second will be an opportunity to build the community. This retreat is called immersive for a reason! We’re on it together for seven days, we don’t really have a policy to get out as and when. The idea is that we eat together, work together, learn together, sing together and have fun together. I think that’s a pretty special community right there!

How do you think COWORKIES can support Southwest Collective?

When I came across COWORKIES I absolutely loved it. I think it’s crucial to bring all the coworkers out there and coworking spaces together. I wanted to jump right in and get Southwest Collective listed as one of the first “popup” coworking spaces on the platform. I think COWORKIES can help put us on the map of the coworking ecosystem as an awesome retreat to go to this year!

Last question, what are your top destinations for the next ones :)?

That’s a great question! The truth is I don’t know. At least not yet. We are focused on making this year’s retreat totally memorable and hopefully next year we will have even more ideas up our sleeves to run some more retreats in some awesome locations. I am open to suggestions, anyone?

Thanks Ana, we can’t wait for the start of Southwest Collective!

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Pauline Roussel

Co-Founder Coworkies. General Manager at Rainmaking Loft Berlin, a #coworking space dedicated to #startups, Ambassador of French Tech Berlin.

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