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Last year, Noa Ries was stuck in a rut. After founding a women’s activewear company that took off with investors, she no longer felt like it was her own. As much as it was painful to part ways, her epiphany that she was no longer fulfilled led her to start The Nook Online with her friend Kim Havens, an expert in community building through commercial real estate.
Launched on Jan. 1, The Nook Online is a platform for women who are mid-career and mid-life to come together in a safe space and connect over life’s biggest questions, learn from each other, and support each other in taking action. It’s a place for women from all different industries to connect, but being based in Sun Valley, Idaho, events and retreats will revolve around getting outdoors. We caught up with Ries and Havens about how their new business aims to be a basecamp and provide resources for like-minded women.
You’re building a community of professional women, so what’s the benefit of centering it around the outdoors?
Noa Ries: Kim and I have built this with ourselves as the litmus test. We’ve made decisions based on what resonates with us and using ourselves as the target market. When I was looking at what I was going to do next, I felt so fatigued. I just needed a break, a punctuation point. It wasn’t a stop, it was a pause. I started looking at retreats for women. I didn’t want to spend all day long in a conference room and I also didn’t want to go to a yoga retreat and hold crystals all day long. I thought, there has got to be somewhere in between. In our home in Sun Valley, there’s an incredible retreat here every year called the Allen & Company, but the majority of attendees and speakers are white men. I thought, why couldn’t this opportunity exist for women to connect and have meaningful conversations and contemplate’s life’s biggest questions, outdoors together? Questions like what is my purpose? What’s next? How am I going to take that jump?
Your first event was in February. How did it go and what did you learn about your attendees’ needs?
Kim Havens: It was a fantastic, full-day event. The whole day was centered around risking resilience. We started in the morning with a workshop led by Dr. Camille Joyce, who’s an executive coach for a lot of founders and startups. She really got deep quickly, asking questions that related to resilience. Have you ever experienced somebody taking a major risk in their life? Honestly, I think within ten minutes she had people in tears in a good way. The masks came down and people were really excited to share. We said that would never have happened if there were men in the room.
Then we split into groups for snowshoeing and skiing, where people had a chance to chat, get to know each other better, and process the morning. In the evening, Camille moderated a panel with four speakers about risk and resilience in personal and professional lives. I think one of the key takeaways for attendees was it wasn’t just a shiny glittery story of people professional and personal journeys. The women really appreciated the rawness and authenticity with which all of the speakers shared and encouraged them to share as well.
Key learning for us was that we should make it longer. Our next event will be two days and then we’ll have a four-day retreat in September. All of the thing we hoped would happen, happened and some women had really very real conversations with one another and made connections as a result of those real conversations. I also think the ability for women from more urban environments to have that expansiveness and time in the outdoors was so appreciated. Making sure that’s really embedded into all our events is such a unique selling proposition for us.
What perks and tools do members get by joining the online community?
KH: The tools and resources are our vetted and curated experts within our community and elsewhere, across all topics. We have a functional nutritionist, we have a fitness trainer, we have a bunch of different psychologists and consultants. This section is meant to grow members personally and professionally. Within our blog, we have contributors writing around topics of personal and professional growth. Whatever you feel like you’re needing to work on in your life at this moment, you can sort of pick a card to do so. Our content supports that and will continue to as we continue to build the rest of the programming.
It’s members-only and gives you access to a community for peer to peer mentorship. What you get out of it is what you put into it. The top tier ($2,000 per year) is that plus some. It’s really for women at a certain stage in their life who want to get to the summit. Or they’re at the summit and they want to get to the top. In addition to that closed group access, there is also four months of online peer learning that’s moderated by an expert facilitator in Australia. Small cohorts of women go through two hours once a month and the idea is that at the end of that four month process, you not only have a lexicon and vernacular that you can apply to your own personal and professional life, but you also have this cohort of women who are now your sisters to be able to really mentor each other. You’ve gone through this deep process together of personal growth and you’ve got access to them for life.
How will you define success?
NR: For us, success looks like a really vibrant and engaged community with women from around the world who are using all of the aspects of the tools and resources within our community. They’re reading the content, listening to the podcasts and sharing with their own community, and then also taking advantage of the academy for further growth opportunities. In addition to that, I would say we’d like to sell out our events. This year there will be three. Next year, we could do up to six.
The hope is to create symbiosis between the outdoor industry and more urban industries. Self doubt is self doubt, whether it makes you freak out before you ride your fat bike through Alaska in the winter or what makes you freak out about funding an 11,000-square-foot space in Manhattan. You have to call on the same tactics of resilience and calculated risk-taking to get through either.