Camp COCO campers on a Voyageur Trek

Camp COCO gets people out of the office and into the woods

Registration open for upcoming weekend retreat for businesses

By Kevyn Burger
Thursday, July 21, 2016

Imagine your fondest memories of youthful experiences at camp, updated with adult pleasures — and by that we mean booze at the bonfire, dining hall conversations with inspiring (and cool) speakers and a chance for late night stargazing without the buzzkill of a counselor nagging about bedtime.

That’s the pitch for the second annual Camp COCO, sponsored by the Minnesota co-working community. It’s scheduled for October 7-9.

“We did this last year and it was our single most successful event ever,” says Don Ball, COCO’s co-founder. “We wanted a retreat that would create inspiration for life and work, with an element of adventure. It was so much fun it was ridiculous.”

COCO fosters business community connections at its four metro area locations. The membership group offers dedicated work spaces for free lancers, startups and small business owners and those who work remotely.

This year’s three day retreat will again be held at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minn. Ball first visited the Lake County complex as a parent volunteer, chaperoning his seventh-grader’s school-sponsored visit there.

“I led a group and we took a wrong turn. I saw how a bunch of suburban kids had to think differently out in the woods,” he recalls.

Turns out Lake Superior air can similarly alter the behavior of adults.

Camp COCO's 2015 campers

“In that environment, people drop their guard and connect fast. They talk about their hopes and dreams,” Ball says. “At camp, we call it friend-making, not networking.”

Ball notes that several of the connections made at last year’s event led to business collaborations after participants returned to the metro area.

In addition to rock climbing, canoeing, a ropes course and time to explore the trails, the weekend will include speakers — memoirist Nora McInerny Purmort, Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens and author Patrick Rhone will be along, as will hip hop artist Dessa.

“I invited Dessa to come and tell her story, not to perform. I’ve asked her to talk about how she became who she is, what choices she’s made to accomplish everything that she’s doing.”

The retreat can accommodate 110 participants; 85 attended last year’s inaugural session and Ball anticipates word of mouth will fill the slots (and the bunks) this year.

The camp is open to all, but COCO’s 900 metro members get a price break. The early bird fee for those who register by August 21 is $469 for COCO members and $569 for non-members. The cost for the all-inclusive weekend will go up as the date approaches. The fee includes motor coach transportation to and from the Twin Cities, food, alcohol, all events and activities and rooms with bunk beds.

“Last year, we worried that people would be put off by the bunks, but no one seemed to care,” Ball says. “They were all so exhausted by the end of the day, they just needed a place to collapse after the bonfire.”

Click here to register to attend Camp COCO this October 7-9.