Courtney Scruggs and Lara Antonioli of Chardonnay Sailing Charters
Have you ever created a sand sculpture with your coworkers? Navigated a sailboat with your supervisor? How about collaborated on a signature wine blend with your HR department?
Here in Santa Cruz, corporate retreats can be so much more than an off-site meeting with a catered lunch. (Although you can have that too, if you like.) The vendors here in Santa Cruz County work their magic to cultivate lasting friendships amongst team members, create unique experiences to build trust and camaraderie, and transform venues into anything from a Hawaiian island to a Star Wars themed Ewok village. Really. There’s truly something for everyone, whether you’re a group of 5 or 500.
Meet some of the vendors who will make your next corporate retreat something the whole team can look forward to.
BE A VINTNER, DO VINYASA, AND RELAX BY THE RIVER AT BARGETTO WINERY
Cheir Harty, Bargetto Events Manager
The Bargetto Winery is a slice of Santa Cruz history. Founded on December 5, 1933 by two Italian brothers, Phillip and John, the winery set down roots in Santa Cruz the very day prohibition was lifted. Situated above the peaceful Soquel Creek, their historic winery and tasting room gives you no choice but to unwind. “People come here for a brain break,” says Cheir Harty, Private Events Manager for the winery.
Bargetto Courtyard by Monika Greenaway Photography
These ‘brain breaks’ come in all shapes and sizes. Several corporate groups have opted for yoga classes in the La Vita Room, named after their signature red blend. The 50-person space has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on a giant redwood and the creek below. Also equipped with a full AV system, the room is perfect for seminars and presentations. The adjacent courtyard and outdoor bar has hosted plenty of mixers, retirement parties, weddings, and live music events. Bargetto also, of course, offers wine tastings and tours of the winery.
Perhaps the most unique offering, however, is their wine blending team building exercise. The group breaks out into several teams and each one tasked with creating their own signature blend, wine label, and 1-minute commercial. As you can imagine, the exercise involves a decent amount of wine tasting and lots of laughter. “People have a great time,” says Cheir, “and the commercials are hilarious!”
CAPTURE THE SENSES WITH EVENTSCAPES
Jeff and Linda Robinson, Owners of Eventscapes
Jeff and Linda Robinson, owners of Eventscapes, are willing to go above and beyond for their clients. “I don’t want to boast,” says Jeff, “but we exceed your expectations.” This really isn’t unfounded braggadocio. The Robinsons work with clients like Coca Cola and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to achieve impressive feats of transformation.
A full-service event design company, Eventscapes can turn an empty room into an enchanted forest or a tropical island, complete with an active volcano. The company makes 90% of the props in house. You name it, they can build it. “Even if we use the same theme,” says Jeff, “it’s never cookie cutter. Each event is custom.”
Photo by Eventscapes
Props from past events fill their 30,000 square foot warehouse, from a Moulin Rouge windmill to a circus facade, complete with a life-size carny. (The effect is unnervingly real.) Eventscapes prides itself on turning your vision into a reality, providing everything from the conceptual design to the actual linens and lighting that bring your vision to life.
Located in between rolling agricultural fields in Watsonville, Eventscapes also has a 12,000 square foot greenhouse on site. Rows of Ficus trees, Kentia and Yucca Palms, Japanese maples, and Giant Birds of Paradise create an indoor forest. Jeff and Linda used a combination of live and fake trees to recreate what Jeff refers to as their most unique event theme—the Ewok Village from Star Wars.
“One of the greatest compliments,” says Jeff, “is watching a client enter the room or venue and seeing their jaw drop as they freeze in the doorway. You can see without hearing a word that they are saying ‘WOW!’”
BUILD TRUST WITH APEX ADVENTURES
Shaw Dunton, President and Owner of APEX Adventures
“We don’t just provide a recreational experience,” explains Shaw Dunton, President and Owner of APEX Adventures. “These activities require more communication and trust. In the end, you walk away with shared experiences that you’ve accomplished together.”
Shaw and his brother, Brent Dunton, founded APEX Adventures in 1996 to share their love of experiential learning with groups of 5-500 people. Their offerings range from a creative sand project to rope courses and rock climbing, and each of these activities is tailored to your company’s cultural principles so that you walk away with something truly profound.
The sand project, for instance, can result in creative breakthroughs for professionals from corporations like Google, Facebook, and even NASA. Groups are tasked with creating a sand structure or sculpture that represents the theme for their retreat. “It makes the theoretical more tangible,” says Shaw. “It helps them break down a heady idea and gets different synapses firing.”
Coworkers collaborating on a creative sand project. Photo by APEX
While APEX can’t bring the beach to you, most of their other programs are portable and can travel most anywhere. At Kennolyn and the Happy Valley Conference Center, APEX uses the on-site ropes courses to cultivates camaraderie amongst coworkers. “Belaying your coworker requires that you trust each other,” explains Shaw. Teaching their clients how to belay each other also means that there’s a role for everyone, even if you don’t feel comfortable scaling a vertical wall.
In the end, the goal of a team building activity is to help coworkers build relationships with each other, improving a company’s culture, morale, and ability to collaborate effectively with one another. Shaw saw the cultivation of one particular friendship that has always stuck with him. For 23 years, two NASA employees would pass by each other in the hallway without even saying hello. After just three days of team building with APEX, they started getting lunch together and collaborating on projects. “This is what gets me most jazzed,” says Shaw, “the relationships that people build with their teams and their communities.”
Get team members across departments collaborating and making lunch dates with an APEX Adventureat your next corporate retreat.
RETREAT TO THE REDWOODS AT KENNOLYN
Jenn Dunbar, Kennolyn Events Manager
Nestled in the peace and quiet of the redwoods, Kennolyn is a truly unique retreat center that provides both relaxation and inspiration. “Clients have a one-of-a-kind experience coming to Kennolyn,” says Jenn Dunbar, Kennolyn Events Manager. “We have a great return rate because it’s just so different here. It’s unlike any venue they’ve ever been to.”
Photo by Kennolyn
Groups have exclusive use of the entire 300-acre retreat center which includes miles of hiking trails, ropes courses, a riflery and archery range, rock climbing walls, and trapeze. The center offers a variety of recreation and team building on-site with different levels of intensity, so everyone can have a good time. Professionals can release stress with yoga classes and massages or challenge themselves to try rock climbing and ropes courses with APEX Adventures. In the Town Square groups can use the stage for Karaoke, slide shows and talent shows, or groups can simply enjoy each other’s company while roasting S’mores at the campfire.
“We go above and beyond,” says Jenn. “Our role here is no different than if we were your own personal event planner. We’re there from beginning to end of every single event.”
Find more information about your next retreat in the redwoods on the Kennolyn website.
GIFTS, CRAFTS, AND WINE TASTING AT ANNIEGLASS
Annie Morhauser, Lead Designer and Founder of Annieglass. Photo by Annieglass
Annie Morhauser, Lead Designer and Founder of Annieglass, designs her world-renowned glassware with an ancient Japanese proverb in mind: Food must feast the eyes as well as the stomach. “It really does seem to make food taste better,” says Annie, “or at least it makes the experience of eating off it a very special experience.”
Founded in 1983, Annieglass is one of the largest glass studios in America, producing more than 50,000 pieces per year with select pieces apart of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Museum. The hand-crafted glass pieces, “more durable than either stoneware or porcelain,” says Annie, make great company gifts but the best way to experience Annieglass is to go to the studio itself.
Terracotta pinch pot workshop. Photo by Annieglass
Groups can schedule a private tour to see the glassmaking process and then get creative at the Craftbar while sipping on local wine and beer. Up to 50 guests can reserve a private workshop, with art projects ranging from simple succulent arrangements to terracotta pinch pots. You can even decorate your own Annieglass plate with glaze crayons in the Make-A-Plate workshop. If you need an excuse to buy one of Annie’s beautiful pieces all groups also receive discounts at the shop.
FIND YOUR SEA LEGS WITH CHARDONNAY SAILING CHARTERS
Courtney Scruggs and Lara Antonioli of Chardonnay Sailing Charters
The chance to sail the Chardonnay II with your coworkers is a rare opportunity. There are only 19 Santa Cruz 70’ sailboats in the world and Chardonnay Sailing Charters owns two of them. (The second one will hopefully be available for private and public charters in September of 2017.) Their 70-foot long boats were designed for racing but are built out with the safety and comfort of a charter, or in layman’s terms, you can drink beer and wine without easily falling overboard. If you’re interested at all in trying your hand at sailing, these boats are a great way to experience the sport.
Courtney Scruggs is the Operations Manager and one of 22 active crew members for the Chardonnay II. An avid sailor herself, Courtney teaches groups navigation skills, boat terminology, and how to use the winches. (Picture a big spool with a hand crank on top that, when turned, pulls in the ropes attached to the sail.)
What’s special about these team building experiences are the moments of connection amongst colleagues. “It’s watching your coworker make a mistake,” says Courtney, “working together to fix it, and then laughing about it together. Groups can come here and feel comfortable knowing that everyone is probably going to screw up, and that’s ok. That’s a really special thing that people don’t get in their workplace.”
Whether you’re actively sailing the boat or just along for the ride, it’s a unique opportunity to bond with coworkers in an intimate setting. Sometimes though, participants not only get hands-on, they get hooked. “It’s really rewarding to see someone who’s never stepped foot on a boat before take up sailing after the team building experience,” says Courtney.
Lara Antonioli, Director of Marketing and Outside Sails, coordinates the team building experiences and private charters for corporate groups. While out on a promotional sail with executive assistants, event planners, and project managers from companies throughout the Bay Area, Lara explains that with Chardonnay, “it’s the same job but always a different experience.”
This also explains why corporate groups often come back for more than one sail. Each time is a completely different experience. From the weather to the wildlife to the connections you make with team members, each time out on the boat is memorable, right down to the delicious food and drinks served on board.