Successful leaders tend to agree: Unprecedented times reveal previously hidden opportunities. This adage was tested repeatedly in 2020 when the global pandemic halted economies and changed so many aspects of our lives.
Consider the Stone Cottage at Serenbe, a new breed of executive retreat in the heart of Serenbe, an idyllic community on the outskirts of Atlanta. The Stone Cottage celebrated a soft opening in late 2019 with plans for a more substantial launch in the Spring of 2020. And then COVID happened.
“Like every other accommodations-provider and meeting venue, we temporarily tapped the breaks just months after opening,” says Joseph Bowers, CEO of the Stone Cottage’s parent company, The CREATiON Companies. “But as the world began to adjust to a new normal of social distancing, endless Zoom calls and virtual everything, we saw our opportunity.”
It turns out, the Stone Cottage was designed and built exactly for the times we’re now experiencing.
“From the very beginning, we wanted to transition leaders out of the noise, chaos and distractions of the city,” Bowers says.
“We created the Stone Cottage as a safe space for leaders to disconnect in order to reconnect — with their teams, with themselves, and with the greater world we share. After nearly a year of isolation, those connections have never been more critical.”
Built in bucolic Serenbe, 45-minutes from Atlanta’s city center and just 30 minutes from Hartsfield International Airport, the Stone Cottage offers all the comforts and amenities of a five-star luxury hotel yet far removed from the cacophony of most city retreats. It features two symmetrical wings, each with four en suite bedrooms, state-of-the-art boardrooms and technology, chef’s kitchens, and ample indoor and outdoor common areas for informal connection points.
“We leveraged our years of experience leading meetings to envision and create the kind of space we have always wanted for our teams,” Bowers says.
Indeed, every aspect of the Stone Cottage is tailor-made to inspire and engage connectivity among high-performing executive teams. Exquisite board rooms look out onto lush greenery. Adjacent common areas invite small-group interaction, and even the open chef’s kitchens encourage community. The landscaped outdoor areas offer additional space to meet — whether it’s an afternoon strategy session under the giant oak tree or post-dinner drinks around the firepit.
The venue is also conducive to social distancing and follows the strictest COVID health and sanitation guidelines. Guests can choose how much interaction they have with the hospitality and housekeeping teams — meals can be dropped off and cleaning limited based on preferences. The cottage’s open layout and spacious rooms make it easy to keep a safe distance from other team members.
The market has responded. Despite COVID, the Stone Cottage has seen a steady stream of bookings throughout 2020, including leadership retreats for international and Fortune 500 executive teams.
Stone Cottage offers more than a state-of-the-art venue for meetings. Under the Academy@CREATiON, Bowers and CREATiON co-founders Pepper Bullock and Roger Gardner have developed a principle-based leadership curriculum that can be customized for executive groups.
The CREATiON Concierge Team works with guests to design custom itineraries filled with immersive and experiential learning, offering a range of courses to advance personal growth, strategic effectiveness and overall wellness.
“Creating connection is our most ancient survival code,” Bowers says. “Our Academy Team offers programming focused on identifying executive misalignment and guiding internal equilibrium through a holistic approach that balances the mental, physical and spiritual self.”
Alternatively, companies simply seeking an extraordinary place to convene may reserve the Stone Cottage and plan their own retreat. Any length of time is welcome, though most teams opt for three nights.
Serenbe and Chattahoochee Hills offer ample opportunities for recreation and non-traditional learning. Options include hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, yoga, cooking, wine tastings with sommeliers, cultural performances, art gallery strolls and much more. Guest can also visit the local community farm to harvest a genuine farm-to-table dinner prepared by one of Serenbe’s top chefs.
The Stone Cottage’s purposeful design affirms the company’s commitment to maintaining natural resources and a balanced ecology.
“Planning and participating in thousands of premium executive gatherings annually during my eight years with YPO, the world’s foremost leadership organization, we discovered that the power of place matters,” Bowers says. “It matters for connectivity and it matters for learning. My team also discovered that while the corporate hotels were plentiful, dotting the cityscapes in every country across the globe, there was a considerable shortage of nontraditional, interesting, convening destinations for executives.”
By virtue of place, proximity and peace of mind, the Stone Cottage is flourishing—even during a global pandemic.