As the founders of Nova Immersions Kathleen Woodhouse and Lisa Mink are on a mission to help women fulfill their professional potential.
By Amanda Pinney, Photos by Barton Wilder and Linda Nguyen
A nova is the sudden brightening of a previously inconspicuous star. Within that definition lies the purpose behind Nova Immersions, an Austin-based company providing exclusive professional-development workshops for women in the corporate world.
Former Fortune 500 executives Kathleen Woodhouse and Lisa Mink are the designers of the program and the hosts of the workshops. The two women used their own experiences from their time spent working in the corporate world to create the ideal professional retreat.
“We really designed the program to meet the needs of our clients,” Woodhouse says. “It’s the program we wish we had access to as we were coming up because the idea of building a network and building a community is so important and often really hard to do.”
Nova Immersions officially launched in May 2016, and Woodhouse and Mink plan the themes of the retreats and ideas for the workshops months in advance. The immersions take eight women, often from the same company, to a private residence for a three-day retreat. Each day focuses on one of three themes, which include executive presence, strategic communications and personal brand. Immersion workshops feature everything from guided group discussions to mindfulness activities, all of which are meant to give women the opportunity to build a network and practice self-reflection.
“When you get very successful women into a safe conversation, they’ll often admit that they want to feel more confident,” Mink says. “They get this feedback around communications and they want to know who they are and reflect more on their own personal brand.”
The idea behind the retreat is also for women to experience a sense of mind, body and spirit, allowing them to focus inward. Attendees enjoy nourishing meals made by a personal chef, as well as private yoga instruction to foster a body-mind connection. The flow of the workshop is a blend of group time and alone time, creating a comfortable balance to ensure each woman gets what she needs.
“Typically, women who are so busy doing don’t take the time to stop and focus inward,” Woodhouse says. “You need a small, intimate setting to really peel back the layers.”
Nova Immersions intends to attract women from different areas of the corporate spectrum, including those working in technology, financial services, marketing and law. The age range is broad, with participants’ ages spanning from the early 30s to the early 60s. A significant age difference has proven to bring the women closer together, with both younger women and older women from different industries being able to learn from one another.
“We want these women to shine because what they bring is different and unique and wonderful,” Woodhouse says. “I think just reminding people of their innate brilliance and calling it out when we see it is really important.”
Although the retreats have only been in Austin so far, the duo’s goal for 2018 is to branch out internationally. Woodhouse and Mink have spoken to several global organizations about spreading the concept across seas and building a broader Nova community.
“I think the themes we design and focus on are universal and very global,” Mink says. “They can be Austin-specific or they can be really large and multinational. The areas of focus tend to be the same.”
When women leave a retreat, Woodhouse and Mink hope they are instilled with a new sense of confidence and illumination as they return to their professional lives. The themes and activities focused on communication and self-reflection remind corporate women they are not alone, but that, as individuals, they are strong.
“I think growing up [female], we don’t get that message enough. We don’t get the message that we can go do anything, be anything,” Mink says. “I think we owe it to our peers to have those conversations more often. As long as we get the values right of the organization and we allow women to shine, it makes a lot of difference.”