Created by women, for women.
Chocolate Villa was born out of necessity. Founders Merrilee Buchanan, Sharon MacLeod, Kerry Owen, Pat Kvamme, and Clare Coonan began with a profound awareness that women’s leadership skills are under-utilized and under-valued in today’s business environment. They saw a need for professional development that focused on the advancement and enhancement of women’s leadership skills, and in 2008, they began to put together a unique model for filling this void in the world of executive leadership training.
Each Chocolate Villa is its own unique, organic experience, molded by the diverse mix of individuals who attend. Combined with a rigorous curriculum, participants bring their own “Jewels of Wisdom” to teach and share with their group. Our facilitators are constantly seeking out new ways to stay on the cutting edge of leadership tools and trends, and Chocolate Villa still maintains core elements established in the first Chocolate Villa.
What's in a Name
In early 2008, two of Chocolate Villa’s Founders, Merrilee Buchanan and Sharon MacLeod, were sharing their observations about the unique strengths of women leaders. They discussed the barriers still facing female leaders, in spite of the perceived progress since the women’s movement began.
They playfully suggested buying a ranch in Colorado and conducting women’s leadership development retreats. Merrilee shared her story about a women’s group she once belonged to known as “The Chocolate Club.” (It was like a book club, but there were no reading requirements.) Drawn by their mutual love for chocolate and their recognition that chocolate holds a special place in the hearts of most women, they decided the ranch should be called “The Chocolate Ranch.”
With a brief reality check, they opted instead to plan a retreat with some handpicked, bright, and experienced women leaders they knew, with their desired destination being a villa in Tuscany. Their planning continued and they soon realized that a retreat in Italy was quite involved, deciding instead to go to a resort hotel in Sedona, Arizona. Keeping the spirit of their Italian Villa dream, they changed the name to Chocolate Villa. They recruited the other three founders to join the planning, and held their very first Chocolate Villa in November 2008. The founders spent the following year developing their model for women’s leadership, which remains the foundation of what Chocolate Villa is today.
We love seeing women’s reactions to the name “Chocolate Villa”—their eyes light up as they say, “I want that, whatever it is!”