I was first introduced to Hollyhock six years ago by my yoga instructor and I thought it sounded like a magical place – “an unparalleled centre of learning and connection that exists to inspire, nourish and support people who are making the world better” – what’s not to love about that? While I have yet to make it to Cortes Island, where Hollyhock sits nestled between the ocean and the forest, I now know that I will find my way there soon.

Earlier this year, I met Cory LePage at an event at The HiVE. Cory is an entrepreneur and business coach who works with social enterprises. He was the one who first told me about Hollyhock’s Social Venture Institute (SVI) and I was instantly intrigued. When I was later told that SVI would be holding a three day conference in Vancouver I was interested in learning more, but it wasn’t until I discovered that the first day and a half would be for female entrepreneurs only that knew I had to attend. While I was looking forward to the co-ed part of the conference, there was something intriguing, and empowering, about spending a day and a half with female thought leaders and change makers like Madeleine Shaw of Lunapads and Céline Artal of Nexus Humani.

I felt a little nervous and more than a little excited walking into the Vancouver Public Library last week. The questions swirling through my head included: What kind of situations would I be put in? Would it be a competitive environment? How would people react to my business model?  I do, after all, refer to myself as a Cultural Mythologist and Strategic Storyteller – you can imagine the puzzled looks and confused responses I get from time to time! My mind was put to rest as soon as I started talking with amazing woman after amazing woman and realized that this was not your traditional networking event. I think the most common phrase I heard all week was “What can I do to help?”

It seemed that Storytelling was buzzing all around me – from designers like Lisa Hemingway who understand that the essential ingredient in building a successful campaign is story, to artists like Lisa Edwards who capture ideas in a visual story format, to branding gurus like Mike Rowlands who effortlessly spin tales that engage everyone in the room.

My business is all about stories and ideas, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss my vision and all the potential paths I can take. I see storytelling as not only the best way to build a brand and promote a business, but also the best way to build leadership. The SVI model may appear ordinary at first, but rest assured there was nothing ordinary about this experience that included Case Studies and Workshops, True Confessions and Peer Circles. I came out feeling like I had been throw into a tornado – my heart swirling with ideas, and my mind finding it hard to keep up with all the possibilities. I am now letting the dust settle and have already started to form partnerships and collaborations with the amazing people I met. I picked up a Hollyhock brochure at Banyen Books and am perusing the courses and retreats on Hollyhock, eager to follow this with an experience on the island of Cortes.

Before any of that can take place, I find myself preparing for a Narrative Leadership retreat on the Sunshine Coast with Chene Swart where I can learn about the role of storytelling when it comes to mediation and leadership, including employee engagement and conflict resolution. I truly feel that there is no limit when you surround yourself with thought leaders and change makers, and embrace the power of story.