In February 2016, Nikolai Paloni ’14 was sitting restlessly in his office at Amazon in Seattle, Wash., where he worked as a buyer, when he had an idea—a place for professionals to go and develop themselves both professionally and personally.
That idea turned into a business called Reboot Workation, offering a cross between work and vacation to ignite company productivity, inspire corporate teams, and reenergize the soul of each staff member. The operation enables company executives and employees to gather in a furnished lodge, located one and a half hours north of Seattle on Whidbey Island, equipped with workstations, conference rooms, and a calendar of activities ranging from kayaking to morning yoga.
“We had a vision of creating a WeWork meets Airbnb meets summer camp experience—where people can come work and live at the same time,” says Jensen Brehm ’14, Paloni’s business partner who majored in environmental business at the University of Redlands, where they met. “At first we focused on creating an experience for ‘digital nomads’ and freelancers, but as the idea developed we realized that our experience was an even better fit for business clients with teams of eight to 25 people,” Paloni recalls.
Both avid outdoorsmen, from the beginning Paloni and Brehm wanted to replace the monotonous concrete and glass corporate office environment with space that was alive with greenery and natural elements. “Our mission was to bring people away from the concrete and into naturally beautiful settings that would invigorate their senses,” Brehm says. “We began talking with researchers about the effects of nature on the brain and the scientific data that proves productivity and creativity levels are raised when a person is in a natural environment.”
Originally, however, the pair aimed to base the project in Nicaragua. On a three-week trip to the area, Paloni and Brehm observed devastating levels of deforestation that were occurring in order for people to build new structures in the country. Seeing this, they added a dimension to their business plan—committing to planting 10 trees in Madagascar and Ethiopia for every customer of Reboot Workation.
While their Nicaragua trip added a key sustainability element to the business’s mission, the experience also helped the pair realize their time and resources could be more successfully invested in the United States. After scouting properties on the Washington coast, Paloni and Brehm found a beachfront home near Deception Pass State Park, one of the state’s most popular locations for camping and hiking.
Reboot Workation launched in May 2017 with immediate success. “Microsoft was actually our first client,” Paloni says. Brehm recalls the operation going smoothly, despite the pair’s combined nerves: “They said they’d never had such a productive offsite experience.”
Looking back, Paloni and Brehm acknowledge the many ways in which their Redlands education influenced their business. “The liberal arts experience really allowed me to customize my learning,” says Paloni, who enrolled in nature studies and urban gardening electives to broaden his global business studies. “Professor Jack Osborn was really supportive of the idea for Reboot Workation—I appreciated his mentorship even three years after I had graduated.”
Brehm echoes the sentiment: “Because the environmental sector is so broad, I was able to channel my passions in the environmental business program and personalize my experience.”
Looking forward, Paloni and Brehm hope to expand Reboot Workation into different states to broaden their client base, with a dream of establishing a branch abroad. “Stress and anxiety is an issue in all work cultures,” says Paloni. “Venturing into nature is something everyone can benefit from.”