Sometimes it’s scary to take the next step. We’ve been there. We can help.
An adventure starts with one step, not knowing where you’ll end up. Does change scare you? It’s part of life. But here at Next Step Adventure, we have some tools, skills and know-how to help you ground, find direction and strength to move your journey forward! Here’s our story…
When I took the first steps to start Next Step in February 2006, I never dreamed where those steps would lead me. I had a better idea of what I didn’t want than what I did. Sound familiar? But working with an attorney to found a corporation, talking with an old friend to choose a URL, and snagging my first contract got me moving, and kept me moving.Martha McCormick, Founder and Convener, Next Step
As I came up on my 30th anniversary at Iowa State University Extension as a Youth Development Specialist, starting my own business felt like stepping off a cliff. But far better than going to work for someone else!
But looking back, I believe I was always an undercover entrepreneur. Creating new programs, changing our focus every year, securing and managing more than a million dollars’ worth of grants and contracts…
I was lucky ISU let me operate so close to the edge of the 4-H field, and when I “retired” in 2006 it wasn’t a steep drop after all. My first contract came from the Chrysalis Foundation for Women and Girls. They hired me to evaluate their afterschool programs for middle school girls. That grew into professional development, teambuilding, and work with the girls themselves. Nearly 20 years later, I’ve seen some of those girls grow up, become professionals and moms themselves. Amazing!
I worked on my own for a number of years, but even early on there were times when I contracted with individuals to get the work done. I left ISU not wanting to supervise staff any more. It’s a hard job, and mother please, I’d rather do it myself! But as my business, focus and contracts grew, it became necessary to bring other people into Next Step Adventure.
For many years, I decried my lack of focus as a character defect, but last fall when I had my birth chart read, Lauren told me, “You just want to do everything! You need people in your life to put the bumpers on the bowling alley.” This seemed true to me, and a big relief!
The first contract to require others on a large scale was our work with Keep Iowa Beautiful. They initially hired me to develop an educational program for kids in elementary school. The Iowa DNR allocated some grant money over a five-year period to fund our vision of creating a curriculum that would get kids outdoors, help them connect with nature, and also address the Core Curriculum that all Iowa teachers were required to teach in their classrooms. Several people came on board to do that work but Shelly Johnson stayed.
And our focus expanded from education to include environmental awareness and clients like Story County Conservation, The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and the Iowa Tourism Office. Teachers Going Green morphed into A Garden for Every School. And our work with schools and teachers came to include Iowa State University, Food Corps, and Waukee Schools.
This is when Sara Lockie joined our team. Her brilliant mind really helped us instill science into the curriculum we were developing.
Quite separate from Next Step’s work, I decided in 2010 to immerse myself more deeply into my yoga practice. I began taking classes at Shakti Yoga Shop, and when Brette Scott offered teacher training in 2013 I decided to take it.
I really had no intention of becoming a yoga teacher, but toward the end of training I began teaching a Gentle Yoga class for Harmony Yoga, and a class at Shakti as well. I’ve studied with Dr. Douglas Brooks since my first trip to India in 2015, and the stories have greatly enhanced my life and my teaching.
Over the years, my love of yoga has grown; I’ve taught classes for staff at the Des Moines Art Center, for public classes at Jester Park Nature Center, and for a number of schools. Shelly, and Dan Zimmerman and I have taught yoga for kids at schools, summer programs, and Bluebird Integrated Health. I even incorporated yoga into an art class for the Des Moines Art Center.
In 2018, Sara Lockie developed the first set of Mindfulness & Movement Activity Cards. She and Shelly were seeing so many benefits of using yoga with their kids that they wanted to give teachers a guide for using the practice in their classrooms. A few years later, we added the Growth Deck. It grew from Cyndy Erickson’s book discussion of “My Grandmother’s Hands” by Resmaa Mebarek. Developing those 24-ish activity cards fulfilled my commitment to the group to take action as a result of the work we’d done and the insights we’d learned.
Last year, we revised the original activity cards, and published them as the Foundation Deck.
We took another leap of faith, and bought eight, yes I said eight, ISBN numbers, so now we’re in the publishing business? Our newest team member Ashley Kirvin and I figured out that process over the phone when we were more than 1000 miles away from each other. Gotta be careful putting two “Orange” visionaries in the same space. I’ve started a few books on paper, and more in my head, so maybe you’ll see something someday.
In 2015, Sandra Hoover was looking for a new home for the Central Iowa Yoga Retreat. Brette suggested she talk to me about it. Shelly and I attended that year, and hosted our first gathering at the Raccoon River Nature Lodge in 2016. We changed the format substantially from what it had been, and hosted each year through 2019.
The main changes were venue, and a big emphasis on building community. We’ve continued that emphasis through the years. Ashley joined us in the spring of 2022 primarily to organize the retreat, but she’s become indispensable in so many ways!
We were getting ready for the April 2020 Retreat when COVID hit, and had to cancel when everything shut down in March. Sending out refunds, and having a couple Poverty Simulations cancel as well, led me to believe that Next Step would finally come to its end, and I’d be able to retire!
But, as parents were put into the position of homeschooling their kids, and working their jobs remotely, I had an idea. Next Step has been so successful at developing lessons and activities for kids I thought we could offer help to families struggling with these new challenges. So, we developed Home Learning Resources. Free downloadable instructions for helping kids learn at home.
Looking back at the last 17 years is quite a project. This little story makes it look like it was a fairly straight path after I stepped off that cliff in 2006 (out of that rut), but there were lots of meanderings and tangents, roadblocks and dead ends as well. We survived the 2008 Great Recession. I took a cut in pay, and took some part time jobs but the business stayed in operation. Only a few times in all those years did our taxes show a loss instead of a profit.
The COVID 19 pandemic looked like the end, but it in reality it opened a lot of doors to us. Sara moved to northeast Iowa to be closer to her parents and embrace life in rural Iowa. She’s been working remotely since, expanding our reach into northeast Iowa, and digging deeper into resource development. As I began this journey, I feel the same. I still don’t know where it’s going. New adventures keep popping up, and we continue to follow them into the unknown.
I hope you’ll join us sometime!