Our Story

Karen and Toni met when they became coworkers at a small, family-owned business in Oakland, CA. Toni was hired sight-unseen from the East Coast, and upon initially meeting her, Karen wasn't quite sure they'd get along. They moved through the world quite differently. But eventually, they discovered a common interest in music, and Toni won her over.

Although their friendship started when they were working on separate teams, shortly after Toni joined the company, the two departments merged, and Karen became her boss. Immediately, they had to learn to navigate their friendship from unequal positions at work, finding new ways to communicate and work together.

Through experiences of trial and error, and with the security of a deep friendship at the heart of their professional relationship, Toni and Karen partnered up to successfully lead a major IT transition at their company. They credit their friendship for their professional success.

Five years later, Karen fell deeply in love with the world of improvisational theater -- so much so, that it became contagious. Toni signed up for a class and also caught the bug.

Nostalgic for the old days and ready to move on from their respective careers, Toni and Karen began plotting how they could join forces once again. Their friendship of nearly a decade is the foundation of The Village Makers, along with the skills they've combined to turn this project into a reality.

Our Philosophy

corporate improv workshops

As a nation, many of us spend 40 to 60 hours a week with our coworkers at work. Yet there’s a growing epidemic of loneliness in our culture, which comes with a host of negative implications on personal health and wellbeing. Our mission is to bridge that gap by building deeper human connection and a stronger workforce.

When people are truly connected, their happiness and health appreciably improve and their engagement and productivity increase as well.

The work we do enables everyone -- from leaders to front line employees -- to feel empowered to exchange ideas and make a difference. Our goal is to create a movement of YES, where ideas flow freely without fear of judgement, where adults can play and be silly (and vulnerable) together, and where CONNECTION is the number one goal. And we have lots of fun in the process!

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Our Approach

Improvising is a skill that you already have -- it's just about learning how to use it and improve upon what you already know. We help you do that with games, exercises, and group conversations that help connect the dots for everyone in the room.

We tailor our workshops to the goals of your group. Whether you're hoping to increase engagement, foster a supportive team environment, improve communication across multiple teams (or levels), or simply give your team a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed environment, we have a workshop for you.

You will leave our workshops with:

  • better listening skills
  • a greater sense of connection with your coworkers/peers
  • more confidence in yourself and our ideas
  • more openness to others’ ideas
  • more ease in social situations

We're thrilled to share our work with you and your team, and we can't wait to meet you!

The Village Makers

Karen Sandvoss

Senior Village Maker

Karen found her passion for improv nearly five years ago when she attended her first drop-in class at Pan Theater (Oakland, CA). She currently teaches and coaches improv in the San Francisco Bay Area and performs with her indie troupe Jurassic Pope. She's studied at iO Chicago, Pan Theater in Oakland and with improv giants Karen Graci (iO West), David Razowsky (Second City, Chicago), Brian James O'Connell (iO West/Pack Theater), Suzanne Hitchman (NY) and more.

Karen approaches improv as a meaningful way to connect people, build trust, and develop a mindful meditation practice through play.  She believes everyone can benefit from this dynamic art form whether on stage, at home, or in the workplace.

Toni Sicola

Senior Maker of Villages

Toni has been in the wellness and holistic health world in one form or another for the last nine years. She earned her Master's Degree in Integrative Health Studies and went on to build an employee wellness program from scratch at a large hospital chain in Alameda County. In her work in corporate wellness, she learned over and over how engagement can affect outcomes, both personally and professionally.

In discovering the many ways in which wellness and improv overlap (especially in the forms of mindfulness, presence, and cooperation), she began studying how the two could be married to create the most dynamic teams and inspiring leaders.

She brings her expertise in health and wellness, a passion for improv, and enthusiastic creativity to every Village Maker workshop, and is eager to help you thrive.

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Next Steps...

What kind of village do you want to build? Find out how we can help! Drop us a line and we'll get back to you to learn more about your goals.