Lighting Up Life: The Story Behind Our Purpose

Lighting Up Life: The Story Behind Our Purpose

A conversation between Meredith Ellison, Beacon Village co-founder, and Brody Hartman, Founder of SoulTrue, an Asheville-based Purpose + Impact Consultancy.


ME: When we first envisioned the possibilities for Beacon Village, Brandon, Casey and I had many ideas, shared passions, and even preliminary sketches defining the project.

Starting from a blank slate, we knew we wanted to reimagine the typical land development process and were adamant that this wouldn't be another strip mall or acres of blacktop parking. We knew we wanted to revitalize the soul of Swannanoa through meaningful community experiences and to honor the rich history of the Beacon land— from the Cherokee people who first lived on the land to the thousands of workers and families who made their livelihoods here; all the while respecting and nurturing the local ecology. Casey’s own grandparents were employees of the mill, part of why his connection to this place runs so deep.

 With this broad vision agreed upon, we knew we would need to form a team for our project that consisted of individuals not only possessing diverse talents but also sharing similar core values and harboring a genuine passion for Swannanoa and its relationship with the broader Asheville community. Additionally, we understood the importance of having team members who know how to efficiently accomplish tasks while maintaining a sense of enjoyment – without which our endeavor would likely falter. Thus, Jon, Rob, Colby, and Katy were gradually and organically welcomed onto our team.

 The next step for our group was recognizing that we needed a cohesive vision and a strategic thread to weave our aspirations together. That's when we invited Brody into the project to help guide us through a journey to define the purpose of The Beacon Village project. 


BH: I was inspired to work with Meredith and the team right out of the gate. They are a wonderful group of people full of integrity with a track record of nurturing our local community and their employees. 

I've guided leaders, teams, businesses, and individuals on purpose discovery journeys worldwide. But this was the first project that challenged me to think about the purpose of a place. 

 Specifically, I was excited to explore the nexus between the team's shared values and purpose and the purpose of the soon-to-be revitalized Beacon Village—with its storied history and important role in the community.



Brody seamlessly integrated into our team. He quickly grasped our needs and objectives, becoming the guiding presence necessary to propel our project forward, with intention.



I'm committed to collaborating with people seeking new ways to elevate the human spirit, fostering community connections, and repairing and protecting the natural world.



Brody facilitated many of our sessions on the property to inspire a deeper connection with the Beacon's land and history.

He started our purpose discovery journey by leading us on a "land listening" walking meditation and prompting us with questions such as what stories did the land want to "speak"? How can we serve and honor this place?

 At first, our team experienced a sense of sadness. In its heyday, the Beacon Village, and Swannanoa itself, was a thriving community and the hub of social and economic vitality in Buncombe County. 

 We couldn't help but feel a sense of loss—the loss of livelihoods, community, culture, and the natural habitat. But we also felt incredibly inspired and honored to become stewards of its rebirth in a new, regenerative, and sustainable way. At the end of one of our sessions, we saw a coyote walking the perimeter of the land, which I took as a hopeful sign that Life was still thriving here.



That was a beautiful moment. It was as if nature was saying we are watching you. Do the right thing.



Those walks and meditations were truly inspiring. They helped me recognize the immense responsibility bestowed upon us to not only revive that land and its history but also to ensure its thriving future. It was time to get to work!

 With Brody’s guidance, our team was able to define the Beacon's values.  He guided us on in-depth visioning exercises and helped us articulate our criteria and guardrails for making mindful choices that would inform everything from environmental impact to event programming.


 We now have a set of criteria or development pillars: sustainability, storytelling, community, mindful growth, well-being, and imagination.



I knew the team would be approached by many potential partners, vendors, or investors, and it was important for the team to have a broad set of principles or guardrails to evaluate each criterion.


So, we went through a series of exercises to define what the team would say yes to and, equally important, no to. For example, we say yes to native plantings, tree canopy restoration, green space and no to chain restaurants, commercial franchises, and loud industrial machinery.



Our team quickly pinpointed what we wanted to avoid! Our goal was to transform the Beacon into a vibrant hub of connection, play, and laughter—a destination where families would joyfully spend their afternoons and athletes could test their limits. We envisioned it as a place conducive to both living and working, abundant in green spaces and open air.



At the end of our 4-month discovery journey, it was time to articulate the project's central purpose. I define purpose as the soulful pursuit of what brings people most alive while enriching the web of Life. It's about joy and service. 

 The elements that drive purpose, which we were gathering along the way, include a long-term detailed vision, values, mission, and criteria. We also defined who and what Beacon Village would be in service to.

 We also knew the purpose had to be broad enough to capture diverse village experiences ranging from biking to farmers' markets, music events, and picnics on the green. And it had to speak to a broad audience, including neighbors, outdoor enthusiasts, families, tourists, community impact partners, future residents, and more.

 Most importantly, the purpose had to be rooted in the venue's values and the authentic story of the place.

 I am always looking for an inspiring metaphor that captures the essence of the purpose. We were gifted a wonderful metaphor right in our name—The Beacon.


We discovered a lighthouse was used in early blanket designs, old packaging, and labels. Fire beacons historically served as signals on mountaintops for sharing news or celebrations. Traditional lighthouses were used to guide ships safely home. 



There was real richness in the idea. So, Brody guided us through the process of unpacking the idea. What did we want to be a Beacon for or of?

To be a beacon of joy, community, connection, meaningful growth opportunities, well-being, play, and new possibilities. 

Brody distilled all of this under the idea of Lighting Up Life.

This takes on different meanings depending on the context of the experience in the village. Lighting Up Life with a movie night on the green. Lighting Up Life for a community celebration. Lighting Up Life with fun and adventure on the bike track.

This just really landed with us and felt aligned with what we want to offer our community.


I would like to end here with a moment of gratitude for Brody and his guidance around a deeper meaning for place.  My hope is that this process will become a standard in community development.  To slow down and ask the “Big Questions” the land and community deserve.  We see our role  and partnership with Swannanoa as a huge responsibility and opportunity for generations to come. 



Meredith Ellison 

Co-Founder, Beacon Village

Co-Founder, Quility Insurance


Brody Hartman

Founder, SoulTrue 

A Purpose + Impact Consultancy

SoulTrue works with businesses, organizations, and leaders to help them define their purpose and amply their values to create a more conscious, regenerative, and caring world.


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