2020 Outdoor economy conference:

Outdoor Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The outdoors is booming, thanks in huge part to companies that are making it their mission to make a difference. We brought together some of the top leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs to discuss how we can keep this momentum going and build a better outdoor industry. This workshop is packed with useful tips and wisdom – you don’t want to miss it.

If you purchased tickets to the 2020 conference you’ve been emailed the password to access the videos.
Need help? Contact [email protected] for more info.

Outdoor Businesses Reinventing Their Places

Amy Allison
NC Outdoor Recreation Industry Office

Tom Dempsey

David Billstrom

Sarah Calhoun
Red Ants Pants

“If you can’t run a business with integrity you don’t deserve to run one at all.”
– Sarah Calhoun

Location matters. What do all the companies on the places panel have in common? They build gear with their environment in mind. North Carolina’s mountains inspire the gear made by Kitsbow and SylvanSport, while Sarah Calhoun’s Red Ants Pants are made to withstand the harsh Montana winters. There’s definitely an advantage to being able to go right outside and test your product.

“We’re dependent on the town and the town is dependent on us – that gets the best out of each other.”
– David Billstrom

Small towns have huge potential. As Sarah Calhoun put it, they have a low cost of living and a high quality of life. With plenty of warehouses and retail space just waiting to be revitalized, small towns are the perfect place to start your own business. Since she started Red Ants Pants in White Sulphur Springs, MT, the town has seen huge growth – new businesses, town beautification projects, and increased income.

Support others when you can. Helping other businesses succeed helps make your community even stronger. “None of us would be where we are without those reaching down behind them,” Sarah Calhoun told us – so take that energy and give back by helping others how you can. Even if you’re not in a position to help financially, you can still lend your time and advice. Hear from Tom Dempsey how his commitment to helping new businesses has led to unexpected partnerships and growth in his community.

Listen to the community. David Billstrom wasn’t born in Old Fort, NC, but he got there as fast as he could. He takes pride in his community, and knows how important it is to listen to the people who were there before him. Kitsbow has been doing what they can to support the community, by partnering with other organizations to develop trails, supporting a new mural honoring a local Civil Rights hero, and providing the town’s only clean public restroom in the Old Fort Ride House.

this session is available to watch free on youtube

Kristin Carpenter, Verde Brand Communications

Kristin Carpenter: Standing for Something Bigger

“Your brand needs to be something they can get excited about and fight forward with.”
– Kristin Carpenter

Purpose driven brands have loyal customers. Today’s consumers expect companies to be making a positive impact, both internally and in society. They’re looking for brands that treat their employees fairly, have ethical and sustainable practices, and support important social causes. They don’t just care about what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. This means that when you use your brand as a force for good, you’re creating brand loyalty. That’s good for society and your bottom line.

Engage your workforce. Your employees are your biggest resource for driving change, so make sure they’re on board with your mission.

Live your values. It can’t just be an ad campaign – you have to infuse your values into everything you do. When you walk the walk it shows your commitment to the causes you’re championing. Customers expect to see CEOs living out their brand’s values everyday — so don’t get caught littering on your way to an environmental summit.

Emotional connection cuts through the clutter. When you check your phone in the morning you’re bombarded with more information in a day than you could process in a year. How do you make sure your brand is making an impact in such a cluttered online landscape? Be real and transparent. You’re not Amazon, so use that to your advantage and make a personal connection with your customers.

Money Talks: How to Be More Than Just a Business

Jessica Wahl Turner
Outdoor Recreation Roundtable

Chuck Millsaps
Great Outdoor Provision Co.

Michelle Fleming

Jeanine Pesce

Amanda Sabin

“Together we’re so much stronger. The health of the planet, the health of the outdoors –
it’s not an ownable possession … it’s a shared responsibility.”
– Amanda Sabin

Funding for the outdoors is a win for all. There are few things that everyone can agree on, but it’s pretty universally accepted that getting more people outdoors is a good thing. Jessica Wahl Turner was a leader in getting the Great American Outdoors Act passed by congress last summer, and it was a success because businesses came together to show their representatives how important the outdoors is for everyone.

The outdoor industry is ready for a rebirth. When COVID-19 shut the world down last year, many people found themselves getting outside for the first time ever. A big chunk of these new users are Millennials and Gen Z, who are looking for brands that stand for something. According to Jeanine Pesce, now is the time to expand your customer base, and a great way to do that is by becoming a business that’s fighting for the greater good.

Giving back shouldn’t be a one time thing. Chuck Milsaps and the Great Outdoor Provision Co. participate in Land Trust Day every year – but they don’t stop there. They incorporate helping the environment into their business model by partnering with 1% for the Planet and hosting clean up days throughout the year.
“People like to get involved, so give them opportunities to help.”

Find your brand essence. It should drive everything you do, from your branding to the way you operate day to day. Amanda Sabin shared how “Costa breathes life into water” inspires both their products and the way they advocate for the environment. Getting the outdoor community on board with that essence can create a better brand image, and can mean a bigger impact for the causes you care about.

Make your mission a lifestyle. Stanley has been making sustainable products for over 100 years. They take sustainability seriously, and infuse it into all they do. They’ve made it easy to eliminate single use plastic by providing reusable bottles and dishware at local music festivals and events. Even in her personal life, Michelle Flemming looks for eco friendly swaps like bringing her own mug to coffee shops or making powdered sports drinks in reusable bottles for her kids’ sports games.

Abby Dione: Climbing a Mountain Below Sea Level

Abby Dione, Coral Cliffs Rock Climbing Center

“Growth happens on the outer edges. If you’re not falling, you’re not climbing at your limit.”
– Abby Dione

If you don’t try, you’re guaranteed to fail. Your idea isn’t going to do anything just sitting in your head, so get out there and give it a shot. There’s no doubt we’re in strange times, but this is the perfect opportunity to try something new. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it your first month will turn into five years

Who do you need to be to accomplish your goals? Starting a business can be overwhelming – there’s a lot you need to know, but you don’t need to know it all right away. Just get started, and you can grow and adapt along with your business. Abby told us some tips and tricks for becoming the person you need to be in order to make your idea a reality.

“Human beings don’t evolve in [financial] quarters.”

Stay focused on what matters. Abby talked about the difference between output – the bills you have to pay and things you need to do to stay open – and input. Things like greeting your customers at the door, supporting staff, and helping people grow make up input. It’s easy to get caught up in all the administrative tasks you have to get done, but focus on all the little things that make your business stand out.

Let your principles guide everything you do. When faced with the tough decision of what to do about COVID, Abby asked herself this: when I look back, will I like the choices I made? Be flexible with your ideas – they might not all work out how you expect – but stay true to your values. “I’m not married to any one idea. I’m married to my principles of trust and love … that doesn’t get compromised for anything.”

Make sure you’re all on the same page. “I don’t hire climbers – I hire good people with common sense.” Teaching people to climb is the easy part – what really matters to Abby Dione is making sure everyone working at Coral Cliffs is operating on the same guiding principles: trust and love. She’s bringing more people into the outdoor industry by hiring good people first, and training them to become climbers second. Abby hopes when people climb with her they’re learning to trust themselves and others, and building a love of climbing and the outdoors.

watch all the 2020 conference videos now

If you purchased tickets to the 2020 conference you’ve been emailed the password to access the videos.
Need help? Contact [email protected] for more info.