As I approached the summer of 2021, like many people, I was excited for some adventure time in the great outdoors. I spent months planning an epic trip with two of my buddy brands, Swift Industries and PNW Components. We were all excited to ride bikes, fish and swim during the peak summer season. But, as with most events these days, the world threw us a curveball and the Jack fire popped up in what would have been the middle of our bike packing route along the Umpqua river.
Luckily, we were able to redirect the trip to a new destination. As a result, the trip changed from an epic 5-day bike packing trip, to a mini-retreat for us entrepreneurs to connect and reflect on our work. This provided the perfect scenario for exchanging ideas, best practices and techniques for running small outdoor brands. We had no idea we needed this kind of connection in the outdoors and left feeling reenergized in our work and a revived sense of purpose in our brands and community.
I am excited to share with you some of the key reflections we each had from the trip.
Martina from Swift Industries left us with this great thought:
“Spending time outside on my bike is critical because it reminds me that at Swift we want to be catalysts. Getting out and using our product reminds me that every bicycle bag we make has the potential to unlock self-discovery for the person who puts it on their bike and hits the trail. So that's pretty dope, and always a good reason to go play. BUT, going outside with fellow entrepreneurs is another layer on the cake, it reminds me how I want to run my business. When I talk to other business owners, I always learn more than I expect and come away full-to-the brim with energy to bring my best work to my company. It's magical. Mash being outside up with spending time with the obsessives who are daring enough to start a company, and I'm as happy as a hog in slop.”
Although Aaron from PNW Components was not able to make the trip, he joined our conversation after the trip when we asked him; how has a lifetime of adventuring outdoors given you the tools to be strong business leaders?
“Adventuring outdoors is an incredibly fun and exciting experience, but can also be really difficult and humbling. Cycling has provided me with community, a sense of self and now a career. Getting out in the wilderness requires a humbleness and willingness to learn that you can only develop while doing it, which is what makes it so rewarding. Whether it was learning to wrench on my own bike, having a nasty crash which taught me what NOT to do next time or “talking shop” with experts who have incredible knowledge that they’re willing to pass on, it directly correlates to building a business. You know that you’re going to make mistakes but that’s ok because you’ll figure it out just like you did on the bike. You know that there are going to be some really challenging times and you may feel like you want to quit (like those cold winter days when your asthma is burning, your hands are numb from the cold and then you crash from sliding out on a root…..why do I do this again??) but you just keep showing up and learning which pays off in the end. And most importantly, the outdoors (and business) are more enjoyable with a community of folks you share a common interest with.”
The thought I wanted to most leave with the group was that I have learned many lessons along the way, but asking questions has gotten me the furthest.
I always ask lots of open-ended questions, and listen carefully. So many other people have started businesses, developed unconventional ideas or had friends/family go through it. Why pay the price of learning lessons when we don't have the time or money to do so? Just ask around when you need to solve a problem and you might be surprised by what you learn.
While the trip took an unexpected, entrepreneurial-focused, turn - we still managed to have some fun outdoors!
The Lewis River trail in southern Washington is an easily reachable location nestled between Portland and Seattle. The benefit of being on the trail with our entrepreneurial buddies was that we were all kitted up in each other’s gear and felt very comfortable using it (because we made it!) We were outfitted with dropper posts and handlebars from PNW, REYR fly rods, and bags from Swift industries to keep everything organized as we rode
We are looking forward to more trips together as buddy brands, and perhaps with other peers in the industries we touch. There’s so much room for collaboration and innovation that the opportunities seem endless!