Outdoor Retailer: Condensed Overview

Outdoor Retailer came, and then it was gone, nearly as fast as that.

My first OR experience was a collision of ideas, free beer, and networking. The week started on Tuesday where I attended Camber Outdoors “Pitchfest.” Pitchfest exists for female entrepreneurs to get their product/business in front of a board of influential members in the outdoor community. Each finalist had five minutes to give their pitch, and then the panel questioned them for seven minutes.

Following Pitchfest, I went to join my fellow Outdoor Women’s Alliance team at The Front Climbing Gym for a Wine, Dine, and Climb event.  The keynote speaker, Shelma Jun of Flash Foxy, made a group of us wonder how much more effective it would be if she were speaking in front of mixed company. Her speech essentially reinforced ideas we’ve been thinking and talking about for months. (It also lead me to dive deeper into the role female-only organizations are playing in the outdoor world…more on that later.)

Two out of town friends, Sara and Emma, stayed on my couch for the week. We woke up early on Wednesday to attend the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) breakfast, with former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel speaking, as well as Alex Honnold, Cedar Wright, and Montana Governor Steve Bullock.

Some clips from the breakfast:

Sally Jewel: “There’s a lot of problems with [President Trump’s] review…President Trump is putting himself on the wrong side of history. If he acts to revoke National Monuments, he will go down as one of the most anti-conservation presidents in the history of this nation. Our National Parks, our National Monuments, our public lands are what helps make this nation great.”

Gov. Steve Bullock: “Transferring those lands out of public hands would be damn foolish, not only for today but for future generations as well.”

The breakfast left me in a sober mood. Starting in 2018, Outdoor Retailer will no longer make it’s home in Utah due to our government continually refuting the value of public lands, which lead to outrage in the outdoor industry. At the OIA breakfast, despite the recent tension between Utah and the outdoor industry, terms like positivity, graciousness, and opportunity, created a theme that was easy to track throughout the week.

I spent a good amount of time wandering around the floor, checking out new products, and making connections. I quickly realized, though, that Outdoor Retailer exists for companies to meet with other companies, for contracts to be formed, and for new relationships to be forged. Though I fell into the latter category, I often felt out of place.

After speaking with Sarah Smith, founder of The Dyrt, I realized this feeling is normal, and almost essential when first attending OR. In many ways, it helps fuel you forward. For me, it projected some future goals, like coming to OR as someone in the outdoor industry. I can’t, however, expect that to happen overnight.

OR has an exhaustive, infectious energy. I volunteered at the Gregory Packs booth, and was constantly ferrying people to and from meetings. We had a steady stream of vendors, exhibitors, buyers, guests, and non-buyers, coming by the booth asking to speak with so-and-so, wishing to drop off business cards, or asking if we had anything for free. OR was capitalism at work.

This is a compressed version of Outdoor Retailer. It doesn’t include the panels, the This Land is Our Land march, nor can it honestly capture the post OR exhaustion. These topics will all come later, as they each deserve their own space.

Overall, I am so thankful for my first OR experience. The generosity shown to me from professionals in the industry, the connections with media I formed, and insightful conversations for a path moving forward were worth every hour of sleep I lost.

Cheers to OR January 2018 at it’s new Denver home.