Our bi-annual pilgrimage to Outdoor Retailer – a huge trade show now held in Denver that draws tens of thousands of people – is both exhilarating and exhausting.
When I walk through the doors on Day 1, I still find myself starry eyed, remembering the first time I saw the boxy, electric scene four years ago. To see the near entirety of the outdoor industry housed under one roof is something to behold. It makes that $887 billion generated annually by the outdoor industry seem more real, more tangible.
And, while I’ll be a devotee to providing people outdoor opportunities to the end, over the years I’ve also grown a bit jaded. At the show, egos flow as freely as beer, neither of which I find particularly palpable. And the noise you need to break through to share your own vision can be overwhelming.
It’s an endurance event of back-to-back elevator pitches for three days straight, hoping that your words might land on just the right person in just the right way as to advance a business relationship or earn some coverage in a big publication.
Not unlike the ultraraces I sign myself up for, I find myself just putting one foot in front of the other, keeping at it, feeling decidedly loopy but also in the groove, going, going, going until I reach the end. I’ve learned to pay attention to fuel, hydration and sleep – and show up with an organized system of outreach.
Let me just pause here to extoll for the virtues of fanny packs for OR. Just a year or so ago, I was a pretty serious skeptic of fanny packs. Now I’m an advocate. I want to climb a tree and shout, “everyone needs a fanny pack.” Whether backpacking or walking the floor of a trade show, these are seriously the most useful sidekicks.
I organized my Thrupack Fanny Pack to have one pocket for my business cards, one for business cards I collected, and another for GGG stickers. I put a small collapsible water bottle inside it and two energy bars. Plus my phone and wallet. All the essentials, right at my fingertips, all the time!
The best part of OR, other than fanny packs?
- Getting to spend time with our CEO Lloyd Vogel! We’re a remote team. Lloyd lives in Minnesota. I live in Idaho. (Our CFO is based in Montana). We talk on the phone multiple times a week and exchange emails daily. But getting to hang out in person is always a treat!
- Getting to spend time with the founders of the small and startup brands we already work with or hope to work with.
A big part of the value we believe we provide to our customers is vetting the brands and gear we feature in our online store. We get to know the people behind these businesses and test their gear out in the field.
While we can certainly make a lot of headway with a long conversation over the phone, there’s something invaluable about grabbing coffee or lunch with these folks. Business relationships turn into personal friendships and truly creative ideas have a tendency to spring up seemingly out of thin air.
(Below Lloyd waits out a hail storm with Mandy Bland, founder of Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, during an evening Gear & Beer event designed specifically to showcase emerging brands!)
So, I’ll be back. This winter. Next summer. Because for all my trepidation about it, inevitably I end up having fun and good things always come out of OR.
P.S. I also picked up some super sweet gear at OR that I can’t wait to use and review. Stay tuned! But here’s a sneak peek ...
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7) Good To-Go NEW Meal Flavors - New England Corn Chowder & Kale and White Bean Stew! Coming this Fall!