In addition to the 10 Power Players named in our SNEWS Winter Outdoor magazine for 2009, SNEWS has also named 15 Power Players to “keep your eye on” in 2009. Keep in mind that the SNEWS Power Players list will become an annual honor — one we hope is anticipated and will keep the industry talking. Make sure you stay abreast of SNEWS, so when we ask for nominations in late 2009 for the SNEWS 2010 Power Players list, your choice gets noticed. (Click here to see our top 10 with full interviews and photos, also a SNEWS magazine Extra.)
For the printed story, see SNEWS Winter Outdoor magazine 2009, p. 50, ” 2009 SNEWS Power Players” (To download the full issue, click here www.outsidebusinessjournal.com/magazines.)
By the editors of SNEWS
Rutabaga Paddlesports, owner and paddling evangelist
Favorite magazine: I like really thick magazines called “books.” And my favorite book is the one I’m reading at the time.
Important industry development in last 25 years: The most important development isn’t a product or a business model, it’s a change in perception. When I was a kid, real sports ended in –ball. Athletes played football, basketball, baseball. Soccer was coming on but still, the idea that a paddler or even a cyclist was considered an athlete was odd. I think the definition of what it means to be athletic has changed for the better, and the choice of role models is a lot broader than being the quarterback, center or starting pitcher. But we have a long way to go…a lot of folks still think that turning left at 200 miles per hour better than anyone else makes you an athlete.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: Take everyone in the industry who is not passionate about their work and remind them how fortunate they are to work in a great industry. Then I’d fire them all.
The manufacturers who are passionate about producing the best product are the ones who will dominate. The retailers who are passionate about providing the best experience for their customers will succeed. The reps who are passionate about the products they represent will thrive in a challenging environment. It’s all about the experience, not the gear, and so long as companies, retailers and reps focus on pushing units rather than providing experiences, they might as well be selling used Kias.
Motivations and inspirations: I am motivated by working in a collaborative atmosphere with smart, wonderful, genuine people who all want to do the right thing. It’s a rush to see a group of people start a project and watch it take off. I am inspired by people who are full of gratitude and live with an attitude of abundance, and by people who would rather be effective than important.
Patagonia, director of environmental analysis
Favorite magazine: This is the hardest question! Natural Home.
Important industry development in last 25 years: Our collective product development. We have been increasing product performance and product quality to a level that we never would have dreamt possible 25 years ago. In all my years in product development, I think back to what was an amazing new thing 15 years ago compared to now and it is a night and day difference. The ability we have to fine tune fabrics to suit the different desired performance levels gives us an incredible competitive edge. As a result, the public comes to us as an industry expecting durability and performance and this helps to differentiate the outdoor industry from the rest of the consumer products world. Quality and top performance have grown into an expectation.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: I wish everyone would take the environmental and social initiatives as seriously as they take the quality and performance part of our industry. I think the environmental and social component of companies and individual products is quickly becoming an expectation in progressive businesses. If the outdoor industry really embraces these initiatives, we can be a leadership industry.
The up and coming consumers want to know more information about the products they are buying and are making values based decisions more than current or past generations. Recently, the questions asked of me by our customers have become more specific and thoughtful. This tells me they are paying attention to the details.
The evolution of the environmental and social programs is happening in many companies and the industry but needs to strengthen. If consumers come to trust the outdoor industry in the same way with environmental and social criteria as they do with performance and quality, it will set us up for the future.
Motivations and inspirations: I love to watch new people come into this industry and realize that they can make a change. There is such opportunity to innovate and change the rules in this industry in all sorts of ways. With different ways of doing business that still result in profits, we are an inspiration to other industries.
The Outdoor Foundation, executive director
Favorite magazine: I read just about every outdoor-related publication as well as weeklies such as Time, Newsweek, Business Week and Ad Age.
Important industry development in last 25 years: For the first time, the outdoor industry is beginning to focus on urban youth. For most of its history, the industry has catered to a primarily upscale suburban audience. While this has lead to great success, the strategy has neglected an entire population of people — who are now growing in size and influence. By reaching out to young, urban communities, the industry has the opportunity to significantly increase revenue as well as inspire future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.
This new customer base will not only lead to a sustainable future for the industry, but also a sustainable future for our environment. America’s 200-year legacy of land and water conservation is in their hands and the outdoor industry has a powerful role to play — ensuring that this next generation appreciates, enjoys and ultimately protects our natural resources.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: I would change the definition of the outdoors. Far too many people across the country see the outdoors as something that is far away and inaccessible. As a result, nature is becoming more like a foreign country — something to be visited only once in awhile. As we become more of an urban nation, and as the demographics of our country continue to change, connecting with the outdoors needs to be less about bringing individuals to nature, and more about bringing nature to the people. If we are to make nature relevant to the 85 percent of Americans who will live in cities, then we must recognize the value, not only of our national parks and wildlife refuges, but also of our neighborhood parks, wooded cul-de-sacs and abandoned lots that have yet to be restored.
Motivations and inspirations: I want to make the outdoors cool again. When I was growing up, it was serious punishment to be “grounded.” Few things seemed worse than having one’s freedom and ability to play outside taken away. Today, in the age of extreme video games, online social networks and infinite television options, many young people seem to actually prefer to stay inside, moving little more than their fingers and thumbs. Some see this trend as a new generation of kids being kids. This may be true, except the consequences of being an inactive insider can be serious: obesity, depression, diabetes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are all on the rise. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 20 percent of youth will be obese by 2010. Perhaps most alarming are the new predictions that say today’s youth will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. We need a cultural shift in this county — one where the outdoors is the place to be.
Uncle Dan’s, The Great Outdoor Store, vice president of operations
Favorite magazine: Fast Company
Important industry development in last 25 years: Product-wise: SmartWool socks. As for a business development concept: Specialty store focus on product segmentation.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: Longer margins.
Motivations and inspirations: Consumers’ responses to products.
Cooler Inc. (a.k.a. Climate Cooler) – CEO/Founder
(Cooler’s mission is “to connect every purchase to a solution for global warming.” www.climatecooler.com)
Favorite magazine: PC Magazine…cause I’m a geek.
Important industry development in last 25 years: The increasing alignment of products and companies with the outdoors itself…the emergence of a strong sustainability ethic in the industry, increasingly in product design, in operations, and in relation to customers.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: Pooled sourcing resources to help companies make their products more socially and environmentally sustainable
Motivations and inspirations: The sacred peace of nature
Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition, executive director
Favorite magazine: I subscribe to quite a few magazines, but there are only three I read cover-to-cover every month. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite because they are so different. The first is Pink, which provides a fantastic big-picture view of women in business, and often includes thought-provoking articles on specific women and the roles they chose to pursue. Associations Now helps me stay on top of the nonprofit and association world and every issue provides at least one great idea that I can apply immediately to OIWC. The last is Wondertime, which has nothing to do with work but is a wonderful parenting magazine that offers sometimes humorous and sometimes heart-warming articles that help me remember every month that I’m not the only mother out there who really has no clue when it comes to her kids.
Important industry development in last 25 years: Without a doubt, the most important business development has been the focus on developing quality women’s products. Not only does it make good common sense — women want and need gear that is made for their bodies, their styles and their lifestyles — but it’s also good business sense. Many businesses that have thoughtfully incorporated women’s product into their company have seen incredible growth in those lines — and in some cases, their women’s sales are now higher than their men’s sales. There is still a long way to go but recognizing the need to develop product specifically for women has already made an incredible impact on the industry.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: The outdoor industry is unique because it merges professional passions with recreational pursuits. Those of us in the outdoor industry have an opportunity to be a leader across ALL industries in developing initiatives that help its employees find a true work-life balance. Unfortunately, though, most industry companies do not currently have programs that help employees find this balance. OIWC recently surveyed hundreds of women across the outdoor, bike and snowsports industries and learned that while 100% of respondents want an employer that fosters a sensible work/life balance among its workforce, only 53% were satisfied with the job their employer was doing in this regard. And the types of programs employees want are often inexpensive and simple to implement, such as flex time and telecommuting. The industry would be stronger as a whole if outdoor companies were to implement programs such as these, resulting in highly trained and qualified employees — women and men — staying in their positions and at their companies instead of leaving the industry altogether.
Motivations and inspirations: OIWC’s amazing volunteers motivate and inspire me every day. In my role I am fortunate to work with hundreds of incredibly talented and dedicated women. They volunteer their time and energy — of which there isn’t much to spare between their jobs and families — because they are passionate about helping other women in the outdoor industries. These women range from top-level executives to college graduates trying to get a foot in the door, and each of them offers different perspectives and insights into work, play, family and life. There is so much to learn from all of our volunteers, and I feel lucky and humbled to work with them.
Nielsen Business Media Sports Group/Outdoor Retailer & Fly Fishing Retailer, Group Show Director
Favorite magazine: National Geographic; they are consistently on point with covering the emerging areas of global interest from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint, focusing on the people and cultures that are in dynamic change across the world. It encourages my thinking globally, while I act locally.
Important industry development in last 25 years: Obviously the Internet is the biggest development affecting the industry at every level, still making itself felt dynamically every day as it morphs and flows into work from product design to point of sale.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: Putting a plan in place to reach out to Hispanic and other ethnic groups, encouraging them to participate based on the health benefits of active outdoor activities and the fact that their tax dollars pay for the access and protection of our nation’s natural wild places.
Motivations and inspirations: The challenge of raising a healthy family. The challenge of constantly pursuing self-knowledge and improvement through adventure. Also, fine artistry, especially in music, gets me excited. These all stoke my fires, so living a balanced life with all that is the ultimate challenge.
Alite Designs, cofounder/designer
(Alite was founded to design simple, versatile, comfortable products for 20- to 30-year-olds who are just discovering the magic of the outdoors. www.alitedesigns.com)
Favorite magazine: National Geographic. It opened up my world when I was little. They inspired my interest in different people, cultures and countries as an adult.
Important industry development in last 25 years: The web. Today we have an amazing ability to connect to information, products and people through the internet. If I wanted to plan a camping trip, I can research the location, buy all the equipment online, purchase the airline ticket and reserve my campsite all in a day.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: I would love to see an industry-wide mentoring program that would utilize the experience of current designers and engineering professionals in training the next generation of outdoor experts.
Motivations and inspirations: Everyone has a personal connection/experience to the outdoors, those connections are what inspire me; there’s a mutual exchange of energy between people and nature. The challenge I am most fascinated by in that exchange is seeing and fulfilling the needs people have when they’re outside.
Black Diamond Equipment, CEO
Favorite magazine: In 2009, the question may be better asked, “What is your favorite website?” Hence, I will not date myself by answering your question.
Important industry development in last 25 years: The fact that we are today an organized, respected industry with a vibrant organization to represent us, and one that has earned political respect in Washington, D.C., and one whose voice, in the debate over public policy matters, counts.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: That the true winner of the 2002 presidential election, Al Gore, would have fought harder to see his win not stolen by George W. Bush. We have eight years of disastrous policies to our country and the good of our industry to now turn-around.
Motivations and inspirations: The ability to make a lasting difference to my fellow users, to BD’s employees and customers, and for the good of our sacred and inspiring God-given wild places that form the basis to a major part of our humanity and our inspiration. The work we do is good, in and of itself and the fact that this story has global, trans-cultural, appeal and hence opportunity is all the more inspiring.
Favorite magazine: Do people still read magazines? Online versions and feeds from many sources including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Inc, Forbes, SNEWS, Sports Illustrated, Digg, Salon.com, etc.
Important industry development in last 25 years: Late Boomers and GenX (especially women) pulling outdoor activities and the industry’s products into the mainstream.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: The reprioritization of marketing investments and the redefinition of sales channels to recognize the huge transformation occurring on the web and in our lives.
Motivations and inspirations: Two things: 1) Mentoring/coaching individuals and teams/organizations through exceptional transformations; 2) Searching for elegant solutions to complex challenges.
CrossNet USA, managing partner
Favorite magazine: I like to read Backpacker magazine because it is comprehensive and informative.
Important industry development in last 25 years: In today’s high-tech world, development of the GPS in conjunction with satellite technology is a breakthrough. The GPS technology has brought a higher standard of security and safety to outdoor activities.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: We need a strong horizontal relationship amongst the giant and not-so-giant companies in the industries. In the stove industry, I would like to see a standard established in order to improve consumer safety and awareness. Also educate consumers about recycling gas fuel canisters.
Motivations and inspirations: I thrive on creating quality cutting-edge products that are user-friendly. Designing reliable outdoor stoves and cookware that is simple and aesthetically pleasing — the ones outdoor enthusiasts delight in owning.
Nuwa Textiles, president
Favorite magazine: The Economist. Although I never get to finish more than 10 articles in any issue, I do enjoy its broad perspective on many subjects. The magazine’s cynical and witty views are what keep me coming back for more.
Important industry development in last 25 years: The most important product advancement is waterproof/breathable fabrics and the years of generational improvements to it. The product brought people out of their PVC raincoats and rubber boots days (where they might be generating as much sweat inside their jacket as the rain they were trying to keep out). The innovation meant there is no turning back to PVC raincoats now, other than for nostalgic reasons.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: Trying to stay well protected against the elements of nature while enjoying the great outdoors is a situation faced by many outdoor enthusiasts. Given the current technology, however, the best and most comfortable protection is usually not the most economical nor environmental friendly. If I could make all the performance fabrics as good as organically grown, and affordable enough for everyone to get onboard, we could all feel better about taking that next hike on our favorite trail.
Motivations and inspirations: Pursuit of love, peace and happiness.
The Timberland Company, global senior director outdoor specialty
Favorite magazine: Well of course it would have to be SNEWS to keep on top of industry trends and to get the “real story,” but truthfully, right now I’m really enjoying my 10-year-old son Tom’s weekly journal from school. There’s nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a child to keep one grounded and to put it all in perspective.
Important industry development in last 25 years: I believe the most important development of the last 25 years for the outdoor industry has been the maturation of the outdoor industry into a leadership position for the advocacy of outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship of the outdoors. Due in large part to the Outdoor Industry Association and their early corporate supporters, of note REI and JanSport, our industry segment is viewed as a valuable resource and ally for its work in Washington, D.C., with state and local governments and organizations for ensuring responsible land management and the promotion of a healthy outdoor active lifestyle especially for our nation’s children.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: The outdoor industry, as a collective whole, must have a greater sense of urgency to adapt and meet the challengers of keeping the outdoors relevant in today’s society. We must broaden our definition of how people choose to recreate in the outdoors beyond the halls of Outdoor Retailer, especially when it involves getting youth active. Outdoor vendors, manufacturers, retailers and trade media need to be more responsive to the changing demographics in our society. To be more inclusive in reaching an audience to include minorities, moderate income families and those who live in urban areas. Before a child can witness firsthand the wonders of the Grand Canyon or a sunrise in Acadia, they need to understand and be taught that the “Great Outdoors” may be right outside their doorstep. It may be seeing a boulder as something to climb and play on in their local park versus a basketball court or a volunteer after-school program exploring backyard nature in their neighborhoods. Collectively as an industry, we must recognize this challenge and see it as an opportunity rather than lament about the good old days of selling backpacking boots and single-burner stoves.
Motivations and inspirations: I passionately believe that I am fortunate to be in one of the coolest industries in the world. I get to make products that get people outdoors. I get to participate in programs, which promote awareness of our natural resources and increase outdoor participation. I get to help our industry lead others in finding sustainable solutions to preserve the environment. And most of all, I’m surrounded by those I work with at Timberland and industry colleagues who have the same passion and commitment for the outdoors as I do. How cool is that!
bluesign technologies, CEO
(bluesign attempts to bring together the entire textile manufacturing chain to jointly reduce the environmental footprint of the textile industry. www.bluesign.com)
Favorite magazine: Neue Zuercher Zeitung (New Zurich Newspaper). The perfect all-rounder.
Important industry development in last 25 years: The outdoor industry is the most innovative sector of the textile industry. For each outdoor division there is more than one example of an important development. You cannot name one without mentioning the other. However, a high functional soft shell is one of my favorite items because it is a high-performance product that combines various functions, quality and design.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: Unfortunately textile production today is a black box and the main reason for the environmental problems we are currently facing. I wish for transparency in the entire manufacturing chain which would allow us to tackle the environmental problems, not only regarding global warming, but also with respect to water emissions, occupational health, consumer safety and resource usage. This is true sustainable production.
Motivations and inspirations: Nature is my source of inspiration. Nature is a technological treasure chest, the biggest patent office of the world and a model for new developments. Learning from nature means discovering and studying all that nature has already created, just like the fascinating area of bionics does.
Favorite magazine: I have so many favorites. I find Fast Company packed with insightful, thought-provoking business and creative ideas that tell you what is working and what’s not. Good is a new magazine I am enjoying and putting to use in our business as well. I also like National Geographic, Outside, Outside Photographer, Backpacker, Rock and Ice and Wend. Wallpaper has been a favorite for several years. Forbes, The New Yorker and The Economist. I read a lot.
Important industry development in last 25 years: For me, it has been all about fabric innovations; where bulk and weight used to equate to warmth and durability, now lightweight high performance, breathable, body temperature regulating, moisture-management fabrics have revolutionized the level of comfort and performance in apparel. From base layers to poly fleece to high-tech shell fabrics that provide heightened levels of warmth, protection and comfort with minimal bulk. This has brought greater comfort, thus a significantly greater number of people to experience the outdoors evidenced by the industry’s growth overall and specifically in apparel.
Changing the industry to make it stronger: Attract, seek out, engage, the new generation of creative minds, bringing transformational thought, product invention, environmental and humanitarian consciousness to the outdoor industry. Make it more affordable for them to expose their products. Get them into forums where their ideas are heard and their participation in our industry is welcomed. Get them to the Rendezvous or a similar venue to brain-bend and exchange ideas.
Motivations and inspirations: I guess what motivates me most is trying to always find some fulfillment in what I do each day. I have been humbled by and intrigued with studying and untangling the consumer mindset. Finding and developing something that enhances the quality of their lives is a consistent turn on for me. Identifying what that consumer wants and needs next and designing it is incredibly rewarding. I am inspired by unhinged, free-thinking creative people with courageous ideas; by creative business leaders that leave it all on the line to get their product ideas to their customers. I am inspired by change-making people who change lives for the better. I am in awe of all types of artists; photographers, sculptors, painters, film makers — all artists. I am inspired by words that evoke a response; people who act on their beliefs and encourage others to any amount of involvement that makes needed change.