Paige Boucher and Erin Brosterhous: An insider’s view of Steamboat’s outdoor industry
March 16, 2013
A thriving contingent of outdoor industry companies call Steamboat Springs home. Taking a closer look, these brands include BAP, Big Agnes, Boa, Chaos, Eriksen Cycles, Honey Stinger, Inside Out PR, Moots, Parka, Point6, Skindog, SmartWool, Sol Bites and Hog Island Boats. All of these companies were started in Steamboat Springs. It's not surprising that Bike Town USA, with more than 500 miles of singletrack and great road riding in all directions, is the home to two high-end bike manufacturers, or that Steamboat is the birthplace to a top tent and sleeping bag brand with acres of national forest out our backdoor. Two ski areas in town have inspired two ski sock manufacturers, ski hats, long underwear and fleece jackets.
One could conclude that Steamboat inspires and supports entrepreneurship. Living in the mountains with ample opportunity to enjoy outdoor sports is certainly part of the equation. The other part has to do with a community that is passionate about the outdoors and had the opportunity to learn from local entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. In fact, a large percentage all of the above-mentioned outdoor companies' roots can be traced back to three local entrepreneurs: Moots founder Kent Ericksen, who left Moots to start Eriksen Cycles. Inside Out PR is here because the co-owner is married to a long-time Moots employee. Bill Gamber is a founding partner in Big Agnes, Honey Stinger and BAP. Sol Bites and Boa were started by former Gamber associates. Peter and Patty Duke founded SmartWool and then Point6. The community is tight, committed to Steamboat and committed to the outdoor industry.
It would be great if we could convince more start-ups and established companies in the outdoor industry to move to Steamboat and become part of our community, but the reality of the high cost of living and the distance from a major airport are deterrents that no business can ignore. Before we offer up resources to lure new brands to town, the community of Steamboat should consider investing in the outdoor brands and the people who currently make their living here. By offering incentives to existing outdoor industry brands and companies to stay and grow their businesses in Steamboat, we can ensure that industry talent remains in our town and grow our economy at the same time. Incentives might include more consistent air travel, low-cost workspace and employee housing, insurance breaks, and funds for continuing education in business, materials and engineering or design.
Think about all that Steamboat local outdoor businesses do to support our community. SmartWool, Moots, Eriksen Cycles and Honey Stinger generously support the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, our schools, dozens of local races, fundraisers and outdoor events. These entities and events attract visitors to our town and bring money into our community. As locals, we need to support local businesses by choosing to buy their products whenever possible. Likewise, we should all choose to buy from our local outdoor retail stores rather than online. We also should remember that the retail stores often are the first to employ newbies in the outdoor industry and these newbies often go on to build their careers at outdoor brands.
Finally, it is very rare that an individual in the outdoor industry can support a family on one income. Make the choice to hire locally when choosing an accountant, a graphic designer or a consulting firm. These are the secondary earners and support businesses upon which every industry depends, and they also help grow the economy.
With strong investment in Steamboat-based outdoor companies, the more local job opportunities there will be. If we focus on supporting our existing businesses and entrepreneurs, we will support our local families, drive the economy and, as a result, attract other outdoor companies to Steamboat. If we grow our industry from the inside out, we will make our mark on the outdoor industry map. Only then will we have the means and the collective power to build an infrastructure that truly supports local, national and international businesses based in Steamboat Springs.
Paige Boucher and Erin Brosterhous are co-owners of Inside Out PR in Steamboat Springs. Boucher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.