While the seeds of the OGB have been germinating for years, they finally sprouted just last year. Here’s a look back at how the group got started, what we’ve accomplished in the last 12 months or so, and where we’re headed next.
April 2013 - WNC Outdoor Industry Executive Forum
On April 23, 2013 Western North Carolina’s outdoor industry got together at Highland Brewing Co’s tasting room to discuss how to build a stronger industry here collaboratively. This event brought together outdoor industry leaders from all parts of WNC outdoor industry, including recreation companies like Navitat and NOC, retailers like Diamond Brand and Black Dome, and all sorts of outdoor gear manufacturers. Bringing everyone into the same room really opened people’s eyes to the size of our local industry, the breadth of capabilities, and the connections both locally and nationally/internationally.
Kyle Mundt of SylvanSport made the pitch thta would kickstart the OGB, asking, “are there enough of us, and enough shared opportunities, to form an Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC business network?” And the feedback was good! Both in-person and in surveys, WNC outdoor industry members were enthusiastic about the possibility of the network, and a small group of dedicated people (as the story usually goes) came together to help make the OGB a reality. Thank you to our co-host, AdvantageWest, and to our gracious sponsors Kemper Strategy and JB Media Group.
May 2013 – A Logo is Born, (and featured at the Gear Builders' Village)
One whirlwind month later, on Memorial Day weekend, the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC had a logo, a name, and a strong collective presence at a Gear Builder’s Village at the Mountain Sports Festival in Asheville, NC. This was a chance for many of the founding members of the OGB to get together, talk shop, and see what everyone was up to. As 10,000 festival attendees strolled past their booths, the region’s gear makers gathered under a collective banner and helped the region’s outdoor enthusiasts see the strength and number of their hometown Outdoor Gear Builders.
June & July 2013 – Launching the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC
Working off of the momentum from the Gear Builders’ Village, some of the OGB’s founding companies, facilitated by David Kemper of Kemper Strategies, met with AdvantageWest staff to outline a strategy for the network’s formation. In the two months that followed, OGB members ENO and SylvanSport, Tyler Donaldson of the Mountain Sports Festival, and AdvantageWest staff worked to launch this website (developed by the awesome Sarah Benoit of Creative Original), pull together signage and marketing materials, build out a contact list of potential member companies, and generally get the public side of the OGB together in time for…
August 2013: Outdoor Retailer, and the first "official" meeting of the OGB!
After a frantic couple of months spent preparing, our Gear Builders went to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, doing their bit to let the world know that the outdoor products they (and their customers) love are designed & made in Western North Carolina. With a bunch of new Gear Builders signed on at or just before Outdoor Retailer, the OGB had its first official meeting later in August at the ENO warehouse in Asheville, followed by refreshments at Green Man Brewing. This formula of hard work followed by fun is what makes the outdoor industry, and the OGB, so enjoyable.
September 2013: Say Hello to the Prestige Subaru Adventure Center
September saw the grand opening of the Prestige Subaru Adventure Center on Tunnel Road in Asheville, which (thanks to the shared vision of the folks at Prestige and Kyle Mundt of SylvanSport) soon became a veritable showroom for WNC-built outdoor recreation gear. OGB members contributed their cutting-edge products including camping trailers, kayaks, drybags, PFDs, shoes, hammock chairs, t-shirts, electric trikes… the list goes on! Long story short, this is a place designed to show off all the cool things you can stuff into, onto, or tow behind your AWD Subaru as you head off to shred the gnar in style.
Fall 2013: Gear Builders on a Mission
Soon after that first meeting, some devastating flash floods in Colorado mobilized the OGB’s members and partners, both local and national/global, to get together and do something to help their brothers and sisters out West. Working with the Oskar Blues Can’d Aid Foundation and a whole slew of outdoor industry companies and supporters, the OGB put together “A Toast to ReCOvery” in just a few short weeks, and raised almost $6,000 to help Colorado flood victims, using everything from silent auctions to event donations to an awesome (and super-fast) t-shirt design by member Recover Brands.
Winter 2013: The Holiday Rush
After the big push for the Toast to ReCOvery, the OGB members took a little time to reflect, celebrate, and of course, handle the flood of holiday orders coming our way! We surfaced long enough to publish a sweet little Holiday Gift Guide, then dove back into packing and shipping, with an OGB ideation session or two thrown into the mix for good measure.
Early 2014: Mapping Out the Year Ahead
With the holidays done, we took a few deep breaths and then got down to planning for 2014. Not long into our first session, some of the industry veterans among us pointed out that it was time for the OGB to step back and really clarify our goals as a network. And they had a good point. The OGB grew from two to almost twenty companies in less than a year, and with so many new faces at the table, making sure everyone is on the same page is key. So we’re currently working with Element Advertising [LINK] to develop a shared brand identity and messaging platform. Furthermore, we’re continuing to build our network of community partners, and just finished a great community event in the Prestige Subaru/98.1 The River Outdoor Gear Giveaway on May 3rd!
With those newly clarified goals in hand, and a strong network of Gear Builders working together on issues as diverse as product sourcing and client creditworthiness, we’re excited for the season to come! We’re working on joint social media campaigns, collaborations with other industry networks, expanding the OGB’s presence at OR and OIA Rendezvous, and much more.
How to Join
If you are a Western North Carolina-based outdoor gear manufacturer and would like to join the OGB, you can fill out a quick Gear Builder application here.
If you are a retailer, importer, or other outdoor industry company, but do not manufacture or design your own gear, you can sign up here to become a Partner of the OGB.