To Sally Grimes, the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition has been her baby for the past 10 years. Grimes, who was the organization’s first employee, saw the it from its toddler days to the fine grown-up it’s become today.
But like every parent who watches his or her kids grow up, Grimes said it’s time to let go and recently announced she is stepping down as the OIWC executive director, but will remain on staff until the board finds, and she trains, her replacement.
“I feel like I’m sending my baby off to college now,” Grimes told SNEWS.
There are several reasons Grimes chose to step away, she said, one being she wants to spend more time with her two daughters, ages 5 and 7.
“It’s really time, now that we’ve created this new women’s division and advocacy program, to focus in on that. It needs to be somebody who can focus in on the long term,” Grimes said. “What I set out to do was build the base of the organization; I felt like I’d done that. I felt it was time for somebody to come in and take it to that next step and figure out that advocacy piece.”
Plus, she said, the organization has grown tremendously and has a great board — thus she’s leaving it in good hands.
“One of the reasons I know this is a good time to do it is we have such a strong board,” Grimes said. “I know that OIWC is not about me. That energy is still there, good solid energy around what we’re doing.”
Shortly after Grimes started her first job at the American Hiking Society, she received a newsletter for the OIWC. She herself wrote in the most recent newsletter that she had been thrilled to learn about an organization that combined her passion for outdoor recreation with her commitment to gender equality.
“I was hooked,” she wrote. “I joined OIWC immediately and stayed in touch with its progress and activities.”
Then the opportunity came up to become the organization’s treasurer and, later, its very first employee.
Grimes said she is proud of so many things that have happened during her time as executive director including growing the volunteer numbers from 15 to 130, increasing the corporate sponsors from 12 to more than 90 and increasing membership from 150 to more than 1,500.
Plus, Grimes said, the organization has been able to effectively address members' needs and wants by offering programs they requested.
“We would go out time and time again and survey,” Grimes explained. “The surveys weren’t just for show; we were really listening to what members were asking for, and we were very thoughtful in our approach about what to do about what we were hearing.”
Some of those things included establishing networking nights, professional development sessions and most recently starting the brand-new advocacy program, which Grimes said, “was a big scary step for the board.” But, she added, it’s a step that no doubt will have great results in the end.
“I’m really proud of OIWC in doing that,” Grimes said. “That’s the next big chapter for us.”
Missing one another
OIWC board member Julia Day, of Leisure Trends, said Grimes did a great job in her position and will be missed.
“Sally is wonderful. What she’s done for the organization is amazing,” Day told SNEWS. “It is, of course, very emotional because what Sally has done for OIWC is incredible, so it’s one of those where you wish her the best but we understand it’s life and it’s 10 years that she’s put into this. We understand it’s time for her to go on and look at her life and what she wants to do next.”
Grimes said working with OIWC staff members Hillary Harding and Amy Luther has been a joy, and was moved to tears while talking about it.
“I will miss working with all of our volunteers and the staff it’s just an amazingly supportive group of women,” Grimes said.
But don’t worry. We’ll still be seeing Grimes around. She is, after all, one half of an outdoor industry power couple (the other being Chris Chesak, vice president of business development for the Adventure Travel Trade Association) and she’s looking to explore her options in a different part of the industry.
“I’m looking forward to move to the for-profit side of the industry,” Grimes said, who doesn’t have a job lined up yet as she said she wanted to give OIWC her full focus until the very end. “For 17 years I’ve been on the nonprofit side and I’ve learned so much about the industry, but like to get into the retail and manufacturer side so I can round out my experience.”
Neither Day nor Grimes has any doubt the OIWC will continue to thrive.
“The organization is really at the largest and strongest it’s ever been,” Day said. “We understand that [Grimes] has done this for a long time and is ready to pass the torch to somebody else.”