Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy honors JanSport founder

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A year ago today, the outdoor industry lost one of its most beloved icons.

Skip Yowell, co-founder of JanSport, was the guy who remembered every name, and whose encouragement inspired innovation and generations of countless great leaders. He died a year ago today, but he is far from forgotten.

Yowell’s memory is honored this year by the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy, an Outdoor Industry Association initiative to foster the next generation of leaders.

The program is currently accepting applications for its second class, which seeks to give young industry professionals the tools, education and mentorship they need to steer their companies toward greater success.

“As we know, Skip Yowell was very passionate about mentorship,” said Stasia Raines, director of the program. “I think it’s an incredible honor that OIA has chosen to name this after Skip, I think it’s very appropriate. For OIA, this is a way for us to share his legacy year after year, ensuring that he’s not going to be forgotten soon.”

Last year, we produced this heartfelt tribute to Skip with the help of many of his closest friends and family.

The program comes from a place of need, Raines said. Young leaders, and emerging leaders, have wanted and needed to be mentored by the best and brightest.

Twenty-two industry professionals participated in the first year of the Future Leadership Academy. Of those 22 people, seven reported a promotion or other positive job change during or directly after the program.

Participants and their managers have reported great satisfaction with the program.

Larry Harrison, a longtime friend of Yowell’s who is now the brand development director for Outdoor Retailer, said in a press release that the experience gave more confidence to Joe Bustos, OR’s retail relations manager.

“I don’t know that you can teach eagerness, but after Joe… rejoined us from his Future Leadership Academy experience, he had a new level of confidence, one that would have made Skip proud,” Harrison said. “Skip always jumped in and got his hands dirty, whether growing sunflowers or developing a marketing plan or a new pack design.”

The Academy reassured Bustos that the outdoor industry is his “home,” and that he’s in it for the long haul, Bustos said in the release.

This year, the Leadership Academy will take 30 participants who are at the director level or below and who have been in the outdoor industry for at least three years. The 9-month program costs $2,000, which includes several in-person gatherings in Colorado and at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. The deadline to apply is Oct. 28.

Anyone who is interested in providing a scholarship for a participant should contact Stasia Raines at


Profile of Skip Yowell, smiling.

Watch our Skip Yowell Tribute

Skip Yowell, co-founder of JanSport, left behind an incredible legacy when he died Oct. 14. A pillar of the outdoor industry, Skip was many things to many people. We reached out to Skip's family and friends for help in creating this tribute in his memory. We miss you, Skip! Skip more

Profile of Skip Yowell, smiling.

Remembering Skip

Dear Outdoor Industry friends, It is with a heavy heart that I make my first post as the new Editor-in-Chief at SNEWS. I never dreamed that my excitement in my new role, which allows me to connect in a new and profound way with this industry that I love so much, would be more