SNEWS Qs: Sally Grimes talks philanthropy and business

In her new position at Benchmark Outdoor Outfitters, Sally Grimes is hard at work supporting organizations that get kids outdoors.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Former executive director for the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition, Sally Grimes, has continued advocating for the future of the outdoor industry in her new position as the vice-president of retail operations and marketing at Benchmark Outdoor Outfitters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

SallyGrimes

The industry veteran is currently working to support Outdoor Adventure Clubs, a project of Green Umbrella in Cincinnati, Ohio. Grimes chatted with SNEWS recently about philanthropy and business and how to get the ball rolling on both.

Throughout the month of October, Benchmark is launching a gear drive to provide local youth with gear they could keep and continue to use on outdoor adventures. The retailer is looking to both industry manufacturers and local customers for help.

“We know many of our customers are replacing their gear and have gently-used gear at home, so if we can be the conduit to get that gear to kids and enable kids to get outside more, then we wouldn’t miss the opportunity,” Grimes said. Any person who donates gear will get a 20 percent discount to the store.

Tell us about Benchmark's gear drive?
During a conversation with Denny McFadden, who runs Outdoor Adventure Club (OAC), he mentioned that the next step is to get gear that the kids can keep, so that after they’ve participated in the club, done the tutorials, and gotten outside to try the activity a couple of times, they could have the gear they needed to get outside on their own. To help reach that goal, we are going to ask our customers to bring in their gently-used or new gear that they don’t want anymore, to donate to the OAC.

OAC would also happily accept donations from any industry vendors as well. They are looking for tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, stoves, cookware, food, flashlights – basically any camping gear you can think of.

Why is the Outdoor Adventure Clubs is a worthy cause to support?
For a few years now, the outdoor industry has talked a lot about the need to get more kids outside and to reach more diverse audiences. Here at the Benchmark, we couldn’t agree more, and the OAC does a bang-up job of reaching both of those goals, nearly quadrupling its reach to inner-city high school kids in just one year

The OAC started last year by hosting recruiting events at three public high schools to see if kids (the vast majority of whom have never done any kind of outdoor activity) were interested in participating in outdoor activities. Hundreds of kids came to the recruiting fairs and about 50 ended up participating. These after-school clubs included tutorials on biking, camping, paddling and then monthly outings for each of these activities.

Our community in Cincinnati received this new program so wholeheartedly via media, partner support and more that OAC was approached by funders, and thanks to a local Foundation, is fully funded for the current school year. This year, the program is at 11 public high schools (up from three) and is expanding into snowsports and other areas.

How did the store get involved with the Outdoor Adventure Clubs?
Benchmark is a member of Green Umbrella, a coalition of all outdoor and environmental groups in the Cincinnati region, and is an active participant in the Meet Me Outdoors team of Green Umbrella. OAC began as a brainstorming session at a Meet Me Outdoors meeting, and the program took off from there. When the organizers were ready to host their first outreach events, they called all of the local outdoor retailers, including Benchmark, to ask for help.

Tell us about the tutorials you held last year for the program?
The tutorials were held once a week at three different high schools in the city. Each month the presenters focused on a topic and went to the three schools, three weeks in a row (one school per week). One month focused on hiking and backpacking, the next month focused on mountain biking, and the third month focused on kayaking. At the end of each month, the kids from all three high schools went on a field trip to get outside and participate in the activities they had learned about during the tutorials.

What was the student response to the tutorials?
Kids loved learning about each outdoor activity and checking out the cool gear. They also enjoyed hearing about outdoor adventures and looking at pictures taken by the presenters. Knowledge of and experience with the equipment prior to the actual field trip eased student fears and gave them a greater sense of confidence for the actual trip. Students who attended the tutorials were visibly more excited about getting outdoors. During the field trips, these students became helpful mentors to students who had not attended the tutorials.

What is your advice to other retailers in finding a nonprofit to work with?
It is key to find the right nonprofit partner and then do all you can to support that nonprofit. But one retailer can’t do it alone. In Cincinnati we have been lucky to partner with Green Umbrella, which has accomplished amazing collaborative efforts by bringing together all of the outdoor recreation and park groups in the region. If that doesn’t exist in your region, I would start by bringing together all of the recreation groups so they can begin working together towards common goals.

How does participating with programs like this help your business?
People like to know that they are helping, so we are providing a way for our customers to contribute to this outstanding program. In addition, programs like this are critical for the success or our entire industry. None of us will have customers years from now if today’s kids don’t care about being outside.

McFadden at Outdoor Adventure Clubs and Grimes at Benchmark are more than happy to talk to any retailers or vendors who are interested in supporting this program or getting a similar program started in their community. McFadden can be reached at denny@greenumbrella.org and Grimes can be reached at sallyg@benchmarkoutfitter.com.

Related

DanMannThumb

SNEWS Qs: Dan Mann talks strategies for healthy retailers and the Mann Group

Dan Mann has been a college professor, basketball coach and vice president of retail for Bachrach men's clothing. But since 2003, when he founded the Mann Group, he's guided hundreds of outdoor retailers to double-digit revenue increases through the firm's training programs, ...read more

Fitness Equipment

SNEWS Qs: Lifecore's Roger Bates talks new cardio for CrossFit

Usually Roger Bates and his fitness equipment company Lifecore are staples at the upcoming Health and Fitness Business Expo, but this year they will be absent. Mostly, he said, it is because he gets a bigger return on his investment at shows like IHRSA and Athletic Business ...read more

WolverineGuardianGarthLevin

SNEWS Qs: Wolverine's Yahn Lebo talks about outdoor workers' needs

As many of us sit in air-conditioned offices, hundreds of people are being evacuated from their homes and firefighters are desperately trying to contain several wildfires burning all over our home state — Colorado. Volunteer fire fighters represent nearly 70 percent of ...read more

Gihan2

SNEWS Qs: Ministry of Supply revolutionizes business apparel

Heat mapping and moisture management long have been technologies used in the outdoor industry’s active garments, but a new company called Ministry of Supply is bringing them to the business apparel world. SNEWS recently posed some questions to Gihan Amarasiriwardena, co-founder ...read more

AnneCavassaThumb

SNEWS Qs: Brooks Sports Anne Cavassa talks role models and challenges

As an avid runner, Anne Cavassa has a rather intimate relationship with her running shoes — and the love of her life is the Brooks Adrenaline. “It’s been my shoe forever,” Cavassa said. “It’s taken me through many miles, many marathons and many injuries. I’ve tried other shoes ...read more

Erik Fialho

SNEWS Qs: Erik Fialho talks role of flash-sale sites

In recent years, flash-sale websites have spread like uncontrollable wildfires, fueling a debate on their role in fostering discount-hungry consumers. SNEWS recently connected with Erik Fialho, chief strategy officer for the flash-sale site LeftLane Sports to talk about why the ...read more

JohnVance

SNEWS Qs: Freewaters CEO John Vance talks issues and innovation

Every outdoor footwear company aims to make great shoes. But Freewaters Footwear is the brainchild of two friends from California – Eli Marmar and Martin Kim – who wanted to do a bit more. SNEWS recently picked the brain of Freewaters CEO John Vance, previously of Raichle ...read more

TNFYoga

SNEWS Qs: The North Face's Kevin Joyce talks yoga

While The North Face is focusing on getting its “trail cred” back — according to this story in Bloomberg, anyway — it’s also been branching out to activities like yoga. With yoga continuing to gain popularity, we’re seeing more yoga products from traditional outdoor companies, ...read more

SnapperRock

SNEWS Qs: Liz Eglinton talks sun protection and children's market

Keeping kids healthy and active is vital to the future of many industries. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The best way to get kids active is to have them doing fun activities outdoors. ...read more