As the Kelty team joins efforts with SNEWS to celebrate the women of the outdoor industry, we found ourselves reflecting on who inspires us. Gale Straub immediately came to mind. As the creator of She Explores, Gale is building a resource and outlet for the creative outdoors woman. From the insightful female-focused gear reviews to the engaging “Women On The Road” series that profiles women in various stages of life on the road, we love how Gale brings together a community of like-minded women.
We sat down with Gale to learn more about She Explores and get her perspective on outdoor industry trends and her advice for brands and retailers on creating quality content.
KELTY: Tell us a little about She Explores. What was your original inspiration?
Gale Straub: She Explores is a content site for women who are inspired by the outdoors, whatever form that inspiration may take. I started it in August of 2014 because I was seeking out a creative community of women who love going outside, expressing themselves, and taking road trips. I couldn’t find it online, so I decided to build it myself. I was embarking on a yearlong road trip in a Sprinter Van with my boyfriend, and I was excited about the time to spend on a new project. I started out small, interviewing women travelers and finding artists and photographers who wanted to share their work. At first I wasn’t sure if other women would be interested in a website like She Explores, but I’m really pleased by how my tribe has grown.
KELTY: You've posted a ton of amazing and inspirational articles. Do you have a favorite?
GS: That’s so tough! My favorites are the ones that are open and honest - whether it’s the story or the photography. I think it’s because I hear from other women when they strike a common chord and I like connecting people. One that still burns bright is Anna Leigh Flynn’s “A Letter.” It’s part abstraction and part confession, and it cuts to many truths about long-term travel. Amanda Sandlin’s “Like, Scroll, Like, Scroll” is also fantastic. It’s a timely piece on how social media can be unsatisfying at times. Another is more recent: Christian Schaffer reflects on how sometimes a place doesn’t change, you do.
Finally, I really enjoyed working with MaryEllen Hackett on her artistry feature. She’s a National Park Ranger and a talented artist. By being a ranger and painting landscapes, she hopes she can help people find a personal connection with the outdoors. I think she’s succeeding!
KELTY: What are the biggest challenges you've faced on this journey?
GS: It sounds silly, but the most difficult aspect can be keeping up with email sometimes! Staying organized with so many contributors is a challenge, but it’s a fun one.
KELTY: We love how She Explores is a collection of creative work from over 180 women. How do you find and create partnerships with these incredible women?
GS: I started by reaching out to women I personally felt inspired by on social media, primarily Instagram and Tumblr. I connected by telling them what I liked about their work, mission, adventures…the list goes on. For me, it doesn’t matter if they have a ton of followers or if they have had their photography featured in National Geographic (though kudos to them if they have!). I love giving women a platform to share and be seen by likeminded women.
Today, I continue to do that, but I also receive submissions through She Explores and get word of mouth recommendations from women who have contributed in the past. I do my best to respond to every single email and even if I don’t accept someone on the site, I try to give them constructive feedback that they can take with them and move forward. I credit a lot of She Explores’ growth to cultivating (what I hope will be) long lasting relationships.
KELTY: Writing and curating content is often a challenging and time-intensive process for a brand or retailer, do you have any tips or tricks to make it less overwhelming?
GS: First, I would emphasize quality over quantity. It’s tempting to write a bunch of short articles so you have something to post on social media and the mailer to get clicks back to the web store. Try not to make content just to fill space. Developing quality content builds trust with your customers and they’ll eventually start coming back to the site as a resource as well as a retailer. It also means that it’s more likely to be shared among friends, which is win/win. Of course, what is “quality” depends on the brand, but high-resolution photos, emotionally engaging content, and well-edited writing is a great start. If the budget allows, I would recommend paying writers for content that your brand is proud to show off.
It seems obvious, but I also advise developing a content calendar so you can stay organized and timely. Web applications like “Trello” have calendar functions so you can see the big picture and plan ahead.
KELTY: What trends do you see taking shape in the outdoor industry, and how do you think those trends will impact She Explores?
GS: At January’s Outdoor Retailer, I noticed “trickling up.” By this I mean I saw some “modern outdoor” trends that occur in the smaller Venture Out section of the show showing up in the bigger brands. There was a lot of “trail to the city” styling and technical heritage wear. Overall, there is a growing emphasis on the casual outdoors person and an understanding that all sorts of people enjoy spending time outside. There are also more brands incorporating a sustainability element to their products, which is great. Finally, retailers and brands in the outdoor industry have been recognizing women’s participation in outdoor activities over the last few years. On top of that, women are starting outdoor brands and developing products and events specifically for women. There’s a lot of growth in that market. It’s made up of an eager, receptive audience for brands that listen to what women want and how they get outdoors. For She Explores, I believe the latter means more readers, even as more lifestyle websites pop up. It also provides opportunities to partner with brands looking to tap into the She Explores audience – millennial women with an adventurous spirit.
KELTY: What is your advice for brands or retailers looking to partner with sites like She Explores?
GS: Reach out and start a conversation. Most blogs and lifestyle websites have a “contact” form, and most top social media handles have email addresses in the profiles. As a rule, sites like She Explores enjoy bouncing ideas off brands and coming up with ways to organically incorporate creative content and native advertising into their platform. We’re also receptive to creating content for your blog and social handle and cross promoting. Most sites have a media kit, so it’s best practice to ask for that as well.
KELTY: What does the future look like for you, and for She Explores?
GS: I see the two of us staying connected for a while. She Explores has always been a passion project and I haven’t felt that passion wane. I’ve solicited a group of consistent contributors who will develop strong content and each have a “writer’s profile” on the website. That way you’ll see more familiar faces on the site. I’ve also started consulting with brands to help develop content strategies and conduct consumer research around women in the lifestyle outdoor market. Also, I’m currently creating a podcast so I can have more in depth conversations with contributors and connect directly with my readers. I’m especially excited (and nervous!) about this project.
A huge thanks to Gale Straub for taking the time to chat with us! Be sure to check out http://www.she-explores.com.
To see more incredible work from some of the She Explores contributors featured in this article:
Amanda Sandlin: www.amandasandlin.com
Christian Schaffer: www.christianannschaffer.com
Anna Leigh Flynn: www.annaleighflynn.com