The Outdoor Industry's Got Talent: Outdoor's most talented 'doers'

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We found the most talented people in the outdoor industry. It was hard to narrow down the list.

Talent in our industry is hard to define, but easy to spot. The 26 people featured in this series show it in the way they approach their work, their lives, and above all, in the passion and authenticity they bring to the industry and beyond.

This is the third article in a series of stories about the most talented people in the outdoor industry.

[the voice]

Adam Saraceno, 34, Marketing Director, Peak Design

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While many new brands were struggling to navigate the crowdfunding game, Peak Design was making it look as easy as hitting up your dad for 20 bucks. Adam Saraceno is the brand’s Kickstarter marketing wizard, helping establish the photo accessory company as the most crowdfunded in existence. He was on the original team that raised $365,000 for Capture Clip in 2011—shattering Kickstarter records at the time—and now he’s behind about 90 percent of the company’s consumer messaging. “People really gravitate toward the voice we put out there,” says CEO Peter Dering. “It’s friendly, it’s warm, it’s transparent, and people don’t feel like we are selling them something.” That makes for effective marketing: Last year, the team raised $7.2 million, from 29,000 people, to bankroll the Everyday Backpack, bringing the brand’s grand total of crowdfunding to $14.4 million.

[visionary]

Cam Brensinger, 40, Founder, NEMO Equipment

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Everyone knows the NEMO founder went to MIT and worked for NASA. Not many people know he and his father hand-built every single desk at NEMO’s new office in Dover, New Hampshire. But even that is not totally surprising for one of the outdoor industry’s true polymaths. “I’ve always thought of him as a visionary,” says Rick Meade, who was a tent buyer for REI before becoming president of Nikwax North America. Brensinger’s ability to think independently has established NEMO as a trendsetter. Witness its early adoption of lifestyle imagery in ads when others were still showing Mt. Everest, relaxed sleeping bag dimensions in a market full of mummy bags, and tents that used airbeams instead of poles. To paraphrase Meade, Brensinger simply works within a different framework.

[influencer]

Jessica Wahl, 30, Government Affairs Manager, Outdoor Industry Association

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Jessica Wahl came from the Department of the Interior in 2013 to help shape OIA’s policy initiatives. Her lobbying efforts paid off in late 2016, when Congress unanimously passed the Outdoor REC Act, legislation to include the outdoor industry’s contribution in the national GDP. She’s fluent in policy, but it’s her personality that makes her a lobbyist to reckon with, says Alex Boian, OIA’s VP of government affairs. “One of the things people hate the most about D.C. is that it’s so opportunistic,” he says. “With Jessica, these issues are personally important to her. She’s not some hired gun who just came off the Hill and will take any client for a price. And that shines through. She’s genuine and authentic, and that [makes her] a real outlier in a town like Washington.”

[entrepreneur]

Fynn Glover, 28, Founder & CEO, RootsRated

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If you ask Fynn Glover what his outdoor background is, he’ll tell you he doesn’t have one. Yet he has created a booming content marketing business in RootsRated, which was initially founded with the intention of leveraging retailers’ trail expertise. That idea morphed into a syndication and media platform, providing climbing, trail, and travel stories to brands. “Fynn’s natural understanding of the digital space and how people are consuming content got him started,” says Penn Newhard, managing partner of Backbone Media, who knows Glover through a colleague. “But his progression, hard work, and willingness to change to continue to improve is what is most impressive.”

[organizer]

Teresa Baker, 51, Founder, African American Nature and Parks Experience

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The first weekend of June has become a time for black outdoorspeople to gather in national parks and change the face of the stereotypical wilderness explorer. Thank Teresa Baker for that: African American Nature and Parks Events were her idea. It started as a way to attract people to Yosemite, but blossomed into a national phenomenon. Those who have worked with Baker recognize her passion. “She’s confronting the status quo, and isn’t afraid to demand change, no matter who she’s talking to,” says Robert Hanna, a member representative of the California State Assembly, who has worked with Baker on legislation. “She’ll take an idea and turn it into an event [for] hundreds of people.” Find ample proof this summer.

This story was first published on p. 23 of the Day 1 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily Winter Market 2017.

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