Read about the best Outdoor Retailer inspiring stories and learn how these companies are disrupting an industry. Photo Source: handshake.com

There are thousands of vendors at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market exposition.  And while it is easy to get lost in the crowd, some companies are so unusual that it is impossible not to acknowledge their positive disruption of the outdoor industry.  This week, Seattle Backpackers Magazine reviews four outdoor retailer inspiring stories and how these companies are changing the world for the better.


Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Photo courtesy of nuun.

nuun.  On the outside, Seattle based nuun (pronounced noon) is an electrolyte replace and hydration company.  nuun packs a complete electrolyte profile in a small tablet that is dissolved in water and supports active lifestyles.  Electrolytes play a key function in maintaining fluid balance, preventing muscle cramping, and aids in muscle contractions and movement.  Most electrolyte powders or pre-made drinks are packed with sugar, the innovative effervescent technology, plant-based ingredients, and lack of sugar in nuun makes it a disruptive force in the outdoor and sport performance market.

On the inside, nuun is just as disruptive.  From organizational culture to a well-developed social conscious; nuun shakes things up…sometimes, literally.  The organization embraces what CEO Kevin Rutherford describes as the nuun life.  The nuun life recognizes the individual and social benefit of activity and is dedicated to an active lifestyle in and out of the office.  This dedication takes the form of supporting employee activities outside the office and 5-minute workout sessions three times a week during the workday called the five minutes of fitness.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
The staff and wonder dog Yukon at nuun taking five minutes to live the nuun life during work. nuun’s five minutes of fitness fosters social bonding and creativity while reducing stress and encouraging healthy living. Photo courtesy of nuun.

Social responsibility is a big part of the way nuun operates.  The nuun principles include clean product, clean planet, and clean sport.  The company supports socially conscious causes like The Conservation Alliance and other pro-green initiatives with financial donations from sales and volunteerism.


Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Photo courtesy of MiiR.

MiiR.  MiiR, another Seattle based company, makes outdoor bottles, bikes, and bags.  The company’s flagship store is in the trendy Fremont neighborhood known for microbrews and a giant troll that lives under the Aurora Bridge.  The products are elegantly designed, functional, and rugged. From the camp cup to the food canister to vacuum insulated bottles, MiiR has high quality containers for every aspect of your outdoor life.  MiiR also features a line of bikes for kids and adults.  The bikes are commuter style bikes great for getting to the office or a slow Sunday morning coffee crawl.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
MiiR’s flagship store is also a coffee and beer house. Photo courtesy of MiiR.

Besides great outdoor products, what makes MiiR truly inspirational is the company’s commitment to making the world a better place to live.  Every MiiR product funds a trackable giving project as part of the product to project program.  The program is unique in corporate giving and allows customers to fully understand the impact of their purchase.  Simply register the MiiR product online and enter the product tracking code and you can track where and what project your purchase is supporting.  MiiR gives five percent of revenue annually to different giving projects around the world focusing on water, education, and bicycle projects.  These ventures have led to 55 water projects, over 4,500 bikes given, and the building of a school.  Come down to the Fremont store and enjoy a handcrafted Counter Culture Coffee or one of over 25 beers currently on tap and see what MiiR is doing to make the world a better place.


Outdoor Retailer Inspiring StoriesSherpa.  The character, strength, and generosity of the Sherpa people have made the exploration of the Himalayas possible.  The bravery and heroics of Sherpa guides is legendary, as is the economic challenges of the people.  The company Sherpa makes adventure gear for the exploration of the wilder places on earth.  The gear is designed and tested for Sherpas by Sherpas in one of the most extreme environments imaginable.  From trekking to alpine climbing, the gear is made to be bombproof, functional in movement, and provide state-of-the-art thermal and cooling qualities.

While the gear is amazing, the story behind the gear is what makes Sherpa one of the outdoor retailer inspiring stories.  The company was founded by Tashi Sherpa, nephew of Ang Gyalzen Sherpa, one of the original Sherpa on Sir Edmund Hillary’s famous Everest expedition in 1953.  Tashi Sherpa’s goal was to create economic stability and opportunity for the Sherpa that supported the recreational industry in Nepal and often lived in poverty.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Tashi Sherpa’s daughters are now guiding the business. On the right is Pema Chalmatsang-Sherpa and on the left in the green is Tsedo Sherpa-Ednalino, Chief Operating Officer. Photo by dutch franz.

Now, Tashi Sherpa’s daughters Tsedo Sherpa-Ednalino and  Pema Chalmatsang-Sherpa guide the company and employ over 1,000 skilled women to hand-knit many of the company’s signature products.  The company focuses on keeping things local, a large portion of Sherpa’s products are designed and manufactured in Nepal.  In addition to the economic opportunity Sherpa fosters, the company also supports the Paldorje Education Fund.  This educational fund allows disadvantaged Nepalese children living in remote villages the opportunity to attend school.  Find out more about how you can help support the scholarship fund and Sherpa’s innovative commitment to rural economic development and sustainable manufacturing at the Sherpa website.


Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
Bedrock Sandals Co-founder Dan Opalacz and Chief Experience Officer Naresh Kumar. Photo by dutch franz.

Bedrock Sandals.  This Richmond, California company believes in big adventure and simple living.  Bedrock’s innovative materials and minimalist design is genius, giving you just what you need to explore the world.   Co-founder Dan Opalacz started making sandals while living in his VW van traveling the country in search of great outdoor adventures.  Co-founder Nick Pence is chief designer and heads Bedrock’s 1% For The Planet environmental non-profit.

The sandal design takes a disruptive approach to traditional footwear concepts.   Bedrock’s goal is to harness the natural human-inherited flow of movement.  They attempt to do this with a zero drop sole profile as well as creating a sole platform that provides comfort and grip across terrain without unnaturally forcing your feet out of alignment.  Bedrock attempts to design footwear to mold over time to your individual foot profile, not the other way around.  The sandals reflect the founders’ vision of harmony and simplicity.

While Bedrock’s sandals are innovative, it is the company’s commitment to simple living and building an awareness of social responsibility that makes it one of the outdoor retailer inspiring stories.   Many companies have corporate giving or sponsorship programs, but few show the personal commitment that Bedrock shows to making a difference in the world.  This philosophy is personified in Naresh Kumar, Bedrock’s Chief Experience Officer.  Naresh left a high paying software engineering job in Palo Alto to live the simple Bedrock life and raise awareness for social justice issues around the world.  Taking this mission and Bedrock sandals on the road, Naresh trekked 3,800 miles through five countries and three continents.  The herculean effort included a stretch of 280 miles on a broken foot.  The efforts of Bedrock and Naresh helped bring much needed attention to the issues of human trafficking and the economic exploitation of vulnerable populations.  Few companies are willing to put so much skin in the game to live their values.

Outdoor Retailer Inspiring Stories
A well-worn Bedrock sandal from Naresh Kumar’s 3,800 mile three continent trek. The ballistic insole of the sandal was rubbed bare by Naresh’s foot. Photo by dutch franz.


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