My Perfect Adventure
Competition has never scared Jill Layfield, the chief of specialty outdoor retailer Backcountry.com. Just ask her about her first job as a child, scraping gum off the bottom of school desks during the summer before sixth grade. “I ran around like mad,” the 38-year-old said at a TEDx event last year, recalling her first day on the job with three other kids. “I was like, ‘I’m going to get the most gum!’” She says she was paid per hour, not per gum wad, but she didn’t care: “I wanted to be the best, I wanted to set that goal for myself, and I wanted to win.”
That competitive nature has served Layfield well at Backcountry.com, one of the world’s largest outdoor online retailers. After joining the company as a marketing manager in 2004, she worked her way up the ranks and became chief executive last year, watching revenue jump 982 percent in the process. Today Backcountry.com and its sister sites sell nearly 1,000 brands and have about 13 million unique monthly visitors. Layfield lives with her husband and two young daughters in Park City, Utah, where she enjoys skiing, climbing, biking and trail running.
Here, the energetic chief executive tells us how about working out with a bunch of tough guys in Italy, how she climbed the ladder at Backcountry, and why she doesn’t have a life bucket list.
Describe your perfect day, from dawn 'til dusk. Where would you be, who would you meet, and what would you do?
I would wake up with my husband at some quaint spot in Napa or Sonoma. We would head off to climb at Mt. St. Helena with our two dogs and our good friends. It would be a perfect temperature for climbing: calm, clear, and warm, but not hot. We’d climb hard while snacking on delicious bread, cheese and meat in between routes. We’d return to our beautiful spot where my two girls (who are four and one) would magically appear (after a great day with their grandparents), and we’d all go for a nice pool swim and lounge in the sun. Then we’d head out for a delicious dinner at Thomas Keller’s restaurant, ad hoc. It’s a great little casual place that was initially created as a temporary restaurant, but turned permanent because people loved it so much. They serve a different four-course family style meal every day, so we’d go, ready to be surprised. (And I’d spot twenty Backcountry.com Goat stickers on cars as we drove around town.)
If you could travel somewhere you've never been, where would you go and why?
I’ve been dying to visit Greece. My husband spent a lot of time in Corfu as a child. His parents went there shortly after they were married, and it was a special place for them. I would love to got there now with our two children, to revisit his memories and create our own.
Where is the best place you've ever visited? What made it so special?
I loved visiting a village in Perugia, Italy, called Montone. My husband and I were there for vacation a few years ago, in July, at the height of summer. It’s a quaint, medieval, walled village that’s totally off the beaten path. We loved it there.
I’m actually laughing now, because I’m remembering this gym where we went to work out every day. It was in Umbertide, a nearby town, down in a basement. It was a man’s gym—meaning that it was full of men. I was the only woman. I swear, even if the Rocky theme song wasn’t playing on constant loop, you could easily imagine it was. All the guys were very muscly, and they all wore terry cloth headbands and wristbands. Apparently, it wasn’t a uniform requirement, because they still let us in.
If you could have lunch with any adventurer, explorer, or athlete, who would it be and why?
Shannon Galpin. She is the founder of Mountain2Mountain, a non-profit whose mission is to provide education and opportunities to women in conflict regions. She works in Afghanistan promoting women’s education and health.