Image
Mandela Echefu, co-owner of Wheelzup Adventures, in Cumberland, Maryland
Outside Business Journal

The Next Generation of Outdoor Industry Leaders

Four explorers paving the way for a new outdoor industry speak in their own words

Image

Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.

The outdoor industry is constantly changing, expanding, and maturing. As we look to the a new era of advocacy, inclusion, and more outdoor access for all, a new generation of leaders is emerging to guide us there.

Here, we present four members of that generation explaining in their own words what the outdoors mean to them.

Eric Hui: Entrepreneur

Growing up in Hawaii, I’d hike and go to the beach, but I didn’t see snow until I was in college. Instantly, I was hooked on winter. When I moved to Boston for graduate school, I ended up wearing my 3-in-1 snowboarding jacket everywhere despite it being powder blue and not styled for everyday wear.

(Photo: Schaun Champion)

That experience inspired me to build a better coat, something that was fitted and could function both on and off the slopes. In 2016, I launched Terracea through Kickstarter. Today we have 18 unique styles debuting for Fall 2022. We seek to balance fashion and sustainability without sacrificing performance.

Growing a business from scratch hasn’t been easy. I often struggle to connect with the outdoor industry’s gatekeepers, and staying true to myself sometimes feels like a handicap. However, I’m in the business of being forward-thinking and unique, which is what’s going to get us noticed.

Find Eric on Instagram at @terracea_

Kari Brandt: Advocate

As an infant, I slept in a box under the ticket window at Ski Green Valley, a small California ski hill my godparents owned. By age four, I was assisting fallen skiers with a Disney-themed fanny pack stuffed with Band-Aids. So began my love affair with emergency medicine.

At 25, I became a ski patroller, and five months in I knew I’d found a career. I’ve now been ski patrolling in California and Nevada for ten seasons, six of which I’ve spent as a director and two as the president of the Association of Professional Patrollers. It’s a male-dominated industry, though, and I wanted to elevate female patrollers.

(Photo: Schaun Champion)

In 2018, I launched the Women of Patrol Instagram account, and two years later I turned it into a nonprofit. We offer scholarships, networking opportunities, clinics, and soon, a mentorship program for women in the field. We’re cultivating a cohort of empowered female patrollers who support one another as we save lives.

Find Kari on Instagram at @womenofpatrol

Mandela Echefu: Retailer

In October 2008, while driving through the highlands of western Maryland, I was accosted by a mountainside ablaze with the colors of fall. I pulled over and stood enraptured for 15 minutes. I drove away determined to chase that feeling of awe and spend more time outdoors.

(Photo: Schaun Champion)

I started biking and hiking, then skiing and paddling, until eventually, I wanted to work in the industry. In April 2021, my wife, Jamie, and I opened Wheelzup Adventures in Cumberland, Maryland—the result of extensive market research, mentorship, and faith. We designed our retail store, clinics, and events so that novices feel welcome and experts feel at home.

As an African American, I see many parallels between Appalachia and the African-American people— both have so much to offer but generally lack resources and opportunity. I’m working to increase both in Cumberland through outdoor access, knowledge, and community, helping to facilitate healing and freedom in nature.

Find Mandela on Instagram at @wheelzupadventures

Connor Ryan: Athlete

I grew up with a fractured connection to my Lakota culture and the outdoors. Learning to ski changed everything, allowing me to connect to the land and my lineage. As an Indigenous pro skier, I’ve learned how to better listen to the landscapes that move me and that I move with.

The ecological and spiritual value of the places I ski has helped me to integrate my heritage daily. It’s also led me to forge my own path as an environmental activist, creative, and leader. Thanks to the sport, I’m a better version of myself and a braver member of my community.

(Photo: Schaun Champion)

These lessons culminated in Spirit of the Peaks, a film I wrote and codirected about my journey—now available on YouTube and rei.com—as well as a new scholarship program I’m leading with a coalition of industry brands that targets Indigenous skiers and snowboarders. I told my story—I’m now helping other Native folks create their own.

Find Connor on Instagram at @sacredstoke

promo logo
sms