Interview with Kim Walker, Co-Founder and President of Outdoor Divas
Lined along Pearl Street’s brick pedestrian walkway in Boulder, Colorado are local shops, boutiques, spas, restaurants and bars. It’s my favorite spot to people watch and shop.
Along Pearl Street sits Outdoor Divas, an outdoor apparel and hard-goods store focused around active women and the outdoors.
Perfectly aligned with Boulder as one of the healthiest cities in the United States, sitting at the base of the Rocky mountains with ski resorts at our fingertips, Outdoor Divas started with a good story in these mountains.
I had the pleasure to sit with Kim Walker, Co-Founder and President of Outdoor Divas at one of my favorite, small Italian coffee shops, Amante to learn more about their story and her plight as a woman entrepreneur.
Kim came from the Midwest and like many people now in Colorado she came initially to ski and ski and ski. She settled in Vail and what was supposed to be one year of fun, turned into ten years. Through her time there she worked in the retail industry, was a Director of Merchandise for a design firm and of course, clocked in about 100 days each year out on the slopes.
In meeting her partner Michael (Co-Owner of Outdoor Divas) in Vail, she lamented that she had trouble being fitted for women’s ski boots and skis and even hiking equipment didn’t fit her quite right (especially up in the mountains, with less access to cities). Most of the equipment she had to use were all men’s – there was no women-focused gear then.
Once some women’s gear started appearing they were less hearty and almost irrelevant. I couldn’t imagine looking at that first ski actually fitted for women and having only that option – “they were short and pink,” Kim laughingly told me.
The Start of Outdoor Divas:
In frustration, Kim and her partner put their heads together and started thinking where they could fill a real need. As he was in business school, they used their idea for his business plan to help their platform take off.
Starting with a Small Business Loan, a lot of no’s and uphill battles, they took the business down from the mountains of Vail to the Front Range of Boulder to start their first retail store in 2002 on Boulder’s Pearl Street.
At first, many brands scoffed asking why they wanted to cut the marketing in half (only focusing on women). Kim remembers those building, startup times involving very little sleep and money. But they pushed past the naysayers, starting with smaller brands who were willing to take a chance and outfit women, while also providing merchandise to their store.
Kim muses in 2002, it was the first women’s focused hard and soft good store in the country (they fit you for ski’s, snowboards, etc. as well as apparel). They don’t focus just on women’s apparel and are serious enough to offer you the safe and appropriate equipment you need for any season in the outdoors.
Power to the Divas:
Women shop differently than men and women also need different fits and designs than men when it comes to equipment. Kim and her team seek to fulfill all those needs.
When you enter the store, you’re warmly greeted and as women (mostly all) love the shopping experience they want someone they can interact with, trust and respect while they’re shopping. I remember getting fitted for my first boot and skis with my mother and the entire shop was filled with men (many of them younger and teenagers) and the experience wasn’t warm and fuzzy in my memory. Not to bash the experience or men, at all, women just relate and shop differently.
In Outdoor Divas the fitting rooms are large and designed to also accommodate families, strollers, etc. The store is mostly compiled of women, but they do hire men (non-discriminatory, of course) and her partner, Michael is the co-founder and CEO of the company, as well.
Recently, Outdoor Divas launched a Denver based story and there are now 12 employees with 3 leaders (including Kim and her partner).
I asked Kim what do you need as an entrepreneur to succeed she said:
-Remain strong in the face of naysayers
-Agile/Able to change swiftly
-Listen, you never know who might have guiding advice and listening to your customers is important
Kim, a new mother and after almost 9 years in running and managing this business still wears all the hats. She said you have to be willing to “get down and dirty,” it’s your business, blood, sweat, and tears and there is nothing she isn’t “above” doing when it comes to the sustainability and growth of their business.
When I asked Kim what might be next in store for Outdoor Divas, she would love to venture out and create their own Outdoor Diva product (now, they represent and stock brands focused around women, but do not have any of their own hard product/equipment). She also would love to launch a satellite store back up in the mountains, where this idea and vision was fostered.
I love Kim’s story and specifically, the way their business came about – because it filled a need. I’m grateful for Kim’s persistence for women and for not giving up. Soon, I’ll be heading over to demo some new women’s snowboard at their store and hopefully, update my snowboard to get one specific to women. Diva power!
You can visit Outdoor Diva’s retail online store: http://www.outdoordivas.com or visit them at their Boulder or Denver store locations.