Is finding quality gear for your college outdoor club or organization like searching for water in a desert?
Upgrade your gear without breaking the bank with College Outside
To find out more behind how College Outside got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews College Outside founder, Sarah Lockwood
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with College Outside founder Sarah Lockwood. College Outside blossomed in 2013 but, Sarah truly dug her roots into the outdoor scene while attending Tufts University. As a hugely active member in Tufts Mountain Club, Sarah naturally gravitated towards the outdoor industry and began College Outside as a fun side hustle after graduation. It wouldn’t be until a few years later that Sara would dive into College Outside full force. Now College Outside is responsible for helping get deals and discounts for college clubs and groups to help keep the outdoors and outdoor sports accessible.
Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Join the conversation and leave a comment, check out show notes, and get all the links mentioned in this episode below
- Check out College Outside’s website
- Apply to get your college outing club or organization onboard with College Outside
- FAQ’s and answers that we’ve might have missed in todays show
- Follow College Outside on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
What is College Outside all about?
“College Outside is the primary connection between college outdoor programs and the outdoor sport industry...we run a retail site that’s similar to a pro site where college outdoor education programs and groups can purchase equipment for themselves…”
How did you come up with this idea?
“Most of this came through experience. I went to Tufts University in Boston for college and one of the major focuses when I was there besides studying was being apart of Tufts Mountain Club…”
Did you always know you wanted to start a business?
“Not really. College Outside for me was something that I did on the side that was fun. I had a full time job when I graduated college and I was able to organize a couple College Outside events on the side…”
How has College Outside evolved since you began?
“I don’t have a really strong answer to that...For me I have an idea that I really believe in and thought it would fill a need and would solve a problem and I just started asking a lot of questions…”
Was it hard to bring on brands or universities to be a part of College Outside?
“It’s totally a chicken and egg scenario...When we launched the retail site two years ago we had twenty schools that we worked with and we launched with four brands…”
Do you work with specific point of contact for each group involved with College Outside or does everyone in the club/organization gain access to the platform?
“It’s both. If you are the president of the Tufts Mountain Club, for example, you would apply to get access for the Tufts Mountain Club. So what my team does is, we get on the phone with you and make sure you’re program is actually a college approved program…”
Is there an average size in the number of unique individuals that you have on the program?
“We work with 210 programs and there’s 210 different models. We work with everything from new climbing clubs or outing clubs to the Dartmouth Outing Club that’s a few thousand students strong…”
How does the membership work?
They’re getting the discounts that they would get if they went to the brand directly and ordered as a group...One of the issues that we’re solving for the students is each individuals can buy what they want and get it shipped where they want…”
Has there ever been an issue staying up to date with clubs and programs?
Absolutely. That was something, at first, I was trying to tackle myself while doing everything else and that was nearly impossible...the first year or two that was the main struggle…”
Did you ever have any mentors that helped you build up College Outside?
“...I had a couple of mentors who are in the outdoor industry, who are pretty high up at a couple of companies, and had a lot of experience working in the university space...They were the ones who helped me figure out the ultimate design of the retail site…”
What is the culture that exists within College Outside?
“Part of it is the location, I’m psyched on being here in California, I think it’s a really great spot outside for outdoor activities. We also have some really amazing neighbors like Patagonia and Totem Co… We have a pretty laidback company culture right now. We all work in one main space with a big main table that we work at…”
What is your commitment to Sustainability?
When we started our company we incorporated College Outside in September of 2013 and made sure we were a 1% for the planet member within a month...If we’re going to have a company we need to build a foundation for giving back to companies who are supporting the environment…”
What has been the hardest part about building College Outside?
“The hardest part was just sticking with it. It took a long time to get there and have that confidence in the idea...At the risk of starting cliche there's really high highs and really low lows and that’s just the reality of it…”
What has been one of your greatest fears and how do you manage it?
“To be honest one of my biggest fears is that we will have a big company come a long and just decide to do what we’re doing and there’s nothing we could do to stop that…”
Did you raise any money when you started this?
“It was completely bootstrapped for the first three years...I did raise a very small seed funding about six months ago. I needed to redo our website and retail site to be a little more modern…”
What have been some of the biggest mistakes that you’ve made since you started College Outside?
“Before the retail site we did a couple events with the outdoor programs that we worked with...We had a bunch planned out and even went so far to get event spaces and sponsors for these events...we had an event planned for brooklyn and the event completely fell through…”
What advice would you give?
“...Find another company that you’re really psyched on and put all your effort into that...For me it was really important to get a really strong hold in the industry and build those relationships. It’s really tough coming in totally new and fresh. There’s a lot of value in getting the lay of the land…”
Where do you see College Outside headed into the future?
“In the future, for us it’s a consistent, slow, and steady growth so I don’t see any surprises but, I do see us as the primary channel and connector to these outdoor programs…”
What’s the best part about running College Outside?
“The best part is all the students we work with. They’re just awesome. I get to talk to them everyday and these are students who are just experiencing what it’s like to get outside and that just gets me stoked every single day…”