Walls of New York City closing in on you? Having seen the light of day in weeks? Maybe it’s time to get some fresh air...
Get out of the city and out of your comfort zone with Discover Outdoors.
To find out more behind how Discover Outdoors got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Discover Outdoors founder, Kirk Reynolds
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with Discover Outdoors founder Kirk Reynolds. Discover Outdoors is a travel company that specializes in taking people from the New York City area out of their comfort zone and plunges them into adventure, excitement, and new wonderful experiences that many city dwellers never known. Over a decade ago, Kirk Reynolds made the choice to move from his home in Missouri to New York City. By scratching an itch and moving to NYC the seeds of Discover Outdoors were sown, and he soon after began to build his dream. In this episode of the ReddyYeti Podcast Kirk talks us through how he made the transition to stumbling upon the idea for Discover Outdoors, What it’s like to literally live the dream, and more about the bridge between adventure travel and giving back through the nonprofit side of his business, Discover Outdoors Foundation.
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 Discover Outdoors’ website
- Find out more about the nonprofit, Discover Outdoors Foundation
- Discover Outdoors’ local trips
- Go even further outside the NYC area with adventure travel
- Follow Discover Outdoors on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
What is Discover Outdoors all about?
“We focus on building a community of outdoor enthusiasts in New York City. So, we’re based in the city, which is an amazing place to start an outdoor company because you have millions of landlocked people that desperately need access to nature...We feel that having regular access to the outdoors is essential to a healthy lifestyle…”
How did you come up with the idea of starting a travel company in New York?
“To me it’s obvious because the first thing I did when I moved from Missouri was I took my bike across the George Washington Bridge and just biked north. And you can do that but, I failed to see there was a bike lane across the mile long bridge in traffic…From there I discovered Harriman State Park...The Gunks...The Catskills...”
What kind of trips do you guys run?
“We love hiking, we love rock climbing. Springs around the corner so we’ll start getting in the water with kayaking trips, white water kayaking, and canoeing trips...What we like to do is not just introduce our members to the sport of what we’re doing but to the local economy of upstate New York and New Jersey. After a hard day of hiking we’ll go visit a brewery afterwards…”
What is your background with being outdoors?
“My outdoor upbringing was probably a little less typical or tradition than some of the other outdoor leaders in the industry. I didn’t go to an outward bound on an expedition but, I did spend a tremendous amount of time in the outdoors growing up…”
What made you move to New York City?
“I had an itch for something more. I was living in Kensington, Missouri and I had an opportunity with IBM of all places to come out here...they were really good to me and I got to see different aspects of the business in learn about the business...quickly after moving here, that’s when the Discover Outdoors thing started to come into focus…”
What trips did you start with and how you organize them?
“I think part of the benefit that we have in our business model of offering the really quick day trips and the multi-week expeditions is we get to try things on a very small scale...We’ve had over 300 different unique trips that we’ve offered and, some of them will get really zany...that’s not just good testing ground for the kind of trips that we offer but it’s also good training grounds for our guides…”
How do you find and train guides?
“It’s a big outdoor community in New York City. I can’t tell you how many applications we get a year…Out of 13 million people there’s going to be a few…”
What is something unique about Discover Outdoors?
“There’s a powerful thing that happens on an outdoor trip that we don’t overtly talk about but we nudge it along through our conversations with clients; and that is transformations...you feel great about yourself, you learn a new skill, you're inspired by the grandness of the outdoors. You give that to somebody for the first time and it’s incredible. It’s a delicate thing that we deal with because we don’t want to be overt about it…”
What kind of experience can people expect on your trips?
“It’s about ten people per trip. Some are a little more some are a little less...We try to make it completely easy and be there for them...it’s a very special valuable day for them and we are honored that they spend that day with us…
Where do you guys meet for the trips that are outside of New York?
“Union Square for the Downtown [Manhattan], Brooklyn, and Queens folks; and the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Some trips leave as early as 4 in the morning and some trips as late as 10 or 11 in the morning…Most trips are 8 or 9 in the morning and back by dinner…”
Did you have any mentors to help you start building Discover Outdoors?
“Well the travel company is a very friendly industry. I would not consider it hyper competitive so I’ve reached out to people all over the world to get advice...I have had one mentor along the way who I consider is one of the most significant people in my life...Not only a good business mentor but someone that has kept me thinking about if I’m running the business with integrity…”
What is your commitment to sustainability?
“We are very keen on making sure wherever we go we are investing, not only in the natural environment but, also the economy…when we go to see farm stands, breweries and distilleries and hopefully our clients are going back on their own and investing in them… All of our guides are trained in leave no trace...our clients are aware of their impact, even when we go on a simple hike…”
What is the culture like within Discover Outdoors?
“It evolved into something really beautiful that I’m incredibly proud and happy to be apart of. Our culture is that we’re here to serve. There’s a community of people that can be excited about the outdoors and we’re here to get them there and make sure they have an amazing time...”
Do you guide any trips?
“I started guiding the raising of a son. That has been my focus on the weekends more than what it used to be...I still get out guiding the Mt Washington trip…I still get to scratch that itch and connect with our community...”
What is your biggest fear with Discover Outdoors?
“Risk management is top of mind everyday. Just transporting people to a trailhead is still more dangerous than I want to accept...That still 13 years later scares the hell out of me…”
What would you say has been some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made with Discover Outdoors?
“This has been the greatest social experiment for me, learning about people and relationships. As a manager I’ve hired some amazing people and I’ve hired some people that I thought were amazing. They were probably the wrong fit because I was trying to see something in them that wasn’t there…”
What advice would you give someone that wanted to start a business in the outdoor industry?
“Research is great to a certain extent. Finding out what your role in this world is...what is your reason for being; what is your reason for this business and make sure it’s a very personal reason…Once you find the ‘why,’ I would accelerate pretty quickly through all the business planning and jump in...”
Where do you see Discover Outdoors headed into the future?
“We are rapidly expanding our community and we look at it as challenging one person to transform their lives, one person at a time...We’re also really focused on our kids in the community...Our youth program and our foundation and nonprofit side are working really hard to get into schools...that’s the biggest change and positive impact that we can make so we’re really focused on it…”
What would you say is the best part about running Discover Outdoors?
“I haven’t worked in over a decade, I know that it’s so cliche for people to say but, it’s absolutely true. I spend all day every day doing exactly what I love doing, working with the people I truly love. I get to pick who they are, bring them on this team, nurture that relationship and their development and growth...it feeds my soul and it feeds my passion…”
Who would you say is the perfect person for a trip?
“I can’t help but break it down between men and women… For women, what we’ve seen is a need to go out and show that they are badass, they are capable, and as good, if not better, than men...I started to see this community of women that are empowered. When they bring that back home they bring strength to their relationships, they bring confidence to their work, they bring creativity to their work...For men, I speak from experience but also from witnessing other guys. There’s just this cavemen yearning to reconnect with nature. To be hungry, to be in pain, to feel the ice on your eyebrows. To really feel the raw amazingness that happens when you're on an outdoor trip…to reconnect with that manhood is just really powerful...”