As someone who spends more time outside than in, I’m no stranger to outdoor gear, and when I stumbled upon Big Outdoors several months ago, I was excited to find that they featured small gear companies I’ve never even heard of. Turns out, that’s part of their mission – to encourage outdoor lovers to look beyond the big box stores and support up-and-coming companies. Big Outdoors curates outdoor gear and clothing collections that highlight innovative products made by smaller, high-quality manufacturers that are hard to find elsewhere.
I’m totally smitten. I’ve joined forces with Big Outdoors as a brand ambassador in hopes of inspiring my readers to think outside of the big box stores when choosing gear and clothing for their outdoor adventures. Want to learn more about this innovative company? You should definitely pop over to their website and have a look around, but first, let me introduce the founder of Big Outdoors, Lloyd Vogel.
An Interview with Lloyd Vogel from Big Outdoors
Back Road Ramblers: Hi Lloyd! I’m so excited to be part of your team and get to know you and Big Outdoors a little better. Can you start of by telling readers a little bit about yourself?
Lloyd: My name is Lloyd Vogel and I am the founder of Big Outdoors! When I’m not running Big Outdoors I am working as a high school special education teacher at a small environmental charter school in St. Paul MN. I love Ultimate Frisbee, pickleball, playing music, and of course the outdoors! I am an avid sea kayaker, backpacker, and gear junkie.
BRR: Sounds like your days are full in the best way possible. What inspired you to start Big Outdoors?
Lloyd: During the summer of 2015 my girlfriend and I were in the midst of a 6 week road trip across the western part of the USA. While in San Francisco we attended a craft show, and I was blown away by all the small vendors with incredible products. It got me thinking about the smaller outdoor companies I enjoy, and how neat it would be for outdoorsy individuals to be able to find really great “big box” alternatives all in one place! I started kicking the idea around in my head during the long hours on the road, and eventually decided on launching Big Outdoors!
BRR: What has surprised you most about Big Outdoors, as a business and as a community?
Lloyd: From a business perspective, I have been most surprised by how complex small business owning is. Loving/knowing gear is not enough to be successful, as success as a start up requires a constant desire to learn new skills, send one more email, or spend just another 3 hours on Instagram. It’s incredibly engrossing, and incredibly wonderful. I have also been surprised by the community’s desire to get involved in Big Outdoors. I field a huge number of emails from people simply looking to connect, provide photos, or tell a funny story from their last hike.
<BRR: It’s awesome that Big Outdoors has been able to bring people together around something they’re passionate about. I hear that you’re expanding Big Outdoor’s offerings this fall. What are you most excited about?
Lloyd: I am most excited to expand our gear offerings. We are partnering with some really incredible companies, and are really stoked to be selling some great sleeping bags, hammocks, quilts, trekking poles, and backpacks. We are also changing the website quite a bit, and I think the new layout will do an excellent job of highlighting the compatibility of our products.
BRR: can’t wait to try out some of your new gear. I’ve been using the same sleeping bag for the past 20 years! It sounds like you’re moving forward at a dynamic pace. Where do you see Big Outdoors in ten years?
Lloyd: I hope to see Big Outdoors as the online leader for products from small and up-and-coming companies.
BRR: As a business owner, what are the biggest hurdles you’re facing right now?
Lloyd: As with most start ups, the biggest struggle is knowing how to invest limited resources. Money and time are always scarce, and when undertaking something as multifaceted as small business owning, knowing how to allocate these resources can be difficult. Running the day-to-day operations while always considering larger goals and projects can also be difficult, as small business owning often means you do a multiplicity of roles (web design, product research/testing, social media, order placement…)!
BRR: You have to wear many hats and often learn as you go. I can imagine that it’s equal parts exhilarating and exasperating. What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
Lloyd: Its all about the people. I really enjoy the relationships I have formed with our companies, our ambassadors, our partners and our customers. These communities motivate me to continue our growth, and it provides a constant stream of enthusiasm and support that keeps us dynamic, evolving, and engaged.
BRR: And I’m so excited to be a part of your growing community, especially a community founded on love for outdoor adventures! As a hiker and kayaker, I’d love to know your favorite trail and your favorite place to paddle.
Lloyd: The Apostle Islands in Lake Superior are my favorite place to paddle. I have been on many trips there, and aspire for many more! My favorite place to hike would have to be the Brooks Range. While I have only had the pleasure to backpack there once, the 6 weeks I spend up there were transformative!
BRR: Thanks so much for sharing a bit about yourself and your business, Lloyd. I can’t wait to watch Big Outdoors grow and prosper!