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  1. #1
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    Question Sources needed for article about thru-hiker entrepreneurs

    Hey folks,

    You may have gathered from the title that I'm writing an article about folks thru-hiking the AT, but it's a little more specific than that.

    A friend of mine came up with an idea for a business while hiking the trail (lots of time to think I presume) and then started it after concluding his hike. It's a T-shirt company focused on outdoor lifestyles and sustainability called Mount Inspiration, and it's pretty cool. Anyway, I'm looking for similar stories of other folks coming up with a good business idea and then pursuing it, no matter what stage they're currently in. I haven't been able to find much literature on this so I figured I would reach out here. I really appreciate any help you can offer!

    If you're wondering where the article will be published, I am too! I'll have to write it and see. My email is mfwelch(the number thirteen)@gmail. Thanks in advance!

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    Thru hikers shouldn't be the market you solely focus with your product.

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    John Zahorian and Andrew Bentz thru hiked the CDT a few years back and eventually launched Pa'lante Packs. They have a website, product, ambassadors, social media, production, and sales. If you are looking for an A-B-C How-to type of example they would be a good source.

    Also check out Aria Zoner (Whole Food Hiker). He has created a..... lifestyle? brand? philosophy? Kind of hard to nail down as he has had a lot of irons in the fire. Designing new long distance trails (Hot Springs Trail, Siskiyou Peaks Trail) and promoting them with the intention of them gaining National Scenic Trail status. Redefining how to eat on the trail in a way that is healthy, sustainable, organic (real organic not fancy sticker at the grocery store organic). Tons of content he has put out on YouTube, guide books, social media, and recently about a dozen podcasts. Dude is everywhere. His outlook on health, hiking, and the "community" are unique and ahead of the curve. Not to kiss too much ass but Zoner and Dogwood are probably my two favorite sharers of knowledge in this corner of the world. Go check out his accounts, he is taking some time off right now but might be willing to speak with you if you do your homework first. I have no idea if he is making any money from all of his efforts. He has a burning passion though and if he wants to monetize what he is doing he will find a way.

    Those are two that were on the top of my mind, surely there are many others out there.

    Oh yeah, the dude who started The Trek hiked the AT. They put out a **** load of content over various formats, I assume they generate revenue through ads, affiliate links, and online merch store. He also wrote the book Appalachian Trials which has sold some copies.

  5. #5

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    Greenbelly Meals is one. I think if you look for services targeting hikers, especially thru hikers, you may find a few former thru hiker entrepreneurs. A while back I saw online a service providing mail drops for thru hikers that I believe was started by former thru hikers. I suppose Jennifer Farr Davis is an example thru hiker entrepreneur also. I saw her speak once; she was very good and I've enjoyed a couple of her books also. I think there are some former thru hikers that make at least some of their living using YouTube.
    Last edited by perrymk; 10-24-2018 at 08:38.

  6. #6

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    I had the idea for the Packa on one of my shakedown hikes in preparation for my 2000 thru. I've been living full time off the Packa since 2010.
    Cedar Tree

  7. #7

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    My guess is there have been a lot of successful businesses (some not of course) related or unrelated to hiking/backpacking/backcountry markets that have been thought out over many miles of walking by oneself. I'm not sure how much literature there is on that particular connection though.

    My business creation formed as I came to the realization I was not real happy where I was working, quite and embarked on a long distance hike to "clear my head". I had started that thru hike with all sorts of grand intentions, but several hundreds of miles later my head was fully into a notion that had flirted with me here and there over time finally floated into frontal lobe and I gave into exploring it as I walked. At times I would walk miles and miles not remembering a thing I passed along the way I was so engrossed. While I didn't reach the end of the thru hike, I had clearly found what I was looking for, made the decision to leave the trail with a well thought out business plan, initial goals, and start up mechanisms all worked out. Within a few weeks the business was started. After a year or so of struggle, it gained its footing and been successful ever since.

    Sometimes a long walk is just that, a long walk. Other times there are things to be found along the way either externally or internally (or both). The parallels between long distance hiking and life circumstances including business development abound. I will always be grateful to those many miles nearly 2-decades ago, which is why I keep returning to miles in different places. Always something new around the bend.
    Last edited by Traveler; 10-24-2018 at 10:26.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Thru hikers shouldn't be the market you solely focus with your product.
    You've misunderstood. The market can be anyone and everyone. I'm looking for ideas for businesses that people have gotten while hiking the AT. The business itself might have nothing to do with the trail, hiking, or even the outdoors. They just got the idea there.

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    WTX2WY this is great info thank you!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mfwelch13 View Post
    You've misunderstood. The market can be anyone and everyone. I'm looking for ideas for businesses that people have gotten while hiking the AT. The business itself might have nothing to do with the trail, hiking, or even the outdoors. They just got the idea there.
    How about if one more simply gets those ideas from Nature whether they are hiking or not?

    https://www.ted.com/talks/janine_ben...on?language=en

    How about looking into the creations of Black Diamond and Patagonia?

    I'll give one idea away I've arrived at while thru hiking the AT and PCT. Incorporate spray on photovoltaics onto backpacks, tarps, tents, accessories(hats, umbrellas, etc). Lighter wt than current rigid PV cells. There's an ever greater expectancy of reliable energy usage when in the outdoors from hikers, campers, backpackers, etc who are enthralled with saving wt...while being less energy dependent(yahoo!). Just having ideas, even if they might be excellent ones, is not what is typically considered being an entrepreneur...unless you're an idea entrepreneur.

    I got the idea to sell various businesses while on hikes. LOL I guess that's a different type of self business venture though called an "intentionally designed lifestyle?" If you're serious you should attend some ALDHA West meetings and Outdoor Retailers's Markets where in the audience are typically greater numbers of serial LD hikers who do or have lived the life and find ways to run businesses. You can also find them online at their websites.

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    Here is another one:

    NEXT MILE MEALS

  12. #12

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    During an AT section hike in 2010 (Springer to Hot Springs), I dreamed up the Little Buck saw (15" buck saw that weighs less than 4 ounces). I had just started selling trowels, so my cottage gear business was in its infancy but technically already "launched", but the saw was my second product and a very unique one. Plenty of time to think about stuff when you are hiking along day after day.
    Find the LIGHT STUFF at QiWiz.net

    The lightest cathole trowels, wood burning stoves, windscreens, spatulas,
    cooking options, titanium and aluminum pots, and buck saws on the planet



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    There are lots of small businesses known well in the hiking community that specialize in making innovative (often light or ultralightweight) gear that major manufacturers won't or can't replicate (I think there is a list here on WB, probably out of date). I would say that most of these were born by necessity, i.e. hikers who figured out a better way to do something while hiking. Like microbreweries, they represent hobbies that got out of control. Often referred to as cottage/garage/basement/closet industries as they started out (or maybe still operate from) someones home. You are probably looking at this kind of company when it is associated with a specific name (or pseudonym), such as Qiwiz, Zelph, Henry Shires, Joe Valesko, Judy Gross, etc...).

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    Thanks for all the great ideas folks! I also just saw that Cedar Tree's Packa was just reviewed by Outside. That's awesome! If anyone else wants to add anything I'll check back here once in a while, or you can message me or email me (info in first post). Appreciate the help yall!

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    I'm betting your story on thru-hiker entrepreneurs wouldn't be complete without mentioning AWOL. He recognized during his thru-hike a need for better hiker resources and created what I would argue is the go-to reference manual for most every thru-hiker. Guthook and his iPhone app might also be a good one, although I am not as familiar with his background and if his app was directly inspired while doing his thru-hike.

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    Wild Asaph Outfitters of Wellsboro, PA was founded by two women who thru-hiked the A.T. together. I believe they worked for an outfitter near the A.T. and in a town one of them grew up near, then opened the business in a town the other grew up near.

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