This is the seventh in a series about women in the Utah outdoor recreation and adventure travel business. My name is Emilia Wint and I’m a member of the US Freeskiing Team. As a GOED intern, I’ve been traveling around the state to hear the stories of the women doing business in the coolest industry in Utah. Please note the opinions expressed by the interviewees do not necessarily represent that of GOED, but they promise to be interesting!
Melissa Edge is slightly different from the other women I interviewed as her business is a blog for kids in the outdoors. We chatted about managing the crowds in the park, finding a unique voice as a blogger and competing with big retailers online.
1. What brought you to Utah and why did you stay?
I grew up in Denver. After I met my husband, he mentioned this place called Moab. It sounded out of this world. He brought me here once and I was hooked, we ended up visiting regularly. After we both got laid off from our jobs of 12 years, we took a year off and traveled, eventually landing in Moab. The lifestyle, the recreation access, and the National Parks were all huge draws.
2. With all the other outdoor recreation companies based in Utah what made you decide to set up shop?
My son motivated me. We’ve always been active hiking and camping. People said you can’t do that anymore when you have kids. I didn’t think that was true. There were no resources available to get little kids into the outdoors. If I couldn’t find anything, I figured it was difficult for others too, which gave me the idea to create my website. I spent hours searching for equipment for small kids. I thought I could consolidate it into a one stop shop. The internet is vast, it was difficult to market my website and compete with the bigger online outdoor stores. So I closed the shop and focused my website on motivating, educating and inspiring parents to get into the outdoors with their kids. My son started venturing into the outdoors at six weeks old. Today he doesn’t know any different, he loves it.
3. How do you set your business apart from the competition? Or, what is your unique sales proposition?
When I started there were only a couple other websites that were catered to getting kids into the outdoors. You have to find your unique voice compared to the other outdoor bloggers in order to stand out. I have a lot of stories and experiences. People feed off of personal experience. I share the good and bad, gear reviews, trip reports, tips and ideas and appealing photos. This has worked really well for me.
4. What do you value about doing business in Utah?
I love how unique Utah is. It’s very diverse, from mountains to red rock desert. You can be in Moab in 100-degree weather, drive half an hour to La Sals National Forest and you’re in the mountains and it’s 70 degrees. I love the outdoor community, we feed off each other. You’re never bored here.
5. What could be improved in regards to doing business in Utah?
I don’t do a lot of financial business so I don’t have a huge opinion. But I have concerns about how the parks and monuments are utilized. Arches is getting very busy. I have concerns with permits being issued. I don’t want to have to get a permit to play in my backyard. These places are our economy, and I understand tourists come. I don’t know what the solution is, maybe a local’s pass? [The Office of] Tourism has done a great job marketing Utah; now we need to accommodate the influx.
6. Are there aspects of your business in which you feel you have an advantage as a woman?
Not necessarily an advantage as a woman, however, my location is huge. Moab is known worldwide. Brands want photos using gear in Moab! People come from all over. The availability and access of recreation is crazy. I can go camping and get my kid to school the next day. Everything is right in my backyard.
7. What was an unexpected obstacle you faced when starting your business?
When I opened the store I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get traffic to it. I didn’t have experience six years ago. The internet was completely different and I didn’t have a lot of marketing funds I think if I tried to start now with how social media connects people and the support from readers that I have it would be more successful, however I don’t have the desire. It takes a lot of money and time.
In the end I closed the store and it’s been great. I write as much as I want and have a very flexible schedule. I used to blog every day, which is a lot and I’ve cut back a bit, giving me an opportunity to write for other publications. The blog allows me to stay active in the outdoor community building friendships and partnerships and I love it.
8. Now that you have an established business, can you look back and identify any misconceptions you had about starting an outdoor rec company that turned out not to be true?
While having my online store, the misconception was that it was going to be much easier than it actually was. After closing the store and concentrating on the blog, my main focus was to help inspire and motivate parents to get outdoors with their kids and let them know that it can be done…that their adventures don’t have to stop once they become parents. That has been much easier to accomplish.
9. What is the biggest mistake you’ve made with your business? How did you recover? What did you learn? Would you change anything if you could go back?
Not mistake per se…but I think my blog could be bigger. This year I’m going to revamp some things. I had gotten burnt out on writing, managing our gallery and life, however, this year I will be putting more time and energy into my website. Social media is huge these days and it allows brands and bloggers to be noticed.
10. What do you tell people when they ask what it’s like to live in Utah?
I tell them it’s great. The diversity in the landscape with mountains and desert provides opportunities for recreational activities all over the place. Born and raised in Colorado, it will always have my heart, but Moab is pretty awesome.