Two Years of Urban Outdoors - Urban Outdoors
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Two years ago, on a winter morning in a tiny apartment in Chicago, Urban Outdoors was born. We all know that possibility is often born out of frustration, and in this case, I was extremely disappointed in the lack of information that existed about outdoor activities near me. In a city with a river, a lakefront, and miles of forests and preserves nearby, it seemed nearly impossible to figure out how to get outdoors. And I knew, on that morning in December, that I wanted to change that.

It’s true, about 18% of people recreate outdoors once a week, and only about 50% of people recreate outdoors once a year. Our mission is to create something that raises both of those numbers.

To celebrate our second year around the sun, I’ve been reflecting on where we’ve come from and where we’re going. One thing is certain – we’ve got big dreams and ambitions around here, and these will only grow as we find new opportunities to get our people outside.

Where We Are

Two years, seven employees, 50 cities, a year and a half of vanlife, and miles on miles of exploring trails, waterways, mountains, forests, and roads around North America have led us to this moment. Urban Outdoors was born out of a desire to explore, and our brand grew as we brought that desire to life. And as a result, over the last two years, 1.95 million people who live in cities around the world joined us outside.

Want to join the Urban Outdoors community? Sign up here.

It’s crazy for me, as a bootstrapped, scrappy startup founder, to fathom how we’ve enabled nearly 2 million people to go outside, many of whom never felt like they had access to an industry historically dominated by athletic, affluent white men. It’s not anywhere near close to the gold standard of diversity we’d love to one day see, but I look outside today and see people of so different colors, socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, and sexualities.

Today, in our industry, we see backpacking drag queens, Black folks camping (too) and Black folks backpacking, brown girls climbing, fat girls hiking, and disabled people getting on trails and beaches. We’re getting people out camping who have never been before. We see companies making extended sizing to accommodate ALL body types and brands with an increased focus on reducing waste and protecting the planet.

We’re sharing winter, we’re leaving no trace, we’re reducing our plastic impact, we’re improving outdoor industry hiring practices across the board. We’re acknowledging the lands that don’t belong to us, supporting indigenous-led organizations, and working towards creating equity for indigenous folks. And we’re seeing, in unparalleled numbers, urban dwellers of all kinds getting outdoors to explore nature for the very first time.

But we still have work to do. The outdoor industry still remains an incredibly homogenous and non-inclusive space, especially when it comes to company leadership and representation. At Urban Outdoors, we’re deeply involved with organizations such as Project Respect Outdoors to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and straight up human decency in the outdoors.

Reminder: this isn’t about putting brown people or fat people or people with disabilities in your ads. This is about creating products and brands for people who don’t look like rich white men. This is about embracing the diversity and creativity of thought that happens when we allow women, and people of color (especially Black and Indigenous people), differently abled/disabled folks, and LGBTQ+ humans to make decisions and solve problems on behalf of the whole.

This is our Robin Hood moment. It’s uncomfortable, but we’re going there. And nothing is going to stop this force of nature.

Photo Credit: Amy Sibert // @byamysibert

Where We’re Going

We’ve done a lot of incredible work at Urban Outdoors to bring cities outside. But we have even bigger plans for our third year of existence. You see, we’ve been listening very closely to you, our readers, followers, subscribers, and supporters, and we’re learning from you.

In Year 3, we’re going to continue to bring you meticulously researched, in-depth guides to getting outside in your city, but we’ve got a few priorities we’re planning to focus on:

  • Bolstering Our Team – A team is critical for bringing any brand to life, and at Urban Outdoors, our team is the heart of everything we do. I’m so proud of our female/POC run company and the diverse team that’s brought our vision to life.

    This month, we’re bringing on our second full-time employee, Mallory Stock. Mallory is our ridiculously talented and scrappy Marketing & Brand Partnerships Manager, and she’s using her superpowers to help us grow our communities on social media and in our email newsletter. She’ll also be spearheading some crazy awesome partnerships with brands we think you’ll love.

    We’re also on the hunt for a part-time content editor! Interviews are underway currently and we’ll be making hiring decisions before the end of the year. If you’re interested in working with us as a content editor, shoot us an email and we’ll be in touch.
  • Contributing to Causes – We believe that people vote with their dollars. To cast our own votes, we’re going to funnel even more of our profits to organizations that are doing great work to diversify the outdoors and protect the planet. While we are already Community Partners of Leave No Trace, we hope to source 3-5 more organizations that we support each month that are aligned with our brand’s mission and values. Have a suggestion? Contact us here and let us know!
  • Diversifying Our Voices – In order to make sure we’re promoting a variety of voices and catering to all of our diverse audiences, we’re starting by diversifying our writer team, including an increased focus on family outdoor adventures, adventuring with pets, accessible (disabled-friendly) outdoor adventures, trail running, and cycling. If you’re in the market, keep an eye on our Careers page and shoot us an email if you see a fit.
  • Fostering Conversations & Communities – We hear every day that you want to belong to a community of like-minded outdoorsy people. To help you meet other adventurous folks near you, we’ll be creating some tech-enabled platforms for our community members to get involved and connect with each other in a deeper way than ever before.

If you haven’t already joined our outdoor community, what are you waiting for? Sign up for your city’s community today and we’ll make sure you’re in the loop about what we’re up to nearby. And, while you’re at it, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok too!

Photo Credit: Amy Sibert // @byamysibert

A Final Note

From the deepest trenches and tallest mountains of my heart, thank you.

Thank you for supporting this tiny little bud of an idea that’s blossoming into something new and incredible. Let’s grow ourselves a redwood.

Thank you for being brave and getting outside for the first, or the second, or the thousandth time. Let’s bring friends next time.

Thank you for being part of the 18% of people who take at least an hour out of every week to explore green spaces and public lands near you. Let’s make it 50%.

Thank you for trusting us, for holding us accountable, for sharing your worries and fears and opinions with us. Let’s turn those conversations into actions.

Thank you for listening when diverse voices speak. Let’s amplify those voices and start a revolution.

Thank you for being one of our two million. Let’s make it two billion.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With love, hard work, and the happiest of trails,
Kay

Kay Rodriguez
Founder & CEO, Urban Outdoors

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Kay Rodriguez is the founder of Urban Outdoors. She's also the writer and photographer behind Jetfarer. When she's not writing furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, surfing, or playing in the snow.

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