No Ordinary Adventure

Women, Wilds and Wandering with Occupation Wild Founder Courtney Condy

November 01, 2020 No Ordinary Adventure by UnCruise Adventures Season 1 Episode 5
No Ordinary Adventure
Women, Wilds and Wandering with Occupation Wild Founder Courtney Condy
Show Notes Transcript

Courtney left her corporate job to explore the world and never looked back. She began guiding outdoor trips around the world, then set her sights on creating her own business. Hear stories of travel inspiration, tips for becoming a guide, and what it's taken to start and scale an outdoor business. This female founder has a lot of experience and is providing an outlet for adventurers to connect with their dreams. As Courtney says, join the growing movement of people who left the cubicle for a life of adventure and embraced life beyond 9 to 5. 

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Hey adventures. Welcome to the no ordinary adventurer podcast, a place we call home for adventure and the conversations you want to have. We bring you inspiration stories from the field and talk with adventure travelers and industry experts from around the world. This is a place to fill your heart and head with travel knowledge. Now, your host, Dan Blanchard, a lifelong Mariner traveler, and CEO of UnCruise Adventures, a small boat adventure company defining the UN in UnCruise. Let's get started. And today, I've got a special treat. We have a young woman with us today that is an entrepreneur, and adventurer, and is one that's working hard to provide the right kind of people to outdoor companies. And I'd like to introduce you all to Courtney and party. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for having me on. I'm such a fan. I'm UnCruise. And I'm really excited to be here. Well, I'm excited to get you on board with us. And I'm really excited to you know, learn more about your company. It's not that common that people of your age, particularly women are starting their own businesses, your generation, for whatever reason, my generation was like all of us own a business when we were young. And you're kind of bucking the trend for your own industry. So in your own age, it is actually like super funny. There's very few women who do it like I think, and it's like, I think when I first started this, it was very stressful. And a lot of people thought I was very young. But as the brand has grown, it's been a lot easier. But definitely like I started when I was 27. And like just doing cold calls, like alone Friday team members. like who are you? True? Well, congratulations for kind of breaking the generational trend. And being an entrepreneur. Well, thank you. I mean, I love what you guys are doing. I always like kind of look towards those like big outdoor brands like you guys and hipcamp that have really like, created and carved out that really like innovative space where you're doing like you're in the opera industry, but doing something that's totally different than like other cruises or other like camping stuff. Oh, it's a different way to do it. Right? Well, we're excited to have you not only with I'd love to talk about your entrepreneurial grit and how you did this, but, you know, common love for the outdoors, and, and all these things that kind of make what you do. And this time in the history of the world, very unique. And but first of all, maybe you could just start off by sharing that with us. Who is Courtney, what makes her tick? Yeah, well, I would definitely take that story back maybe to college. And for maybe a lot of people listening, I went a very traditional route, like I just growing up, we didn't grow up really outdoorsy. And I just kind of was like what you do is like you graduate high school, you go to college, you do the best you can in college, and then you get a job. And that was kind of like what every single person I know, dude, it's just my parents did. And so that's what I did. And I got a corporate job in San Francisco. And kind of like right away, I was like, I don't like this, but everybody else is doing it. And I just kept being like me just because I'm really entry level. And like, the more I grow in this position, I'll like it. And that never happened for me. And I felt very disillusioned. It was just kind of like that hamster wheel of like, work, happy hour, go back to work the next day kind of hungover. And then you go out on the weekend with your friends. And I started to have these feelings of there has to be more to life than this. And kind of like a very last minute, I took a trip with a good friend from college to Nepal to do an Everest base camp track. very random. I hadn't traveled that much. I spent my time abroad in Beijing. So I was kind of familiar with Asia. And I was like, just really wanted to do it. It seems so different. And I was so stuck in my job and went and one of your two days away from base camp Nepal's like 8.1 earthquake hit. And it was a really crazy experience for me. And going through all that somebody in our group ended up passing away. It kind of forced me on this trajectory of really looking internally and being like, what do I want out of life and like, kind of what do I want to be doing? Because I realized at 24 when this happened, that life is very short. And that sounds cliche, but it was a big turning point in my life. Wow. I will say so. It's, I have to say I was while you were at at base camp, I was at the Nepal and right on the Nepal India border on a track Megan and I and it was probably probably just, oh, it's probably two weeks after the actual earthquake took place. And I remember looking across the Himalayan plane at Mount Everest and just thinking of just all the really challenging and terrible things that took place in that earthquake so good on yeah for for that allowing that to change your your view of life, it really did well, I didn't know you're there. That's pretty like what good synergy on this. But kind of after that I went on really like this journey of trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and ended up quitting my corporate job I gave 30 days in my apartment, in started this kind of path where I ended up becoming an adventure travel guide. And it was my dream job. I couldn't believe it. Like, my first season, I was working in Zion and Bryce, and yeah, working in like the camping department. Yeah, it was, I never done something like that before. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe like, this is my job, I was getting paid to do this. You know, like, your guests are awesome, you're cooking food for them, you're sleeping under the stars. And you're doing like that, you're getting paid to do that. And I was getting to see all these places I'd never seen before getting to spend each day outside, you know, the hours are really long, but I didn't really ever notice that. And through that, like worked in national parks, I ended up doing a summer in China, and then Mongolia leading 21 day trips there. And through that I like was always people are asking me like, how are you doing this? Like, do you work? How are you getting paid? How are you finding the money to travel, I was like, Oh, this is my job. And kind of while doing that, I was like, I really want to introduce other people to this industry in this line of work. And this might be sound silly to like meet you, because now we work in it. But a lot of people aren't aware that like outdoor jobs exist. I definitely was not aware of when I was in corporate life or in college. So I ended up creating occupation wild, which is a job word for the outdoor adventure industry where people can go on there and find their next dream job. Well, and I have to say, I love the title, occupation wild, I mean that how can that just not Medusa up inside? But what I mean, I'm interested because it would have been very easy with you kind of grabbing onto this whole, what I would call guide, expedition leader, a lot of different titles, as you know, that are out there. With that, I mean, that is like, in many ways for an outdoor person, like yourself or myself, that is like the ultimate job. But at what point did the things change? When you were a guide and said, You know, I'm going to go into business, and I'm going to bring some great people to this guiding role. I mean, what was the tipping point? I'm sure, like, both my parents are entrepreneurs. So I think I grew up and I saw a lot of that, but it was never something like when I was in college, or before being like, I'm gonna be a business owner. Yeah, I think I just believe so deeply in the idea. I would like, go to bed thinking about it. And I wake up thinking about it. And I just knew I really had to give it a go. And once I started it, I actually had a contract for another guiding gig in the next few months in Fiji. And I was like, oh, it's really take a while to set up. And like also go guide in Fiji and do this part time. And that definitely wasn't the case, um, took off really fast. Part of it was just like the audience that we grew was so passionate, and that was something I didn't expect. But you guys, it was kind of this weird thing where I just started it. And it became like an obsession. I was like, I have to do this. And I wake up every day and I still love what I do even though now is really different. Like I'm not guiding Sometimes I wish I still was but yeah, I hear Yeah, I I look back to the times where I guided in the past and, and there is a big part of me too, that just goes oh, I would love that place. But there's also satisfaction and making a living where you can have your head on the same pillow for more than a week. Which is kind of nice. Well that's that's really interesting. And of course, the great thing about guiding is you get all around the world as you mentioned, you're potentially on your way to Fiji had been a obviously on the whole Annapurna Circuit and that kind of thing. When when you look at those adventures that you had out on the field in the field, can you Is there anyone that just really struck you as oh my gosh, this is the life I lead a 21 day trip in Mongolia. And that was their Sony experiences during that but so Mongolia is like the 17th largest country by landmass but only 3 million people live there. So it's kind of like being in Alaska but no one's there. So we'd be we go all the way out to like for hours and you just see like a 12 year old boy riding pass on a horse and you're living in gares in my neighbor's 100 Still with us goals and I couldn't believe it because I don't think if I didn't have that job, I get to go to Mongolia. Because it is like one of those places where you can't just show up and be like, I'm gonna go out west, there's no roads, there's no, there's no signs. I don't even know how our drivers like knew where we were going. Because there is no roads and you'd be driving. No Google Map Works there. No service. And it was so beautiful and like the most beautiful stars I've ever seen. And just in these like mountains, and it was a very quiet place. Like, I think places I've been before it, even if they've been more remote, like you still, like hear a lot of chatter on people are still on their Instagram. But like with no service, we have like satphones Obviously for emergencies, and nobody else around and you're really meeting these like nomadic people who've been living this way for 1000s of years, still dressed in the traditional clothes like they were every day, it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Yeah, that goes a little beyond the surface doesn't. It changes your whole perspective on probably the way you even live at home. Oh, yeah. And just like realizing, like I think travel is so important, because one, I think it opens up, opens us up to the world. And we all need more of that. But then it also made me realize, like these people who live in Mongolia, you know, they don't have like, everything they have, they're so thankful for it because you don't like you can't just grow a garden salad out there. You know, you're really living off the land and living off like the animals you have. Yeah, I hear ya. It's refreshing. And and I think it's, I don't know, for me, it's, it's what makes me tick, quite frankly. So let's go back to the business a little bit, though. So female owned business starting up in your 20s, you're going through a peak, just you start the business, and we just not very far down the road, we have COVID-19. I mean, that's an obvious barrier. I mean, COVID-19 is that top? Whoa. But beyond that, what would you say, as a woman entering business as an entrepreneur in the outdoor industry? What are some of the barriers or challenges that you feel have been unique to you? It's like, I feel like a little twofold. Because I think in the outdoor industry, it's no surprise, it's very, like male dominated. But that being said, the men that I'm really close with in the industry have been so supportive. But I think especially starting up just like getting the confidence to feel really secure in my product at first is really hard. Because I would just cold call, which I've never really done before. And be like, Hey, have a say, and we'd love to host your jobs, and got a lot of really hard feedback at first. And so I think I really had to cut my teeth on that and grow really thick skin. I remember talking to a guy, and he just stopped me and said, hey, hey, you said like, hey, he said something like, Hey, little lady, I'm gonna stop you. This is never gonna work. And you're not supposed to be doing this. And I'm like, Oh, thank you. Well, how do you respond to that? Yeah, Guy and just be like, Wow, that was really intense. And I think just having to be like, you know, that is somebody else's, like projection. That's not like my reality. I have a lot of faith, and a lot of confidence really internally about the product I'm creating. I think there's been stuff too, like I've had a male team members and female team members and go into a conference with a guy who used to work for occupational health. He was great. But everybody would talk to him first. Everybody would talk to him, and you know, be praising him about the product. And he was like, Oh, I'm just like, are you sales here? And she's the founder. And I think it I don't think people were doing it intentionally. I think just subconsciously people are like, oh, there's a male, there's a female, it must be his business. And I think at first, I definitely wasn't kind of affected by stuff like that and be like, oh, like, I hate when that happens. But now I just tried to like be a little more assertive, and kind of use what I learned in guiding was like public speaking. And just be like, Oh, Hi, I'm Courtney on the founder of occupation wild and yeah, you know, it's definitely hard sometimes to be a woman in business. But I think business can be hard for everybody, just depending on like, you know, what you struggle with? Yeah, that's really true. It. It is interesting, though, I, I have a number of female captains that work for me, and one of them happens to be my daughter. And she was interviewing with me recently, and she said something that she's never really shared with dad, but she shared on the podcast that he said, You know, when asked about becoming a ship's master and that kind of thing, she said the same thing about confidence that she was overqualified for it as I'm sure you are overqualified. To start this business and run it, but there seems to be a thing when you're entering a male dominated industry that the confidence is kind of a common term I hear from women that are entering those male industries, particularly right at first and the the, the constant thing about oh, hey, little lady or something like that. And you know, my hat's off to you. Because that is a tough thing to overcome, because it's hard not to take that personally. Oh, yeah. Thank you and like, for people are listening, if they're women starting business, or like, whoever, or do you say this, like, I know, sometimes it doesn't seem fair. But you do have to kind of come in with that, you know, if you're on a zoom call, and it's like, 20, industry leaders, and they're all men except for you. Like, I can't change that. In that moment. Obviously, I wish it was more 5050. But that's just not the reality right now. I think it is changing, but just be confident. And I just try to remember that nobody the other men on the call are coming in being like, I'm not supposed to be here. So I'm just trying to like mirror that. Because, yeah, just believe in yourself. Yeah. Amen to that. So we have this adventure, a woman who's an entrepreneur, and is, is just carrying off this gig of bringing other people into the fold of adventure, travel the outdoors, like you are. But how, during all that time that you're spending on your business, how are you living an adventure, some life outdoors, yourself? How do you break away? Oh, well, I mean, that's always been a challenge, because I'm kind of a workaholic. And I love my what I do so much, but I had a lot of help, I actually hired a business coach, which was really great. And he was really good at like, seeing systems and just being like, hire more people. And at first that was really hard for me because you're like giving up control. And I think anyone who starts who starts a business is kind of a control freak. But bringing on more people have freed up my time. And then other than that, like I live in California, so I surf every day. And that's been a big thing for me is just making sure I'm in the water surfing and I have a lot of other friends that have small businesses so we might do like a co working like a co working session at the beach. And like everyone brings their vans I bring my car and people set up we hotspot so we can like do some like Wi Fi go work actually pre COVID I was living in Bali. So that was really fun. Like, I would like scooter to my like co working place where like the hours are pretty crazy, but like you're working at night, and then I go surfing the morning nap during the day go free diving. And and I think it's just like fitting that time in and prioritizing like still, you know, living a really adventurous life. Yeah, I think it makes a difference. I I've always made a habit of keeping my outdoor activity up as well. And for a few years I used to take my kayak which it's a Chatham 18, I saw one on one of the vendors on your website had one so I could have had to call it out. I took I used to take my child to maintain and basically Palo Southeast Alaska and meet up with the boats in route. And so figuring out how you can make work life work, but also keep what reason why we're there alive. And I am happy to hear about your surfing and it's kind of funny about the hotspots. It's just I would I wouldn't have guessed that one. But it makes total sense. So what? Oh, go ahead. No, I said it's something that's really important to me. And then especially bringing on staff just letting them know, like, they can always take surf breaks. And you know, go have fun. That's been really important to me with like, yeah, just building and scaling. I like that mentality. We we kind of do the same with even like stewards on our boats, we really encourage them to get out and kayak and snorkel and Alaska, all that stuff. Because, you know, at the end of the day, you and I both know that, for most people touching the wilderness and being in places bigger than us is just so so important to just our own mental outlook and this kind of thing. I am curious off, we've been talking about business a lot. You're talking about your staff and give them a break. If you had to if there was a group of women, three women at this table right now, and they are all interested in being in business. And and I was to ask you, what are the one or two maybe three items that you would kind of give him advice as advice to those women who are starting a business kind of wish I was a sophomore, but let me think real fast. So one, my biggest thing is like mindset, like look at your mindset and really take inventory of like your negative or limiting beliefs. I have to do this every day. Because a lot of times I think it's great for everyone, but it's especially for women like a lot of times you are you grew up in a society where it's like, there are a lot of limiting beliefs that like women aren't good leaders. Women aren't good with money. You know, it will it can go on and on. And by fixing your mindset, another thing is like find an expander be like, is there a woman in business that I really look up to, and somebody where you're like, who has like, gone before me, and it's made it work. Because sometimes like, I really believe that like seeing is believing. So you can like see a woman that's done it before, you can really study what they have done and just know that it's possible. And then beyond that, I would say, a big thing for me was just like working on public speaking. That might not apply to everyone, but just getting really comfortable speaking in front of groups, because that helped me pitch that helped me on my podcast that helped me like with bigger clients, because that used to really tripped me out a lot. Yeah. And then what would my last piece of advice be, um, really learn everything you can do. When I started, I would just mass listen to podcasts, read books, I would like put podcasts on while I was showering. And just know that knowledge is power. I think a big mistake I see with young entrepreneurs or young business owners, or is that idea that I figured everything out? I still try to just have the mindset of like, I don't know what I don't know. So always learning. And while it's really nice to like, be like, I'm gonna have somebody else take care of like this aspect, I still need to know like, how that's happening, what system is being used and stuff like that? Yeah, I really like that. And I want to, I want to thank you, for the knowledge is power. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I'm doing, that I could sometimes forget about, you know, you have to continually learn the learning. And now the fact that we have so many books and things on tape, it's so awesome. To be able to listen to books and gain knowledge. That's a good point. Yeah, you can just like drop, like even like you're going on a 30 minute drive somewhere, you can just pop on like a business book and learn about like how to do your SEO, it might not be perfect, but you know, I tend to start like I didn't have any money. When I started out. I can't like pay an SEO firm. Yeah. You know, in looking at our industry, I like to call the visitor industry, the outdoor visitor industry. I've never been a big tourism guy. It sounds like a old worn out term. Yeah. But in looking at our industry, you know how to how has it worked for you in your kind of getting out in the industry and learning and networking, you talked a lot about making the pitch and this kind of thing? What are their specific hurdles or advantages you had because of your outdoor background, anything there you can offer us, I think having worked already as a guide. And a lot of people start as guides in some capacity, or they start as camp counselors, you kind of understand how that works, you can talk to them. And you're also like, I'm not like a business person trying to con you. I'm just another guide who didn't want to sleep in bunk beds for 10 more years, like with 30 of my friends as much as I love them all. And I think it just helped me understand the industry after working in it because I didn't know there was like, the different facets of it. There's like active travel, there's adventure travel, there's like adventure cruising. You know, all this stuff, day guiding multiday guiding, pack packing. And that made it easier for me to like piece together. And then also, you know, on staff and team members, like maybe who's worked out a bunch of camps, I've had people that are really good at, you know, worked in hospitality and gardening and you somebody, I think a lot of networking has just been reaching out to people going to conferences, like if I'm in the Tahoe area, I'll just go like say hi to ski resorts, like, not COVID times, but old school stuff. I think people still really appreciate that. And yeah, just like chatting with people like on LinkedIn. I have people on my podcast and just trying to cast a really wide net, in just making genuine connections. I don't ever try to like hardball people or like hard sell people. I'm like, we're here. We're just like you guys. Like we also work in the industry. And we'd love to chat. Yeah, yeah, for sure. Kind of going back just a little bit to guides and you know, yourself being a guide. What advice would you give a non guide person who wants to become a guide? And what what are the things they need? In your mind? Some some great, two little treasures that you can give them to succeed? Oh, that's a great question. It's a question we get all the time at occupation wild because so many people, you know, we're kind of in my position. And I would say the one mistake I see a lot of people make is they go I'm great at climbing, mountain biking, whatever. So I'm a shoo in. And it's not really about that you're going to be hired more for your soft skills. Like, can you connect with guests? Do you have empathy? Again, public speaking is really big. And, um, you know, obviously like you guys could probably touch on that too, with how you hire, but a lot of it is just showing up as a compassionate person because they can teach you how to pack a pack, right, or mountain bike or raft, but they can't teach you how to, like, connect with somebody and make them feel comfortable. Because when it really comes down to guiding is a lot of times you're dealing with people's fears, like, they're nervous to be at this place. Or they're really excited to see whales for the first time, but they're nervous be on the Zodiac, and it's just be able to talk to them, be able to give obviously great information about the area. But making people feel comfortable, because in the end, they'll really remember if they have a good guide or not. Boy, that is that is really true and in it. And that's true in so many venues of life that you can have the technical ability, which many people have, but that the interpersonal skills, being able to communicate that is really huge and guiding, isn't it? Yeah. And I remember talking to somebody, and they kept getting rejected from Guardian jobs. And I was like, this is like a friend. And I was like, oh, kind of like what have you been talking about, and he was telling them how he's like, such a great speed hiker and he hates to hike slow. And like he's all about just like, peak bagging and like getting to, you know, just finishing hikes. And I was like one guy, you know, a lot of times, like you're hiking really slow. Yeah, you're like that just chatting, you're going up front, you're going back. Like, you're not really like there to like, have this crazy experience. Like you're here to like help people on this journey in the industry that you're in which, uh, you know, I think what what you're doing at occupation wild is so cool, because you've taken and you've kind of brought the microscope down to a pretty defined group of companies and people that you're looking for, what are you seeing as kind of trends in that industry and what you provide to companies like mine and others? Well, obviously COVID is going on. So that was a very, like, weird time. But what we've been seeing is like, we've seen crazy site traffic numbers. And what we've kind of heard back is, you know, a lot of people lost their jobs. And so it's a good time for people to be like, something new. Like to try something new. So we have a lot of our college students, recent grads, and people that are older that are really open to try the outdoors. And also just we've heard, like, so many people want to travel, whether you know, and I keep hearing from people being like, I've never traveled and this year made me realize that, like I need to leave and I need to go somewhere. Right now that might not be there might not be as many options. But we've also heard from like our partners that a lot of people are shifting, and like one, making sure there's a lot of safety regulations and maybe offering more domestic trips. Because we do work with a lot of international or companies that have international options, whether that's like, you know, surf trips in Sri Lanka, or like trekking in Australia, and depending on when that can resume. A lot of people aren't making sure they are switching that over to you have more domestic options. Yeah, I see what you're saying. I think we're seeing that as well. You know, with our domestic trips, we're seeing a lot more Alaska, Hawaii, Pacific Northwest, that kind of thing. Might take a little longer for South America and other places to recover. But I'm looking forward to that day. Trust me Don't Don't get me wrong. Yeah. Well, that that's awesome. Is there anything that you would love to share with the listeners that maybe you haven't shared? Or I haven't asked you so far? I'm let me think about that. We've definitely talked about a lot I would say like we have a lot of exciting stuff coming up. We there's actually a lot of people hiring. I think that's a misconception that people are like, the outdoor industry is done. There's no jobs, we actually have been so busy, I just hired another person on because we have a lot of employers that are getting ready to hire starting like end of November, December through 2021. And they're really excited to like meet people. And that's kind of just like what I've always been telling not always but I've been telling people that isn't really positive time. It's a great time to like try something new. And if you've ever wanted to like work in the outdoors, or try out guiding or working at a camp or you know, working at like a resort then this is a great time to do it. And there's so many like perks and benefits to being able to do that and you're working outside so it's a little safer than maybe like spending your time inside. Well, I think everything I've read Nick's and I'm experiencing whether it is staff that are in guides, or the guests that travel with those companies, everybody is aching, just aching to get outdoors and travel. I I'm planning an event as I'm down here in Seattle that virtually every time Israel, every little homespun Lodge is just jam packed, he can't even get in them. So people are definitely doing that. Well, I'm really excited about your business. I'm excited to connect with your business and recruit through your business as well. So we look forward to that. Anytime you have an occupation involved with anything wild wilderness, all those wonderful words, it's just a really great thing. In closing, how do we get in touch with you? Okay, well, that's easy. Um, if you guys want to just check out the site, that is occupation, mild, calm, and we are on Instagram, which is occupation, underscore wild. And then we're also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, all those but I think we mostly post on Instagram. That's definitely where our core audience is. And if you guys are job searching, we do have a weekly new jobs newsletter that goes out, you can sign up for that on the site. And yeah, it just makes your job search a little easier. We send out all the new jobs in the week, every Wednesday. So if you guys are on the job hunt, it's a great option. And I also host a podcast called The occupation wild podcast, where we talk to people that have kind of left them traditional for life beyond nine to five. So you'll hear all different types of people on there we have guys like me, we talked to Chris Burkhart. We've had professional skiers. So there's kind of something for everyone. And I also put this out there if people want to follow me personally, I'm not as exciting. I'll post as much but it's Courtney Conde, well, I want to thank you very much, Courtney, for visiting with us today. And you've got a great contact there at occupation wild and we'll hopefully send some folks your way. And we're getting very close to starting hiring ourselves. So our staff will be in touch. And hopefully we'll talk again, and start a new funnel to UnCruise Adventures as well. Yeah, we're really excited. Everyone that's like we keep having these big companies come on, and then they actually crash your site because so many people have jobs. It's been really good show. Well, best to you during all this these times of COVID. And hopefully, looking forward to a summer when things are opened up a little bit more for you and your business and me and my business and get some of those people work in and get the guests who are just aching from the wilds out there. Oh, yeah. Well, thank you so much. Wishing you guys the best and we'll connect soon. All right, take care. Thanks for listening to no ordinary adventure sharing locally harvested stories about adventure. Be sure to subscribe, leave a review tell a friend and help spread the word. We are a community of nature lovers, intrepid travelers and outdoor adventurers mostly from the comfort of a small boat and we want to spread our love of this fascinating planet. That's it for this episode. Now get inside