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The Story of Wylder

Words: Jainee Dial

Photos: Michael Friberg

Originally published in

Modern Huntsman Vol. 4

Lindsey and I giddily walked the floor of the Outdoor Retailer convention in January 2015. We had a secret. For a few months, we’d been creating a business that was starting to take shape. It had a name and form, and we tucked it away while observing, making connections, and taking copious notes. It felt as if we were covert researchers on a mission to survey the landscape we intended to infiltrate.  

 

Over the last few years, it had become apparent to us that there was something missing in the outdoor industry for women. We wanted a place to find beautiful, ethical products and gear made by and for women; we wanted a place to read compelling stories told from a uniquely female perspective; and we wanted to create a community of like-minded women who care about conservation. Because no such platform existed, we set out to build it. 

 

A year after attending that first Outdoor Retailer convention, we pushed “go” on our Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $45,000. It was risky. We were banking on the power of our social capital and hoping that other women wanted the business we intended to create to exist, too. One month later, exhausted and thrilled, we announced the result: 606 people had contributed $54,000 to the platform we’d already spent hundreds of hours designing. It was happening. Our secret business idea, Wylder, was suddenly no longer an idea. It was viable. We had dreamed it into existence, and we intended to build it.  

 

Since our launch three years ago, we’ve built Wylder into a trusted online store for discovering fresh new brands and artisans, a journal for culturally relevant stories, and a hub for environmental calls to action. From jewelry to hiking boots, home goods to wardrobe essentials, we create transparency around products and offer an ethical approach to shopping online. We’ve curated a marketplace of the most socially and environmentally innovative products out there. We believe business can be a powerful force for social change, and as a women-led BCorp, we support female artisans and entrepreneurs by investing in and celebrating their companies. 

 

The ideology behind a lot of mainstream media seeks to prey upon a woman’s sense of self-worth. Our approach is the antithesis to this degrading marketing tactic. We celebrate curves and engage with brands to create more variety for both plus-sized and small-framed women. We also honor age and wisdom and think resilience is beautiful. We consistently advocate for diversity and want to see minorities and people of color welcomed into the outdoor industry, which historically, has been white, insular, and male-dominated.

 

The stories found in our Journal amplify the unique female perspective of activists, farmers, stewards, athletes, scientists, and everyday women who are conscious of their role in our collective ecosystems. These voices weren’t heard and honored when we attended that first Outdoor Retailer show together. There was also very little representation of female anglers and hunters, and a divide existed between the more traditional outdoor recreation industry and the “hook and bullet” sector. Lindsey was a burgeoning hunter herself, and I had grown up making the trek to our family compound in Eastern Utah every Fall where my family would hunt for weeks on end. Yet, no publications or outdoor industry organization seemed willing to foster conversations to unite these groups around public lands access and protection, or in exploring the myriad ways that women were being left out of the conversation. We’re happy to report that the paradigm has changed radically these last few years and believe that our small, female-led startup has been instrumental in bridging that divide. It’s also thanks in large part to progressive organizations like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Outdoor Alliance, and publications like Modern Huntsman who amplify these stories. 

 

Perhaps the most important thing we’ve done since our founding is confront the complexities and contradictions of being a for-profit company in this century. Our intention is to candidly and humbly acknowledge our shortcomings on the path to running a more responsible business. Our planet, our country, and society at large are complex adaptive systems fraught with pitfalls. But companies can be powerful in their ability to bring awareness and change, and we’ve experienced this firsthand through successful non-profit partnerships, gear drives, and campaigns.   

 

A business is just like an organism: it grows, changes, and evolves. It’s also a community that includes the whole biological faction of people and processes that create the resources used. When making decisions in our own business, we feel obligated to ask these essential questions:  

 

How will this affect the climate?  

How much human energy will it require?  

Does this reflect and further our deepest values?  

Will it feed our spirit? 

 

Personally, I’ve learned that altruism, in and of itself, can be a trap. It’s easy with our unlimited access to information, filtered by the echo chambers of algorithms, to think we know what’s best for the world. Patience, curiosity, and slow, holistic thinking seem to be the path to the kind of learning that elicits long-term change. Entrepreneurship has given me the opportunity to self-reflect on my role in the world and the capacity I have through media, writing and design to align my vocation with my values. Most days, it’s a brutal process of finding my way through an unknown landscape. But I’m heartened by how much has shifted in such a short time. We are standing at the epicenter of an industry with the unique capacity to enable everyday folks with tools for activism. Patagonia’s former CEO once said, “There’s no business to be done on a dead planet,” which is a sort of mantra for me, even in the most mundane tasks, to zoom out and remember that the work of being a mission-driven company is a long game, not a quick fix. 

 

I think the real wonder that lies within all humans, found in our very DNA, is the propensity to mess up slightly. To blunder. To mutate. And then, to adapt. Without these attributes, we would still be anaerobic bacteria, so it's imperative that we confront issues head on with an adaptive approach in order to truly grow and learn. The most effective rebels and changemakers are those dedicated to constant evolution and continued iteration. 

 

When I’m curious, I listen. Only when I listen can I be helpful. I hope to deploy these same values into every facet of Wylder, and into every relationship in my life.

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