Chapman Grubb ('10)
Christian Fulghum: Well. Okay. This is Christian Fulghum ’77 and Chap Grubb class of-
Chap Grubb: 2010.
Christian: 2010, on the phone here and are you down in New Mexico right now?
Chap: I am. I'm about 30 minutes outside of Taos, New Mexico.
Christian: Okay, very cool. What's the weather like?
Chap: Gorgeous, hot and sunny.
Christian: Yeah, because it's January here and July there.
Chap: Really. Yeah, it's freaking gorgeous right now. We've had about eight days of 85 degree weather and sunny. It's great.
Christian: Outstanding. Okay, so you started a new venture. Tell me about that.
Chap: Yeah, so I started a business called the rerouted co-op (always lowercase) and it's an online used outdoor gear store. So I've been an outdoors man, an active participant in climbing, rafting, biking, even since my Overlake days. It was actually the Outdoor Ed Department at Overlake that really helped inspire this passion of mine. And for 10 years, 15 years, there's not been a really easy time-sensitive way for me to feel super secure about exchanging used gear on the internet. Now after living in a number of smaller, more rural communities, it's even more limited, the ability to access things like Craigslist and eBay just because the market is so much smaller. So I created this business that's kind of a solution to used gear trading for outdoors gear. It puts us as the middle man to provide trust and reliability in the transaction because we've put our hands on every piece of gear. Then on the other end of the spectrum, we also wanted to build a platform that could finance and support a number of local access and education charities in regards to wilderness and wilderness sports.
Christian: Okay, well let's break that down. We'll talk about the non-profit side in a second. So let's imagine I'm looking for a piece of used gear. I don't want to go out to REI or someplace and spend full price for something. What's a typical piece of gear I might be looking for in your experience?
Chap: Well, what's really cool about our platform is we went really widespread on our variety. We're doing biking, skiing, rafting, climbing, camping. We've got some trail running shoes. We're kind of opening up the doors, to anything outdoors. And so we have done the most business so far in the climbing spectrum because that's where I was the most comfortable starting out the venture. That's what I primarily focused on. So right now we have a large number of climbing resources and we've been moving products that way, but we do have a little bit of everything on our site already.
Christian: If I'm looking for a piece of gear, I go to your site, I'd search the site, if I find the gear I want, you guys stand behind it, I'll pay you and you ship it to me. Is that how it works?
Chap: That's exactly how it works.
Chap: We're actually meeting with a bunch of investors in the next couple of weeks because we had a really... We introduced ourselves and our business at Outdoor Retailer in Denver about three weeks ago. And that's the big national, international trade show for outdoor industry. We have since been to Outdoor Retailer again and engaged with the community to similar successes.
Chap: We had about 50 meetings and we met with a number of different companies from a number of different kinds of spheres and there's a lot of really big things brewing because we've been bootstrapping our business so far, just kind of what we can kind of scrap together. And after the reception that we got at the big industry event, we just decided that it's time to really make a big push and try and execute on a national level here coming up very soon.
Christian: I find that in talking with younger people, that they are much more open to buying good used gear. It's like if there's nothing wrong with it, why go out and buy something new when -
Christian: Especially since so much of the gear unfortunately is made out of petrochemicals and things. So why not? It just has all kinds of benefits to do this.
Christian: It isn't just about economizing. It's also about being a thoughtful user of resources and the environment and having a community with other people with similar values.
Chap: You hit the nail on the head, Christian. I couldn't agree with you anymore. And I think that in my career, I've only bought one ski jacket. It's 15 years the thing's lasted me. I take decent care of it and I put duct tape on it and it works fine. Right? It keeps me warm and dry and there's no reason for me to go spend $300 to buy a new ski jacket. I don't need to spend the materials, I don't need to spend the money because mine works. And so what's really cool, and I don't know if you're familiar with them, but there's a company called Gear Aid up in Bellingham, Washington.
Christian: No, I'm not familiar with them.
Chap: So they actually have a really large presence already. They're internationally distributed, but what they do is their motto, and I might butcher it, you probably are going want to fact check this but I think it's reuse, repair, recycle or something like that? And their whole premise was they make tools and materials to maintain and extend the life of gear, so like tent patches, waterproof patches, bound cleaner. Does that make sense?
Christian: Yeah. I'm looking at their site right now. This is great. Yeah. So they're like a natural ally for you guys.
Chap: Oh, I mean we couldn't be happier. We've been starting, we've had about four meetings so far. I met him at Outdoor Retailer three weeks ago and we're meeting every week. We're starting to build some co-branding and co-marketing because what we're doing is we're giving them an outlet to show their product in action.
Chap: And we're wanting to primp and prime up all of our gear so that it's ready to take on a full new life. And it's like you said, they're a really natural ally and they couldn't be more excited to be onboard. So we've got a lot of cool stuff in the works with them. I'm actually, one of the things I was hoping to get to and I don't know when it's appropriate, but I'm going to be in Seattle in mid to late August and I'm trying to set up an event with Gear Aid. That's kind of something that's on my radar right now.
Christian: Yeah, well first of all, I'd love to get together with you when you're here.
Christian: I'm a big fan of Bellingham and I'm really a big fan of what you're doing and I'm going to reach out. I've got a couple of friends up in Bellingham, including some who are Overlake alums and I wonder if they've got any portals into Gear Aid or know anybody there. So this is really exciting because it sounds like the industry, instead of pushing you off and saying, "Hey, get out of our face. We've got to sell new stuff. You're hurting us." It sounds like at least some of the industry gets the value of what you're doing and the appeal. It feels also like a little bit like, it fits with some of the ethic of companies like Patagonia who are more inclined that way.
There was a new company that was out there for a while called Nau that was making gear. I don't know if they succeeded – they had a great team with some former Nike people and a guy who's the son of Dick van Dyke, Chris van Dyke is his name. Their whole thing was to recognize that the whole outdoor industry is totally dependent on petrochemicals and until something better's invented, we're going to look for ways to recycle old gear and this nylon stuff and make it into new gear instead of opening up another barrel of oil. And so I think there's a lot of people who've been thinking about this for a long time because of the sort of disconnect between brand new plastic equipment if you will, and being a lover of the wilderness and wilderness activities.
Chap: Totally. Just to follow up on something you touched on is I couldn't have been more excited about how well received we were by everybody we spoke to. We've got a van company who's essentially going to sponsor our vans and they're going to pay for all of our mobile units to be traveling around the country. We've got part... Just kind of everybody from out of the woodwork is excited about executing something on this big of a scale because right now there's such a limited way for people to trade and use gear. You either need to be in a major metropolitan area where you have a sustainable retail platform or do it yourself on Craigslist or eBay.
Chap: There's not really another option. And I'm trying to say, here's the other option, let's give back to charity. Let's incentivize people to clean out their closets and go get all of that stuff that's just been buried away. It's still super functional and give it to us because they're supporting local charities that are going to actually be able to do something because I don't know what the climbing in Wyoming really needs. So it doesn't do me any good to put my energy there. What I can do is I can say let's give the people in Wyoming the opportunity to give money back to those local charities through recycling gear. So we're just accomplishing so many things with this transaction and all we need to do is facilitate it and build this platform because ultimately people buy used gear if it's what they're looking for. We just need the inventory to give people what they're looking for.
Christian: Yeah, and just more people being aware and also making it easy for people to participate.
Chap: Absolutely. So one of the things that we have that we're kind of working on with a number of different partners is this idea of doing depots. That way locations that we can have people take gear to that then gets picked up, right? So that we don't physically need to be at these locations all the time for these transactions to start.
Christian: Yeah. So this sounds super exciting. Definitely, it just seems like that all this sort of came together. It sounds like you've been thinking about the idea for a while though. This didn't just happen overnight, right?
Chap: No, definitely not. The idea really came around in December of this last year. I turned 27, 27 happens to be my lucky number. I've been an entrepreneur for... That's kind of what I've done. I was a professional poker player for the past three to five years. I kind of did that.
Christian: Did you take AP Poker?
Chap: What? No. I didn't know there was a... Is there a poker class at Overlake?
Christian: No, no, I'm just kidding. [Laughing] There's definitely AP Statistics. I love hearing from an alum who's doing something, not something you learned at school I assume.
Chap: Oh no, man, so I loved Overlake, not because I think that I was the most exceptional student, but I learned so many life skills that I still apply every day. It's my ability to feel respected in any situation that still carries me through. It took from the poker tables to business meetings. Being able to call my teachers by their first name, that had such an impact on me because it didn't make me feel less than. Right? It didn't make me feel... I was respectful and I mean, I definitely broke some rules and I'm sure there's people still at Overlake that remember that. I think that the culture that they provided me with didn't make me feel less than for not being the best reading, writing, arithmetic student that ever went through their program.
Christian: Yeah. And honestly, I think that for me, for example, my passion was music. I spent 10 years after... I quit college after one semester. I was in the honors program at the U and pursued, until I was your age, a career in music for 10 years, 17 to 27, and the reason I did that was because Overlake kind of gave me permission to do it and I ended up like you being an entrepreneur, but my route wasn't typical and I feel like Overlake gave me a lot of the resources I needed to navigate that as a lifelong learner. If you don't know how to do something, find somebody who knows or teach yourself.
Chap: That's exactly right. That's how poker fell on my lap. I was teaching. I went to CU. It sounded like, did you say DU? You were in Denver?
Christian: No, I was at the University of Washington.
Chap: Oh, U-Dub. I went to CU Boulder and I was an English major and minored in Linguistics and Education. So I always knew I kind of wanted to teach. That was kind of always what I thought in some way. So I was working at an afterschool program, just playing poker at night with my buddies, and then I started paying my rent playing cards with my friends and just kind of decided to go for it. And it worked out really well for me. And then I bought a house, I got engaged and was starting to think about kind of how I didn't want to gamble for a living. It was successful, but it wasn't a long-term strategy.
Chap: So I was really sitting down, working hard, trying to figure out a way that I could pursue my passions, a way that I could achieve and make a difference and do something cool and unique that nobody was doing.
Chap: And I built this business on a number of different things. It's a career of networking. It's a career of being a true passionate wilderness junkie where I spent as much time as I possibly could making relationships and playing outside. And then I've started a painting business and then I tried to start a campground. And both of those were kind of failures, right? In a lot of ways, they weren't super successful and they weren't what I hope they would be, but I learned a lot and I think that Overlake gave me the ability to stay confident and strong and made it so I was comfortable to keep trying to be the best person that I could be.
Christian: Yeah. I have to say as an aside here, we did this thing this year, we replaced Career Day, which had faded out before I arrived back at Overlake in my present role. And I was talking with students for a couple of years about, "Well, what would you like? I'd like to bring alums back to tell you about what they're doing." And so we brought back... We created this thing called Making a Life Day, which is meant to be about making a life instead of just making a living. Right?
Christian: And we brought back alums from all these different professions. One of the ones that I taught was entrepreneurship and everything you were just saying totally fits with that. In a way you can only sort of teach principals about that and the rest of it is stuff you have to kind of find your way because entrepreneurs don't wait for permission to do something or say, "I'm not qualified to start that company." Well if you're not, what are you doing about it? Otherwise you're not going to do it. You can't wait for someone.
Chap: Absolutely right. Couldn't agree with you more. I mean, it's so funny because I had a natural inclination for poker and wilderness sports because I'm a risk taker and I love to take the best possible opportunities at any given time. And so it's been interesting because right now we actually, we have a team of, I counted yesterday, eight people that are contributing heavily to the project right now. And four of us are essentially full-time and it's been quite the ride man. This is definitely taking off in such an exciting way because the most exciting thing that happened at Outdoor Retailer, and this is just to show you why you know we're really making such a national push right now, is because Outdoor Retailer, there's 25,000 people in the Denver Convention Center during that event. Those 25,000 people are all big name people in the outdoor industry.
And we're trying to execute on as big of a scale as we can. That's why we're going to have teams going out to the East and the West Coast during the summer and the fall.
Chap: We're like locking down all of our events and following up on everything and trying to button everything up. But hopefully we'll have a calendar posted and we're going to have rerouted co-op teams all over the country as much as possible between now and November, before ski season.
Christian: So I think building in the contribution to nonprofits in this area makes a lot of sense and it seems like there are a lot of different ones that could be an organic fit for what you're doing. But it sounds like you've really got that wired in from the get-go here.
Chap: Yeah. We're really lucky because the proposition, it's so accessible for nonprofits. The deal is so easy, right? I say, "People, all I want is your logo package," so people can choose to give money to you when they donate or consign with us. Right? That's all they have to do, then I say, "In addition, we're going to be having these events that we'd love for you to participate in it." If you have people come to talk to you, those people also have gear in their garage. So if you can incite action with your cause, that's awesome because that's who we want to be helping. Right?
Christian: Right. Well, this is so exciting. I mean, you're just right on the edge of it right now. This is a -
Chap: Turning point.
Chap: Absolutely right. And you got to help me out here because as you can tell, this business is not like a simple business. There's so many different levels and layers and movement in what we're trying to do. And what's super cool is we really realistically can show up at any venue, right? We just posted this morning, we're having an event with a bunch of charities down at a local brewery here in Santa Fe and we're going to have just a day of hanging out. We're going to have a raffle; we're going to do trivia and it's going to be really fun. And then at the same time, we can pivot and go to a rafting festival. Right? Or we can go... We're actually talking to the Denver Zoo right now, trying to find times and dates for us to go work with the Denver Zoo and give money back to the Denver Zoo. So we're just this really dynamic operation that can be in a lot of different places as we grow.
Christian: Yeah. It sounds like things can be updating kind of in real time here, but I'd like to publish this soon and then if you're going to be out in the Seattle area, one I'd love just to meet with you and have a beer or something and the second thing is I'd just love to talk about having you back to campus at some point to do a presentation on alternative routes, the entrepreneurship side of things, and literally what you're doing. Maybe even bringing your van to campus or something. So anything I can do to help you out. In this coming year, we're going to make a real push to support alum businesses that are small, closely held, doing innovative things, doing things that are not just necessarily a good business but a good business doing good things. And so you're going to be kind of one of the first out of the gate here.
Christian: And I'd just love to really make people aware of what you're doing and connect it back. So it's just a great way to connect people.
Christian: I'm trying to deemphasize the traditional thing with schools and alums is how much money can you send us? And it's like, no, you build the community and the community leads to other things. So don't make that mistake. I fought for five years to get the school off of this sort of conventional track it was on. It doesn't fit us, it doesn't fit our alums.
Chap: I think the cool thing about Overlake is it's such a unique program that really embraces every student.
Chap: And allows you to be the best you can be. And it worked out really well for me long-term and I couldn't be more grateful for my experience, so I'm happy to do what I can to try and give back.
Christian: Fantastic. Look forward to talking to you again soon, Chap, and have a great weekend.
Chap: Awesome. Thanks so much. We'll talk soon.
Postscript: Hello everyone! Chap here. Just some quick updates since this interview happened. This exchange between Christian and I was really on point. I didn’t want to change very much. I want to make exchanging used gear easier. I want to give back to local access and education non-profits. We are working hard to build our inventory. It is constantly growing. But, could be growing much faster. We launched a crowdfunding campaign where we are asking people to buy store credit – to help us continue building inventory! It’s called Operation: Reroute It. We are selling discounted store credit and giving away swag and shout outs. You can find out more at reroutedcoop.com or buyadventuregear.com. We have had massive response and are working hard to keep up. The more capital we can generate the better used gear inventory (and more events) we can organize for everyone!