I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Blake Hendricks, owner of Old Town Outfitters. Over a Cup of Joe, we talked about his lifelong passion for the outdoors, the choice to trade in his high-paying corporate gig for something he loves and everything in between! Are you ready for this? Because today I’m dishing it up strong.
Inspiration: Blake grew up in South Carolina and spent the majority of his childhood outside. His parents, who are avid hikers to this day, took him on exciting adventures when he was a kid. They instilled in Blake a passion for nature and taught him how to enjoy and appreciate his surroundings. After beginning a career in mechanical engineering, Blake returned home to work for his dad’s construction company and was inspired to return to school to get his MBA. He went on to work for HP for years and although he loved his job, it was taking a toll on him. So, he decided to stay true to his roots and open an outdoor store. His goal was to help people discover all of the amazing natural attractions that are just outside their front doors; he’s done just that and more!
Benefits: It wasn’t easy to give up a hefty salary and full benefits to pursue his passion, but it’s made all the difference for Blake. He says that since starting the business, his “soul is in a better place.” The meaningful relationships he’s built with locals provides him a sense of community that he didn’t previously have while working with global clients. To Blake, Old Town Outfitters isn’t about the gear that people wear, but rather what they can do while wearing it. So, he loves the opportunity to teach people about outdoor activities and encourage them to explore new places in their own backyards.
Challenges: Starting a business tends to take more money and time than originally anticipated. That’s the same story for Old Town Outfitters. Blake also says that it’s a challenge to learn the market and discover what his customers want, while facing the constant competition with big-box retailers. Blake is an advocate for small businesses and is always encouraging his customers to shop small, highlighting the importance of spending money in your local community.
Community Focus: Old Town Outfitters supports a variety of local organizations, including Greenwood Wildlife and Old Mill Park. Blake also participates in community events, including the G’Knight Ride, and promotes local farms on social media and in his email newsletters.
Advice: Blake had some great quotes for aspiring business owners:
“Do what you love. Find out what your passion is and just do it!”
“You’re going to fail. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s okay! Keep doing stupid things – you’ll learn from them. As long as you learn something, the experience was valuable.”
My conversation with Blake was truly inspirational. It’s rare to find people like him that live out their passion every day – in their business and personal life. Hopefully you’ve been inspired by his story too. Taking the plunge into business ownership isn’t easy, but it’s well worth it – and good for your soul.