Julie Harrelson, CEO of the Harrelson Group, Fund Manager of Cascade Angels, has a beloved penchant for taking selfies with entrepreneurs, investors and people of Oregon who support building a strong Oregon through entrepreneurialism. This blog continues a series of selfies + blogs about the amazing people she’s met in the last couple of years. #julieselfie
Gary Bracelin is a creative force behind the outdoor industry in Oregon. He formed one of the first sales rep groups that served the action sports industry, served as the director of global sales for KIALOA Paddles and most recently founded the Bend Outdoor Worx accelerator.
I recently caught up with Gary to celebrate his birthday, check out his 50s cruiser bike and talk about Central Oregon as a hub for outdoor product innovation. Please note: the sign behind us says “Please do not climb on the tree.” I was very surprised we both didn’t immediately try!
Julie: Why do you think Central Oregon can be an outdoor innovation hub?
Gary: First of all, I think our beautiful location lends itself perfectly to a hands-on working environment for the outdoor industry. It’s a natural fit for the development and testing of outdoor products—and a natural fit for easy access to nature that people in the outdoor industry enjoy. Also, I think that the people who move here are what’s really building the foundation for a successful outdoor innovation hub. I have found that the people who live in and move to Bend have a special collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit. They are driven and balanced, and this is the perfect environment for both.
You are part of lots of new entrepreneurial initiatives here. Tell us about Venture Out and why it’s important?
As the outdoor industry grows in Central Oregon, it’s important to encourage its continued success by providing support for the businesses involved. The outdoor industry has been recognized as a key sector in Central Oregon’s economic growth, but to this point hasn’t had the matching financial support. The Venture Out Festival will begin to address that need. Thanks to Two Bros Ventures for supporting this event, and I also applaud BVC for awarding SnoPlanks the early stage award last year and congratulate Cascade Angels in their first outdoor industry investment in Cairn. It’s great to see this type of momentum begin to support these companies.
If we were having this conversation five years from now, what cool things would be happening?
I just heard some statistic that the outdoor industry in Central Oregon includes approximately 65 to 70 traded-sector companies, has provided $25+ million in wages and in the last year, had grown by 16 new outdoor companies. In five years, at that rate there will be 50 to 60 more sustainable companies here, more successful exits, and a community that supports an active outdoor industry as part of its DNA. I really believe that Bend will be recognized as a hub for the outdoor industry and product innovation.
Most amazing outdoor adventure?
I have to admit that this question is a tough one. I’ve been lucky enough to work in an industry where work is an adventure and live in a town for over 25 years where every day is an adventure. I’ve never hiked the Himalayas or floated down the Grand Canyon, but I’ve also never really stopped to think which adventure has been the most amazing. I’ve enjoyed endless fresh tracks in Japan, heli-snowboarding trips in Alaska, and snowboarding with some of my favorite bands–but all of those trips are no better than a steelhead trip down the Deschutes or a day at Mt. Bachelor right here at home.