An avid and experienced skier, Kim Walker found the process of buying women specific ski gear and equipment an adventure in frustration. Some people complain; others do something about the situation. In late 2002, with partner Michael Callas, Walker opened Outdoor DIVAS on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO, and in 2005, she added an e-commerce platform.
Recognized as the first women-specific outdoor specialty store in the United States, Outdoor Divas has earned the respect of the outdoor industry and the loyalty of women in Boulder, CO who love spending time outside.
RootsRated: How did people react to a women’s specific outdoor store?
Walker: When we launched our concept, some people thought we were insane because we were cutting out half the market. They told us the guys were spending all the money on outdoor gear. At that point, we had challenges securing brands for the store. We started with a lot of small companies. As we grew we are able to attract almost any brand we wanted.
More women are getting back into activities after having kids and getting them off to school. When we launched, there was nothing like what we were doing. We spent years getting manufacturers and vendors to work with us as we built a customers base dedicated to women’s needs. We’ve proven our model, and that’s one of the biggest challenges at the beginning.
RootsRated: The retail environment has changed since Outdoor DIVAS opened. Now women specific brands like Athleta, Lucy, and Lululemon offer fitness apparel and accessories. But Outdoor Divas remains a leader in Boulder...
Walker: Thirteen years ago you didn’t see women’s fitness stores. Now you can find at least two in almost every major mall in America. The climate has changed for women’s fitness and outdoor recreation. We realized we could really focus on bringing in the best softgood and hardgood collections in an environment where women wanted to shop.
Our business is now focused on hardgoods. That’s how we can differentiate ourselves.
We can focus on not only getting women geared up with apparel but also with equipment. They can spend their time shopping for gear in an environment they enjoy. As more choices enter the market we are constantly reinventing ourselves. We host on snow demo days in the ski season and have become involved in triathlons during the summer.
RootsRated: Outdoor DIVAS has established a loyal customer base. With 13 years of service, the store is seeing a second generation of women start their outdoor adventure journey’s at the store’s events and clinics.
Walker: We have so many moms. They always lose a couple of years with the rhythm of kids. When they get some of their time back when the kids go to school they are so happy to get back to a previous activity or try something new. They have a brand new perspective.
We are engaging our customers on a number of different levels. We support our customers with in store events, a speaker series, on-snow demo days, and we sponsor women’s clubs and organizations. We are trying to keep them excited, motivated and interested in coming to the store for more experiences than just shopping.
There are lots of young women and families moving to Boulder, and we help them get established with all of the great areas around here to explore. We’re not only giving them product information but also inspiring them to get outside and try new things. They want to try out new activities. We can talk them through the process and get them inspired. We help them keep playing.
RootsRated: With the success of Outdoor Divas do you see yourself as a role model?
Walker: In general, the ski and outdoor industries are kind of “dude central.” Eleven years ago most of the apparel manufacturers understood the idea that women liked to look like women. It took the equipment side of the market longer to get that message.
We still face challenges convincing some of the hardgoods manufacturers that women are different from men, women need different product and not all women are the same.
At this point, I’d love to see more high-level women in the ski industry. There is a trickle down effect. All the senior executives are men, the reps are men and at the store level men are hired to sell hardgoods and women are hired to sell softgoods. While I think that's changing, it’s changing slowly. I think the experience for female customers would be better if more women were involved in hardgoods brand management.
RootsRated: You're also a member of the Outdoor Industry Association Board of Directors. Is increasing participation, especially with kids, one of your primary goals?
Walker: Yes. How do we get kids away from their screens and outside? That has to be a priority for us. I want young people to care as much about playing in these great places as we do. They have to go outside to get the true experience.
RootsRated: When precious free time comes around, Walker can be found climbing Colorado’s 14,000-ft peaks. She’s bagged more than half. An expert skier and an active mountain biker, she also spends time introducing her young son to Boulder’s outdoor treasures.
Walker: I have to schedule my playtime. My favorite things to do are hiking, mountain biking, and skiing in the winter. Any kind of family activity outside is so much fun.