Hard times often show you who your real friends are – and we are lucky to have some really good friendsJohn Gage, Appalachian Gear Company
As we all know, 2020 was a year unlike any other in our lifetime. In fact, many call it what must be our least favorite word of 2020: ‘unprecedented.’ Being a public relations and digital marketing agency in the mountain lifestyle and outdoor industry, however, the change wasn’t all bad. Many of our clients saw an influx of online sales as people ventured outside to enjoy the great outdoors in a safe, socially distanced manner.
Since we’ve been sharing our own key takeaways throughout the past year, we wanted to turn the tables and ask our clients for their reflections on the past year. That’s why we asked them to share their biggest takeaway from 2020, whether in business or their personal life, and one unexpected positive with us.
Below are their answers along with images reflecting some of their best moments of 2020!
John Gage, Co-founder Appalachian Gear Company
Here are our big takeaways from 2020, and they are really just reminders of what is important: there is no substitute for perseverance, hard work, friends, and live music. Hard times often show you who your real friends are – and we are lucky to have some really good friends personally, and some new friends we’ve met in our industry who have been true friends during this exceedingly hard year.
Darby Communications has been instrumental in our growth. To say that there was an unexpected positive from 2020, our first entire calendar year with Darby, would imply that Darby started the year as normal and then became super creative or exceptionally effective. The fact is that Darby started off in an exceptional way and never wavered, and at times, carried us as we were mired in the trenches. The problem Darby has is how to improve on that excellence.
Ginger Frank, Owner, Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn
My biggest takeaway from this year is just how much we were able to learn about our business! We learned how important it was to be flexible, to be open to new ideas, and to really take the lead from our customers and learn what they really wanted and needed this year. In doing so, it made for a really successful year for Poppy. I think the biggest thing is that when it seems that disaster is striking, stop for a minute and don’t panic. Take a deep breath, get together with your team, your peers, see what exactly this lesson is trying to teach you, and be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Sometimes what appears to be the worst thing ever, in the end, is actually the best thing that’s ever happened to you 🙂
Tom Dempsey, Founder and CEO of SylvanSport
2020 was all about searching for silver linings. There were many to be found in both business and personal lives. Personal: More time with family. Enjoyment of simple pleasures close to home. Business: finding ways to keep a business going, while meeting the needs of the greater human community. Clarification of purpose.
Alyson Neel, Founder, Blyss Running
My biggest takeaway was never taking my health for granted. I’d been lucky for 50 years and had very little to worry about. Always in good health – all my numbers were great. I didn’t think too much about my health (other than I tried to eat well and exercise). I started off this year strong by running the Black Mountain Marathon in the snow and then spent early spring running all the trail and parkway miles when everything was shut down. It kept me sane in the first few months of COVID. Then in June, I broke my ankle, and the next week I received a breast cancer diagnosis and found myself unable to even get out for a walk. It turned my world upside down. Additionally, it was all during a pandemic – which in and of itself has everyone thinking about their health too. After this year, I’ll always be grateful for my health and physical abilities from now on!
An unexpected positive was that with all of us (husband and kids) at home 24/7 and my husband working from our dining room table, I now have a whole new appreciation for what he does for a living! And Blyss Running’s business was up – that was a nice surprise!
Alex Sherbinow, Marketing Manager, Johnson Outdoors – Watercraft Division
In what was a year that no one will soon forget, I couldn’t be more proud of how our team responded to adversity. I think the biggest takeaway from all of this is that our people are the secret sauce to our success and our greatest asset. We entered 2020 with the largest product launch that Old Town has ever seen, we won numerous awards for our innovation within the outdoors industry, and we found ways to connect and engage with our community in a safe manner. In a year that was filled with obstacles, we pulled together and walked away stronger.
Johnson Outdoors Watercraft has a mission to inspire more and more people to get out there and experience the great outdoors. Throughout 2020, as campgrounds and waterways opened up again, the outdoors provided exactly the kind of experience that people are eager for. We are excited to see that people are becoming inspired to learn new skills and participate in recreational activities that are rejuvenating to the mind, body, and spirit all while being safe to enjoy.
Drew Keegan, President, Industrial Revolution
The importance of gratitude is my key takeaway. 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for so many people in so many different ways. The universal thought seems to be that everyone is stressed out – coronavirus, politics, social justice, and all the accompanying effects of those things are a lot for anyone, but combined with the restrictions that coronavirus imposes on our ability to blow off some of that steam by being social and active (or getting some alone time), has taken it all to a new level.
So in both my professional and personal life, I try to find all the positives and the opportunities that have come from the deep challenges. I see it as an opportunity to focus on what’s going right, as well as what good can come from those challenges. In many ways, the stay-at-home orders brought my family closer and we really enjoyed our time together, we got more active outside as a family, I started running again, my kids spent more time with each other that strengthened their bond as friends.
At Industrial Revolution, we had record demand and it exposed inefficiencies in our processes and kept the team extremely busy figuring out how to help our customers and do it in a new way, from home, or in a socially distant warehouse with inventory and communication challenges, etc. Those challenges test us and drive us to improve and focus on our biggest opportunities and as a result, we have had great success and are better set up for the future. We also realize that we are fortunate to be in this situation and it could be very different if we were in the travel or restaurant business, or had the coronavirus more directly impact our employees, friends, or families. And now it’s 2021 and we can see a horizon for the coronavirus to ease its grip on us and help us all get back to a better balance – I’ll be keeping my gratitude practice as part of that effort to stay balanced.
Ian Selby, Senior Vice President, LifeSaver
The single biggest 2020 highlight from a business perspective has to be our #1 ranking (in category) on REI.com. In a year dominated by health concerns and social anxieties caused by the pandemic, we really found our feet in the US retail space…which sounds strange, but actually isn’t. What we found was consumers really doing their homework and buying a top specification kit, i.e. ours.
On a personal note, I found the pandemic gave us all something I call global empathy – I’d have calls with Hong Kong, India, Australia, Japan, Latin America, all of Europe, and of course North America, and there has been this ‘all in this together’ spirit and concern for each other which has been truly humbling
Woody Woodruff, Director of Marketing, Wildwater
We built a house this summer near the Chattooga River in South Carolina next door to my partner Tracy’s daughter so she can help raise her boy/girl twin babies.
My own boy/girl twins are now 19 years old but Tracy’s grandbabies, Miles and Vada, are just six months and were very much a surprise for their parents, as twins do not run the family. My own twins were the result of science! So much of 2020 was a surprise for all of us. Major changes in plans and readjustments for both personal and professional lives. All new parents make readjustments and I am honored to watch the development of Miles and Vada, just as I was honored to parent William and Mary Grant.
Watching my children, William and Mary Grant, grow into wonderful young adults has been interesting in these changing times; however, they remain full of life and new adventures and experiences—complete with a virtual high school graduation and online college classes. William guided rafts on the Ocoee River this summer, just like most of his family has for three generations. Some things change and some things stay the same. One thing was that folks wanted and needed to be in the outdoors and have shared new experiences together this summer. After a spring filled with stress and uncertainty, Wildwater was able to open just before the Memorial Day weekend and safely provide outdoor recreation to many guests during the summer and fall.
Outdoor recreation changed in many ways during 2020, and yet some things remained the same: time with family and friends, enjoying the natural beauty, and positive feelings of goals accomplished.
While many things changed in 2020 the beauty and wonder of birth and time in the outdoors remain a constant in this world.
If you’d like to read more pieces like this from the Darby Comm team, be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter, The Darby Lowdown, HERE.