It’s no secret that the Darby Communications team has its fair share of New Englanders. And, for most of us, Maine’s rugged coastline, abundant wilderness, and four-season beauty elicit some strong wanderlust. It’s one of the many reasons our team loves working with Maine-based brands.
For Jenny Kordick, the allure of Maine is no different. In fact, as the Maine Outdoor Brands (MOB) Executive Director, Jenny fosters the development of outdoor brands that call the state home, advocating on their behalf and channeling her love for both Maine and the outdoors into her work. Her passion is evident, as Maine-based outdoor industry business leaders and entrepreneurs are connecting, collaborating, and strengthening the state’s already robust outdoor economy thanks in part to the work of Jenny and MOB. We caught up with Jenny to chat about all things Maine, the work of MOB, and the key to camping with a toddler.
Maine Outdoor Brands was founded in 2017 and you were appointed as its first Executive Director. What makes Maine such a special place for outdoor brands?
Part of what makes Maine such a great place for outdoor brands is the quality and variety of outdoor activities that the state offers. Maine has four distinct seasons, including virtually every fresh-air adventure one could want. This includes close-to-home outdoor activities as well as some of the most remote and wild experiences that you can find on the east coast.
Because of this wide range of activities and the deep cultural connection that Mainers have with the outdoors, outdoor brands have been able to connect with and serve people and communities across the entire state. The result is a large network of brands that have a love of Maine at the base of what they do. This common ground has helped create a highly collaborative, closely connected outdoor industry that brings together established brands like L.L.Bean and Old Town Canoe and a new wave of outdoor entrepreneurs providing a range of products and services.
Talk to us about what drew you north to advocate on behalf of Maine brands from your previous position directing campaigns with The Wilderness Society in Washington D.C.
The biggest draw for me was Maine’s outdoors. I enjoyed my time in D.C. and the work that I did with non-profit organizations to support federal policies on climate and outdoor access for Americans across the country. While I lived there, I did as much as I could to enjoy the area, including regularly paddling on the Potomac River and hiking and backpacking in the mountains of West Virginia. As much as I liked those areas, they paled in comparison to what I found while visiting Maine. I immediately fell in love with everything that the state has to offer, from the western mountains to the inland lakes to the rocky coastline and ocean. I wanted to be able to get outside on a daily basis, and I feel grateful for the chance to be able to do that inside and outside of work.
Maine seems to elicit a strong emotional response from many who have visited or live there…almost like the state is its own brand. Why do you think that is?
I think there are a variety of reasons. First, whatever you love about the outdoors, you can find it here, whether it’s skiing or surfing, or anything in between. The outdoors and opportunities to get out and experience it in Maine are truly world-class. I think that what heightens the attraction for many people is just how different the outdoors are compared to other states on the east coast. For anyone living east of the Rockies and north of the Smokies, Maine may well have the closest and best examples of truly wild, expansive nature. Connecting with nature in a new way can be a powerful experience for people, and Maine offers numerous ways to do that year-round.
How do Maine brands find a balance between tapping into this regional admiration while still appealing to a wider audience (say people on the West Coast)?
One of the keys is to be authentic. Brands in Maine recognize and honor their roots here, which appeals to those of us who know this region as home. I think that it appeals to others too though. Maine has a strong outdoor brand and brings with it specific ideas of camping, hiking, fishing, or other activities that can resonate with people around the country and around the world.
As an avid outdoorswoman with a young family– what’s your go-to piece of gear for enjoying an outdoor adventure with the family?
A big enough tent! My husband and I used to go backpacking as often as we could, and our goal was to bring as small and lightweight of a tent as possible. That served us well for many years. But with an infant and a dog, the key is now to get a tent that can fit us all as we explore the amazing car camping sites up and down the state. Fun fact, a pack n play can fit comfortably in a big enough tent.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with your 16-year-old self?
Be open to new ideas, new hobbies, and new places. And learn how to fly fish!
What’s one current or past trend in outdoor apparel that you’re here for?
A trend I’m here for: comfortable, functional pockets in women’s apparel. More and more brands are doing this well and I hope to see continued improvements in the amount and placement of pockets. Our member American Roots puts a pocket within the kangaroo pocket of their All-American hoodie. It is very comfy and perfect for stashing a cell phone or wallet.
What are you listening to on your ride home from work?
I live on an island off the coast of Maine, so my commute home is a 15-minute ferry ride. I catch up with friends and neighbors and hang out with my one-year-old who is quickly getting his sea legs, and practicing walking all over the boat. It is inconvenient at times, but also a pretty magical way to end the day.
If you had 48 hours to spend however you see fit– where are you going and what are you doing?
I’m staying on the island – it is rare for me to be home more than 48 hours these days, so I’m soaking it in when I can, going for bike rides, swimming, doing some paddling, and hanging out on the coast with my family and dog.
What’s one thing Maine Outdoor Brands has coming up you’re excited about?
In October, we are partnering with the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation to host a gathering for the outdoor industry in the state – the Maine Outdoor Economy Summit. This first year will be held in Portland, but we eventually hope to move it around the state. There will be sessions on the latest trends in the industry, entrepreneurship, outdoor access, and workforce development. One evening of the summit will even include a Basecamp Gather career networking event with the leaders of Basecamp Outdoors, Jenna and Ali. It should be fun!
Where can people learn more about you and Maine Outdoor Brands?