We couldn’t be more excited about this month’s guests on Coffee Talk with Darby, Ali Carr and Jenna Celmer of Basecamp Outdoor. These two women are powerhouses in the outdoor industry and are changing the hiring market from encouraging companies to include salary ranges in their job postings to paying content creators for their work. We were happy when they told us they could take a few minutes to sit down and allow us to interview them for our blog. Without further ado…let’s get on with the interview and get to know these two incredible women.
Thank you both for your time! Let’s kick off this interview with your titles and more importantly, your astrological sign!
Jenna: Co-founder & President of Basecamp Outdoor and a Leo
Ali: CEO & Founder of Basecamp Outdoor and Content Strategist at Rivian and a Sagittarius
You both have fascinating backgrounds, can you both share a little bit about your past?
Jenna: People are often shocked to learn that Basecamp is my first outdoor industry experience!
After moving from my home in Canada to Spain when I was 22 (yep, for a man), I switched majors from pre-med to French and traipsed around France, Spain, and Germany, waitressing, eating, and plotting a career with the UN that never happened (yet).
Then we moved to Colorado and the real fun began. I nabbed an MPA and found myself working in the tech sector where I launched an aerospace accelerator with the US Air Force Academy and learned how to command respect in boardrooms full of men.
Driven by a powerlifting career that went pretty ok, I then parlayed my ability to distill complex information into a Scientific Communicator position with the US Olympic Committee and major pro sports leagues. For three Games I worked with athletes, analytical scientists, and heads of sport to evolve anti-doping practices. Russian scandals, drinks with commissioners, and international fundraising events were all part of my daily routine.
After 2020 hit I decided to let my energy guide me. It led me to Basecamp, and I have never been so fulfilled.
(And yes. That man I moved for? We’ve been married for 14 years this month.)
Ali: My foray into the outdoor industry, professionally, started with an editorial internship at Outside magazine. I demoted myself from a full-time position in NYC at a glossy travel magazine for a six-month internship in a state I had never been (New Mexico) and a quarter of the pay. The long-form journalism in Outside really resonated with me, so I knew I was making the right decision. Six months turned into six years in which I had a blast interviewing athletes and scientists, writing articles, and adventuring all over the world. From there, I went on to help Microsoft launch a travel app, work in PR in the outdoor industry, edited the outdoor gear section of Wirecutter for the New York Times, optimized the editorial experience at Gear Patrol, and, now, help Rivian build community and expand their mission of keeping the world adventurous forever.
I am a mom of three girls and, in addition to the outdoors, I am equally passionate about women’s health and supporting moms in pregnancy and postpartum in ways that society doesn’t. Through Nike and The Origin Way, I had the opportunity to head content initiatives in this realm within both organizations.
Ali, you founded Basecamp Outdoor in 2017. What was the “Aha!” moment that made you realize the outdoor industry needed, in your words, a more dynamic and interactive place to job hunt?
Ali: I was unemployed and looking to get back into outdoor media. There was no single place to find these types of creative outdoor industry gigs. I was in a few other Facebook jobs groups and loved the way they made me feel, like a dream opportunity was always about to pop up — and (bonus!) you could talk directly to the hiring manager. They kept me mentally positive during a time that can feel pretty stagnant or stressful. Since nothing this dynamic existed for the outdoor industry, I invited 200 folks I knew (from my Outside magazine days — mostly writers and PR/marketing folks) and told them to invite 10 people they knew and soon we had a growing group.
Jenna, how did you find out about Basecamp Outdoor and what called you to work with Ali?
Jenna: Like almost 30,000 others, I learned about Basecamp after joining the Facebook group as a member! I had grown a personal brand entrenched in my (newfound) outdoor lifestyle and was intrigued by the thought that my hobby could become a full-time career.
The digital community quickly became one of my favorite corners of the internet and I found myself frequently passing on the career knowledge I’d gained from working across tech and sport.
This caught Ali’s attention and she asked me to help admin the group. We discovered we not only work incredibly well together and complement one another’s strengths but felt safe with one another – a rare and unstoppable combination.
We launched a podcast together in February 2020, recording our first episode at Patagonia headquarters a few days before the world stopped. The Basecamp weekly newsletter was born a few months later, and in 2021 we made our business relationship official with an LLC.
Basecamp has grown from an extremely active Facebook group to a movement for fair job hiring and transparency in the industry. In the past year, we’ve started including salary range in our job postings after encouragement from you and your members for more transparency, and have found it very beneficial when narrowing down potential candidates. It just makes sense to be up-front from the start. What is next on the horizon for Basecamp Outdoor?
Jenna: Honesty saves everyone time. ☺️ We know from the group that top talent – especially women and BIPOC – won’t always apply for roles without knowing a compensation range. Transparency breeds trust, and we can’t think of a better way to start off any relationship, including a professional one between talent and employer.
Ali: Omigosh! That is so exciting to hear. We have found that including salaries in job postings continually pushes those listings to the top of the pack in terms of the most popular job postings in our weekly newsletter. So, if you’re including wages, you’re far more likely to find more candidates faster. We will continue to rally for wage transparency to minimize the time wasted for all and empower members of marginalized communities.
We’re currently consulting brands on how to create policies that support the workforce in a more human way, which we think will attract candidates in today’s hiring climate.
And we’re building out technology that we think will create better matches between companies and job-seekers by looking at the dynamic relationship between human and company.
You both have so much more going on besides Basecamp Outdoor…how do you find time for yourselves? What is one of your favorite ways to unwind and take a break?
Jenna: Hear me out: Sleeping.
I go from trip to meeting to workout like a fiend, trying to cram all the adventure I can into this one brief and beautiful life. I ask a lot of this body, and of this mind, and I don’t intend on slowing down. But I also respect my physical, mental, and emotional wellness by giving my body the rest it deserves.
I’m also super into puzzles and I’m learning to pop and lock. (It’s not going well).
Ali: We just spent a weekend skiing in Mammoth and I came back feeling totally revitalized and ready to jump back in. Nothing like skiing under bluebird skies to rev the engines. But, in the day-to-day, when I’m home in Los Angeles, I try my best to go out for a walk, soak in some sunshine, listen to the birds, get my heart pumping and be off my phone for a little bit. This always helps me regroup when I’m feeling spun. If my day is really busy, I will pick one meeting during the day that I take while I’m walking — it actually helps me focus on the meeting to be off my computer.
What changes do you hope to see in 2022 in regards to hiring and retention in the outdoor industry?
Ali: Not only do we want to see more diversity across outdoor industry staffs — more representation is great for the bottom line — we want to see companies build out support resources for different marginalized groups. Additionally, we’d like to see brands offer maternity leaves that mirror the realities and needs of the birthing people — a year is sufficient. I’m just saying.
Jenna: Any company that is prioritizing transparency and accountability is going to be a destination employer in 2022. Sexy PTO or compensation is certainly nice – but the companies people stay with are the ones that allow them to prioritize their families, mental health, and personal development.
Building the trust required for authentic (and regular) two-way dialogue between leadership and a workforce will be essential to retention. If an employee doesn’t feel safe coming to you to address concerns, catch them updating their resumes instead.
That is so true, trust and compassion are so important. Is there anything you think the outdoor industry is doing particularly well when it comes to hiring and retention? Is there a particular company you think is doing it all right?
Jenna: There are no perfect companies, but women-led brands like Sekr, who are fully remote, provide mental resources for employees, and have created a culture of respect and trust will never want for talent.
The outdoor industry has also NAILED camaraderie and encouraging wilderness access. We love to see flexible hours to allow for morning pow runs, lunchtime bike rides, or entire days spent in the forest.
We love how you highlight ‘Dream Job Alerts’ in your newsletter. What would be the dream job posting for either of you?
Jenna: Stay at home dog & plant mom. 😊 But seriously, anything that combines branding with empowering people to follow their energy and be bold would catch my eye. I also think I’d make a fabulous interior decorator.
Ali: Ummm…running Basecamp?
What do you do to enjoy the outdoors?
Jenna: My Canadian roots come out here: I love snowshoeing, skiing (I discovered cross-country recently and love it), ice climbing, and snowmobiling. In the summer I love cruising around in the ’87 Jeep I bought from the Olympic Committee and car camping wherever the (4×4) road takes me.
Ali: I grew up camping, hiking, surfing, SCUBA diving, sailing, and snowboarding in Southern California. When I moved to New Mexico to work at Outside, I took full advantage of living at the base of the Rockies. I backpacked, stand-up paddled, and rafted rivers, road- and mountain-biked, hiked a ton, and backcountry skied. Now, with three kids, just getting outside, even if it’s to a park, is a win! But even better if we go hiking or skiing — the level of adventure has changed and that’s fine because it’s so fulfilling to watch the kids fall in love with the outdoors.
Basecamp Outdoor Tips:
Apply for the job.
Launch the project.
Start the business.
You’re ready. And you’re worthy.
Favorite underrated piece of gear?
Ali: Cam straps for carrying gear or fixing broken snowboard bindings.
Podcasts or Documentary? What’s one we should listen to or watch?
Jenna: I listen to NPR’s How I Built This obsessively.
Ali: On Being with Krista Tippet. I am obsessed with her exploration of mindfulness and spirituality.
Song/artist playing on repeat for you right now?
Jenna: Any ’90s hip hop gets a spot in my playlist.
Ali: Our family has a constant rotation right now of Lil Nas X, Taylor Swift, and the Encanto soundtrack.
Book you can’t put down?
Jenna: Why we sleep
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Jenna: I absolutely hate bacon. Also, I’m an introvert – not that many things I do or say surprise people at this point, but those two do.
Ali: That I have a strong lineage in music and Hollywood on my mom’s side. My grandparents won Oscars and Emmys for musical contributions, my uncle wrote “Thank you for being a friend” and I love playing the piano and singing.
Find Ali and Jenna at:
Check out more of our Coffee Talk interviews at The Darby Way.