Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: David Kortje, welcome to the Intrepid Entrepreneur Podcast.
David Kortje: Hey. Thanks, Kristin. This is exciting.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: It’s so great to have you here. We have quite a background. I know we met earlier this year at the Climbing Wall Association annual meeting, and you joined the alliance, and it’s been really fun working with you in there. Then you had the unfortunate job of becoming my accountability partner for 2017 planning. So thank you for that.
David Kortje: Yeah, I’m not sure if [either of us?] [inaudible] either accountable by then. We’re crazy busy.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yeah. With our schedules, I think we’ve done okay.
David Kortje: Yeah, I guess so. I feel guilty. I need to get on you, though, more.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Oh, no, no. Yeah, you always can, but please don’t feel guilty.
But we’re here today because David has volunteered to be the second hot seat coaching installment for Intrepid Entrepreneur’s Podcast. The first one was super successful. People loved it. I got a lot of e-mails–probably more engagement that I’d ever seen from any podcast I had done in a while. So we’re going to do one of these a month. And David has the fortunate or unfortunate role being our second one. It’s fortunate because I’m literally–
David Kortje: Totally stoked. I am, yes.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So why don’t you tell the audience about your business and the founding story behind it and what you’re here to learn today.
David Kortje: Yeah. So like Kristin said, we got this rock climbing gym. Kind of a long story getting to it, honestly. A number of years ago, my son was involved in climbing and was competing quite a bit. And I ended up becoming his climbing coach. We just had a great time. Traveled the country, went to all these different climbing gyms. As we went to these gyms around the nation–we’re doing Kansas. Wichita, Kansas. This is about as flat as it gets here. It really is. Nearly, you can see across the city for what? Two stories high.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Wow.
David Kortje: But anyway. So we had talked. He said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a gym like that in Wichita?” We had nothing like that here in Wichita at all. And [inaudible] just have a dream. I thought maybe someday him and I could do something like that together. But one of the fun things about climbing that I loved with it especially with Caleb is that it was just a place where he really followed himself. He’d get on the wall and his focus would be 100% there, and he’d climb really well, became extremely strong–probably the strongest climber in the Midwest at the time.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Oh, that’s awesome.
David Kortje: But one of his challenges, though, was that he struggled with depression. You know the story, Kristin. Everyone that’s been to our website probably knows it, too. But long story short, sadly, in 2012, Caleb at 19 years old, took his own life.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I’m so sorry to hear that.
David Kortje: Yeah. You can imagine it’s incredibly devastating for myself, my family. A lot of feelings, a lot of pain with that. But there’s also this [real?] sense that we want to do something that Caleb loved. So we had a little bit of [inaudible] put away for him, and we thought, “Maybe we could do something–a climbing scholarship or some type of maybe small climbing experience.” As we started looking at it, it just became obvious that what we really wanted to do was open that gym that I wanted to open with him way back in the day. So we went through that three-year process. It was crazy. I can’t tell you how hard it is to convince a banker that you convinced people to climb in Wichita, Kansas.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I bet.
David Kortje: They go, “Yeah. I love the idea, but no. Nobody climbs here. I mean, we know that.” We’re going to make them climbers.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s right. And tell us about your background, too. Because what I love most about your story is not only what you just shared, and thank you for sharing it because it’s very inspirational, but it also kind of points back to you finding your passion and realizing what you wanted to do in your life because you’re a general practitioner.
David Kortje: Yes. I’m a [inaudible], and I like medicine. It’s challenging, obviously, it’s very stressful, but I like it. But I’ve always had this really strong entrepreneurial spirit. When I was a boy, I was going to open a pet shop with my playmate. I started breeding parakeets, and I sold parakeets for a couple of years. I think what I love about medicine–well, a large [inaudible] of medicine was the–[actually?], to run my business. But then when I started climbing and really fall in love with climbing, that was kind of when it just suddenly made sense. I was like, “This would be so fun. I could actually combine the passion I have for climbing, the passion I have to be an entrepreneur and to run a business, and the kind of increasing desire I was having to maybe step out of medicine.” [inaudible] of backstage approach to medicine. So it really just kind of meshed together all at the right time and in the right place, and here we are now, we’ve been open for a year. We opened about year ago.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Congratulations on that alone. That is huge.
David Kortje: Yeah, yeah. We beat–50% of businesses close in the first year. So we made the first 50%.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: It’s actually 90%.
David Kortje: Is that really? Oh, God. Okay.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: [inaudible] years. It’s some [inaudible].
David Kortje: It’s crazy, I know. I’m just [inaudible], so. Anyway–
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: But you made it. Let’s not look back.
David Kortje: Yeah, still here. That’s right. Yeah, so that’s where we are today.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And it’s great. I want to just point out again to my audience because I think this will really resonate with them. You took the leap, you’re honoring your son’s memory with shared passion, it’s now become a family business in Wichita, and you have actually built quite a clientele. And the best part about the clientele which we’ve talked about is just the transformation that you’ve seen. Because really, the whole, I think, mission behind what you’re doing is sharing the love that you have for the transformation that climbing brings to people. My husband, Jared, I don’t know what would have happened to him if he didn’t find his climbing tribe when he was in college, too. It literally changed his life, and thank goodness, it did. So climbing is really, really powerful that way. And I love that you had the vision to just go big in Wichita. Honestly, I bet there’s a ton of people. Can you talk a little bit about some of the transformations that you have seen among your clientele so far even in just the first year?
David Kortje: Oh, wow, yes. I knew [inaudible]. Again, we opened up, and we had a very small climbing community in Wichita, probably about 50, 60 climbers. 90% of people walk in the door have never seen a climbing gym in their life. There’s one young boy I’m really excited about, his name is John Paul, and he’s 10 years old, he’s pretty small for a 10 year old. He came in here about 8 months ago. He never climbed, his parents said, “We just have fun. Anything that he likes, but he keeps trying to climb up inside the house.”
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: You’re like, “My people.”
David Kortje: Yeah, right. So he saw [inaudible] here, and this kid has just been amazing. He’s probably one of the strongest climbers in the gym now. He just finished first base in his first two competitions. And I suspect he’ll probably get first in divisionals later this month. But I talked to his dad, I had a great conversation with his dad here few months ago. He said, “You know, John Paul didn’t fit in at school, he didn’t feel that anything really connected with him. His life has completely changed since he’s been here.”
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s awesome.
David Kortje: “He loves this place.” His dad was sharing about how he [inaudible] chance come and playing with John Paul. As I was watching them, and John Paul’s encouraging his dad, going, “Yo, did you see my dad? He just crushed that D-1.” Like that was a big thing. But it’s so cool. His dad said that, “I’ve never had anything happen to me like that.” So that would have been great.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s it in a nutshell. I mean, that’s exactly what it is. It changes people’s lives.
David Kortje: It really does. I wrote a blog on Caleb, I’m losing Caleb–I do a weekly blog for the gym, and had a couple of people responded about that that’s been coming here and share that they were struggling with depression, too. In fact, our gym was a large part of them feeling like they could keep going on, [inaudible]. So we hear stories and stories and stories like that just constantly.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That is. So the reason that you are here today in the hot seat is that you are now a year in in a family-run business here in Wichita. You know you have traction, like, you’re onto something. But your question is really like how do we share the authenticity of our story and our passion to try and get more people to come in. When we did our precall, we kind of talked a little bit about what could some of the obstacles be. And I think it’d be a great thing to start there if you’re open to it, David, is how do you discover what the obstacles might be for potential people in your community? Because one of the things I want to share with the audience is you’ve done a fantastic job building, I think, a very robust Facebook following that you know is 95% to 97% regional or local like the driving distance people, right? Now [inaudible]–you asked me earlier today, like, should we do a billboard again? Because I think you’d need one. Should we look to TV, like that’s expensive. All of these things are kind of traditional outlets. Really, what I’ve always had a sense about bliss is that it’s a community. So how do we tap into the community and find out– “Okay, we want more people to join the community, and your website climbbliss.com is incredibly inclusive, but I still think there might be people in Wichita proper that are like, “I’m not a climber, I could never go there.” And they feel insecure, perhaps. So one of the things I thought we could start with is just talking about– “Well, how do we find out what the obstacles are among the people who could be members?” I think honestly, like Facebook is so wonderful. It’s terrifying and it’s wonderful. How much data you can get on your following, and study kind of who are the people that are friends with us there? But I also think what you could do is potentially start doing some Facebook lives where you’re basically doing livestreaming on the Facebook platform. I think that could be something that Facebook is making very, very effective right now because frankly, they’re trying to get us addicted to something new like they did with Instagram when they owned it. They really just made the reach incredible, high, high converting platform. Then they started to monetize it. We’re like, “Well, that sucks.” And you change the algorithm, but I’m still going to do it because it’s so effective. Even though people are getting a high percentage, fewer followers and converters, they’re still seeing a very solid stream coming from Instagram. My point is, right now, you have the gateway with Facebook Live video. And they’re really putting a lot of search juice behind it. I realize that’s a big jump, but you’ve done a lot in terms of marketing over the time we’ve worked together in the alliance. I think that could be a really interesting thing is like show your audience on Facebook what it’s like in that gym, show them the varying people that you have there. They’re not all like 21-year-old hard bodies who just work out all day and send all their 5.14s in said climbing gym. So what do you think of that idea? Because I know that you’re a busy guy, you’ve got two companies. I mean, Jesus, you’re a doctor in addition to an entrepreneur. But you have a family. And some of your–I think, your two kids are still involved in the marketing, right?
David Kortje: My son does most of our marketing and most of our social media stuff. He actually tried doing one Facebook Live, and I think [inaudible] but frustrated just because it didn’t seem like it went very–he couldn’t get an Internet connection connected very well. I know he tried it once, and he just kind of threw his hands up and got busy doing some other stuff. After I got done talking with you again today, I actually sent them the link that you sent me. Told him we definitely need to look at this again. Because I think it would be great. I think one of the challenges that we really do have is again, people in Wichita don’t know what a climbing gym is. So it’s very difficult to explain that in a post. Even with a photograph, it doesn’t quite [inaudible]. To do something on video, it’d be a great experience for people to get a chance to look at what we’re doing and what it actually looks like. Like you mentioned, the people that are [here?]–
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yeah, you could even interview them. You have almost like a talk show format. I’m not saying like this is the [inaudible] that’s going to solve everything, but what I do think is going to create a lot of traction for you is getting people to understand that everybody’s welcome. That everybody can do this, and that the transformation’s there for everybody. They need to come try it. So that’s one way to do it, and you have a great Facebook following so that’s something I’m like, “Well, why not try that?” Then the other thing I thought about is looking at what some of our–right now obviously we’re going into the ski season, and a lot of our brands are doing fun things at retail, and different events around like getting skis waxed and getting your skins and all your backcountry gear ready. And they’ll have these events that there are retail stores or at some sort of a location where everybody gathers together. And that could be your gym where you basically go over– “Okay, we’re six weeks away from January. Everybody who has a fitness goal, who wants to try something fun, bring a buddy, and we’re going to have a night where we kind of walk you around the gym, and you can go ahead and eat and drink whatever you want because you’re about to start this fitness program. But my point is is try and invite them in. I think that would be a fantastic thing to do. Get them to come in like an open house, which I think you’re going to do with your one year anniversary party. Tell us a little bit about that.
David Kortje: That might be a great option. So we’ve got our one year birthday party, basically, this weekend. and [inaudible] we’ve kind of put together with that, one is we’re going to offer half price day passes. We expect probably a good number of people here coming in just from that standpoint of saving the money. We’ve got Dave Graham coming in–
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Wait, did everybody hear that? Dave Graham is–
David Kortje: Yeah. [inaudible] know who Dave Graham is. He’s this super psychotic and crazy strong climber.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: You say that in the most endearing way, I know. Psychotic in a good way.
David Kortje: He’s the funnest guy who [inaudible]. He’s just super social. The guy who’ll walk up to every single person who [inaudible] best friend. He gets [inaudible] so I’m really excited about him being here. Because his presence just in the gym is going to increase energy, it’s going to make people laugh, it’s going to make people relax. Really, really excited about him being here. And this could be a little positive experience.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: You got to get some video of him there, too. Like–
David Kortje: Oh, for sure.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yeah. So you can cut that up and put it across all your platforms. Cut it up meaning like edit it.
David Kortje: Yeah. Sure, oh yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And have him talking and teaching people–kids, like people of all ages. Because that’s something that I know you’re very proud of with your gym is you have people from all different demographic backgrounds and ages, and they’re enjoying this.
David Kortje: Yeah. We really do. It’s pretty crazy. I’ve seen some people come in that I didn’t think they’re going to be able to do anything. And that’s amazing what they are able to accomplish once they put their mind to it.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I love it.
David Kortje: So, yeah. We’re excited about [inaudible], and we’re getting the word out on that right now. We’re doing a bunch of social media stuff with it. Essentially, [inaudible] like I imagine [inaudible] which I appreciate you looking at that for me. But the idea with that is to try to get some media involved as well. [inaudible] with them as well. Again like I said, one place we’re really struggling with is that we are–we reckon there’s still a lot in Wichita just don’t know we’re here. They just have no idea that that we’re here. So if we can get some TV coverage, that type of stuff, some media coverage stuff, I think will help [inaudible] just let people see us for a change.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Okay, so I have another idea. Okay, two ideas. The first one that popped into my head is I believe strongly that whoever does the Wichita weather on your local affiliate should come in and do something. It doesn’t have to necessarily be on your one year anniversary party. By the way, for listeners, that’s November 12. So you might be hearing this after it happens. But check out the website to see what went down with Dave Graham being there and everything. But I think that could be such a cool backdrop for maybe–it’s a fundraiser or a radio–they do their programming from there. But I think doing the weather from there could be really, really cool. And they’re always looking for new things to try. And you have this press release–you’re going to make an introduction to them. And one of the things I also wanted to share in the podcast with the audience is we found a really cool–I don’t know if it’s an app or a platform necessarily, but it’s called Hey Press, and the link will be on the shownotes page. So David literally could look up Wichita press, and get 10 free names of media in his region for free before you have to sign up for something. Again, I’ll put the links in the shownotes. It’s legit. You also can kind of comb through LinkedIn if you have that level of membership on LinkedIn, but Hey Press is actually pretty legit. So you can actually pull a list together of the key media in Wichita without having to pay for it because you get 10. And this is a hack that may not be out there if you guys are listening to this a couple months from now. But right now, it’s there. And I will pull together a list, and I would basically either go down and talk to the producers in person or I would send an e-mail with the press release and say, “Hey, I’d like to come down. Can I bring you a coffee? I just need five or ten minutes of your time to pitch an idea for a local business. We’re celebrating a year, and I think you would really boost your audience if you did something in our gym, and I have some ideas. Can I come share it?” Trust me, they’re always looking. They’d rather do that than go to a cat costume judging party or something. Hearkening back to Ron Burgundy. You guys are fun and funny, and we want to get that out there. So that could be something else you could do, but I also think we’re now at the one year mark. You’ve had some people that are probably very much stored level loyal customers of yours, right? Why not turn a handful of them into ambassadors? To go out and spread the word on what an amazing place you have, and give them some cards to hand out? I hesitate to say coupon cards because I don’t want you to discount because you offer a premium service. So I don’t want you to go out on price. But they can actually say firsthand– “This place has changed my life.” I can’t stand when the time falls back, it’s so depressing for me. I literally spent half an hour this morning trying to find a new fitness goal so I wouldn’t go crazy that I can’t be outside. And other people are probably feeling like that, too. Like, how great would it be if you’d just send some ambassadors out with like– “Check out a great fitness opportunity, get started now so you’re fit when January comes here” some events were doing. Like they probably love having a membership and being part of your community so much that they’ll go out and recruit people that they want to have at the gym. That’s something else, I think, that could be cool to do. Sometimes, people don’t even want anything in return. They’re just so happy with what they have in the community you’ve created that they’ll do it.
David Kortje: That is what I’m really excited about our members. You’re exactly right. A lot of them are just so excited that we’re here, and they’re asking us what they can do and how they can help out.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s awesome. So tell me what your goals are, though, specifically. By the way, as we’re doing this podcast, the climbing team is training at Bliss. So that’s the noise you hear in the background. Someone just took a whipper.
David Kortje: Yeah, someone just–I don’t know. [inaudible], who knows.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yeah, there you go. Maybe they actually sent it.
David Kortje: My home away from home right here.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Tell me what are your goals though around a visibility campaign now that you’ve crossed the one year mark.
David Kortje: Right. Specifically, as far as where we need to be, we’d like to be at the point where we are getting at least 50 non-members in the gym per day.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Okay, that’s great.
David Kortje: So right now, we’re averaging about 60-80 people coming in per day. But the majority of those people are members. So we really need to be probably at the point where–we have two main goals in as far as growth. We need to double our membership and we need to be getting at least 50 people in per day that aren’t members that we can hopefully then entice in membership, let them know what we offer so that we can bring them in into a place of membership. So that’s probably our big number goal. Our secondary goal, and maybe our primary goal [inaudible] is just getting our name out in the city. Wichita is really unique. I mean, not that unique. I guess a lot of cities are like this. But Wichita is really divided into east and west side. We’re on the east side. Both sides are very affluent areas. And it’s not very big. The distance from East to West side is 25 minutes, 20 minutes, maybe. It’s not huge. To Wichita, that seems like a huge distance. So the idea, if you live on the West Side, to come to the East Side, there better be a really good reason. You got to [inaudible] for 25 minutes to get here, right? So we’re trying to find some business around the West Side that would [inaudible] me with this. And maybe allow us to do kind of [inaudible] in front of their business and do some knot-tying demonstrations. Give away some free day passes or something like that to help bring business into their business. So we’re trying to identify some of those places where maybe we can get out an e-mail, we can reach out to people on the other side of town, let them know that– “Hey, we’re over here. It’s a great thing to do.” I’d say [inaudible] print a billboard up there on the West Side [inaudible] be able to do that or doing a allowed to do that or doing some radio stuff. We need to do something to kind of raise the flag that– “Hey, we’re here.”
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I have another question before I go into this, and I’ve written down all the people to address, but do you guys have a retail facility where you’re–I know you probably have rentals, and you’re working with some of the brands in outdoor, but tell me about your–the brands that are part of your brand inside.
David Kortje: We’re pretty much a full pro shop. Pro shops [inaudible] extremely successful. Actually more successful than we expect them to be. So it’s probably contributing to about a quarter of our income per month right now. So we carry Five Ten, Scarpa, Sportiva–what else–Mad Rock, FrictionLabs–most [inaudible] climbing brands, we’ve got the majority of them here. Members have been pretty loyal with using us. At first, they weren’t quite so much, but more and more, they’ve come to realize that that’s an important part of our business. So they’re actually–[inaudible] say, “I bought from you guys because I want to support this gym, and I want the gym to stay viable.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right. So where I’m going with this, David, is every single one of those brands that you mentioned probably–they may have a dealer, like a traditional outdoor dealer, if you will, in Wichita, but what you provide to them is a very authentic backdrop where people can actually go try the product, see people wearing the product, etc. You might be able to actually tap into them to do some regional marketing. Maybe there’s reps that can work with you to try and get people there for an event. Don’t second guess or underestimate rather the importance of the fact that you have a successful retail pro shop there because that’s something that a lot of Verde clients are looking to grow with climbing gyms right now because of the fact that climbing was announced to be an Olympic sport in 2020. Honestly, like as the more traditional retail format is changing, there’s a little bit of a gap in some markets. Climbing gyms have been really stepping in and trying to fill that gap. Because there’s demand there, it’s a very different retail mindset than what they’re used to from a wholesale perspective. So there’s a lot of flexibility on the side of the dealers, like they realize they have to actually come up with a new way of doing business with partners just like Bliss. So they’re looking for in-roads. They’re looking to build emotional engagement with people who are in your gym and your lifers. I wouldn’t underestimate what you can get from them in terms of contest or ways to pull people in for demos and different things that maybe the reps are more used to doing at wholesale shops that they would be very excited to do at a climbing gym.
David Kortje: Okay, that’s a good idea.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And just trust me, things aren’t changing so much in the retail model that they’re very open-minded to new ideas and trying new things and developing long term relationships with entities just like yours. I think that would be a good thing to track down. Then going back to like, you said something that I love so much. The knot tying demonstration. You could have so much fun with that. That could be a fun social media contest, it could be something you make a mobile event where you actually bring that to different independently-owned businesses in Wichita. You’re a 27-year resident and entrepreneur in Wichita. You guys probably know a ton of people, but that gives you so much credibility. It’s not like you parachuted in from a chain, right? You need to go out and start pressing the flesh like a politician and doing things like a knot tying demo or just something that kind of brings the experience of Bliss to them, I think, would be really powerful for you.
David Kortje: Yeah, for sure. That’s what I thought. If we get out there, [inaudible] people really–
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Oh, somebody must’ve just said something. Sorry. Go ahead.
David Kortje: We got [inaudible].
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s totally fine. I love it, actually.
David Kortje: So, yeah. [inaudible] would really think [inaudible] office space–so we got one small office space downstairs behind our front office, but my son gets sad. [inaudible] so basically I get the yoga room which is up here.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I think it’s fine. Honestly, it provides [inaudible] to my audience.
David Kortje: It’s my new office now. [inaudible] hanging up, but it is what it is. Next [inaudible] is going to have more office space for sure. Anyway, we kind of went up to a couple of places and kind of [inaudible] actually, a couple of big companies like Eddie Bauer is really interested, and is doing something [inaudible].
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s awesome.
David Kortje: [inaudible] ships in town, we’ve worked with them a little bit. [inaudible] kind of connects with a lot of climber type people. Today, we’re really hoping to try to connect with us and do some stuff for us. So yeah, we’re kind of slowly making progress. Nothing happens as fast as you want to, and I guess [inaudible] my challenge is I want these all [inaudible] yesterday.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yes. I totally hear you on that one. So getting your name out [inaudible], though, I would look to ambassadors. I’d like to keep doing those joint venture or collaborative efforts that you’re starting to seek out. Ask your son and daughter, “What other brands would you affiliate for a younger audience?” Is there a coffee roaster there, is there a beer entity there? I mean, I’m not saying good alcohol like that’s a low-hanging fruit, but–
David Kortje: [inaudible].
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And then I also think about what about what do climbers need when they go on road trips? Are there any entities in town like maybe an outdoor shop would be a good one for you to collab with. But just think about kind of the surrounding businesses and services that your audience uses, the ones that are kind of your top 5% and the aspirational ones that could kind of bring in more people just like them?
David Kortje: Yeah, that’s a great idea.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Then you have this climbing team. Tell us about that. Because I have some ideas just around that.
David Kortje: Our climbing team? Yeah. So they’re pretty young. We’ve got I think about 10 kids on the youth climbing team. So they’ve gone through what? 3 different regional [inaudible] in St. Louis, one in Kansas City, and one here in Wichita. We’ve got 4 that are going to be going on to regionals. They’ve got locals–after you get through locals, and you can qualify for regionals. Then regionals, they take out from the Top 4 to go on divisionals, and the Top 4 of those could go to the nationals. I have a good chance they’ll make it to at least divisionals. He may make it to nationals. If he makes it as nationals, that’s going to be a lot of pressure [inaudible] going on [inaudible]. Because he’s the cutest kid in the world, too, and he’s super nice. I mean, he is–
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: How old is he?
David Kortje: He’s ten years old.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Okay, so he’s going to be an Olympian?
David Kortje: He is. Well, [inaudible]. He’s got two goals in his life. First goal is to climb the [inaudible] wall. He’s totally sad because I know Kevin Jorgeson. So I’m like his biggest [inaudible]. He’s like, “You know Kevin Jorgeson?” I said, “Yeah. Kind of, we’re not like buddies or anything.” And the second goal is to make the Olympics. I’ve told him, “I think you can do it if you work harder.” [inaudible]. [inaudible] kind of the hardest stuff, it’s about having fun. But it’s really fun to see someone like him really just have a passion at heart about become the best at something.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Honestly, that’s going to create community engagement more than anything. So you’re right, developing a relationship with your local media around that kid, assuming his parents are cool with that, is going to be great. Honestly, I would start reporting–I’m looking at your blog right now, and climbbliss.com/blog. You can maybe have a special segment during the season where you’re reporting on the results of the team, and maybe interviewing some of the kids or having the kids interview each other after the competition with video. I think really putting them front and center–and then sending it to their parents and asking their parents to optimize it is going to be big. Because they want everyone–it’s almost like you’re now the new newspaper. Like when I was little and did something and somehow ended up in the paper that wasn’t involving the police, my parents would be like, “Oh, let’s go buy 75 copies of the paper and send it to everybody.” But think about what you can do now. You’ll just send them a link, and they can send it to everybody. And hopefully a lot of them are in Wichita. So that’s another thing that I think can really build a lot of organic following to your website.
David Kortje: I need you to explain some PR stuff to me, then. I think I understand [inaudible], but what do you mean by optimize? How do parents optimize that? Does that mean [inaudible]?
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I’m so glad you asked. Okay, so that is a terrible corporate term, and slap my hand for saying it, but essentially, what it is is let’s say you put a blog up about this young kid and he gets to regionals and he might go to nationals, and you’re building anticipation and kind of some drama around it, some great storytelling, and it’s on your blog. You basically just take that link, and you put it in an e-mail to them, and you say, “Hey, your son was in–or daughter, whatever it is, was in this week’s blog because of how well they did in the competition. Would you mind sharing this on your Facebook page and sending it to everybody you know in Wichita? Let them know that this is when the kid trains and he’s starting climbing here. Look at how well he’s done. Everybody can do this. Like, invite them in to have the same experience that your son has had.” They will do it because they want everybody to see how awesome their son is.
David Kortje: Yeah. Plus they love us and they’re really excited about what we’ve done with their son. So they will [inaudible]. They totally would. That’s a good idea, I loved it.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So everytime you post a blog, try and figure out a way to “optimize” it, which just means distribute it. That’s all that fancy word means. I should stop saying it.
David Kortje: Cool. I got a new word now. I’m going to start using that.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I think, honestly, since we’ve already talked about how we both have occasional drink in the evening, we could make a drinking game out of it.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: –said “optimize.” You have to drink now. Oh, God. I’m just kidding, audience. It’s only Monday night, I’m not really doing that, really.
David Kortje: Not for at least an hour.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right. Anyway, that’s another [inaudible] because you’re already being super disciplined about getting content on your blog. I would say you need to start turning some of your kids on the climbing teams into the reporters, and make blogs out of it, and send it to their families. And have them even send it to their friends. I mean, some of the teenagers on your team are probably super prolific in Snapchat.
David Kortje: Yeah. That’s cool, too. That’s a really good idea.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So those are some of the main ones that I’ve come up with. I try and keep this podcast to at least thirty minutes, we’ve gone a little over. But that’s because you have so much to work with, and honestly, one year anniversary? Good on you. I love your founding story. Everything you guys stand for–what my vision is for you is that you will be like the vignette on the Olympics in 2020. Like he started here or she started here. And talk about your family-run business and how it launch this kid into an Olympic athlete as the Olympics are literally–I can’t believe that climbing’s going to be in the Olympics. When I say that, I literally almost get teary eyed.
David Kortje: Yeah. It’s really a big deal. It really is huge.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: It is amazing. It puts us on the world’s stage. Just so everybody knows, I know there’s a movement out there in the industry which is the industry, it’s not everybody, but we’re actually trying to come up with a narrative around climbing so that as climbing gets more and more exposure, that people will understand the community and the soul behind it. That’s going to be super helpful, I think, for you as a gym owner are the point of entry. No questions asked. And that’s why I think the North Face and Eddie Bauer, and all these large companies are like, How do we get in there?” It’s because you guys have your heart and soul in it, you’re a passion-driven business, and literally, you’re going to wake up an entire community that never would have even known the awesome life-changing experience that climbing is unless you open the doors of Bliss. I mean, that has to feel good.
David Kortje: Yeah, it’s exciting. It really is.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And I’m just so glad that you’re in my community just so you know, David.
David Kortje: Well, same. I was so excited when I heard you would speak at CWA Conference. I just listened to you and I thought was, “Finally.” [inaudible] the first person I heard anyone that was involved with marketing or development of a business that actually seemed to understand what gyms were all about. I was sitting there, I mean, [inaudible] talk to you. It’s like, “Yes, finally somebody understands what we’re doing.” And that’s exciting. And I think that that also speaks just [inaudible] from the industry that people like you and people with your skillset are actually dedicating their stuff to the outdoor industry. And it is the next step, I think.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: As I’ve said multiple times, I think I would be selling vacuum cleaners or something horrific, like, I don’t know what the hell I would be doing if I didn’t find my people, but I did. The reason I’m in this and show up so excited everyday is because I get to work with people just like you. Guess what, you’re right at the forefront of what I think is going to be just this huge movement with the Olympics. And the growth of gyms was happening even before that announcement. Like this is the future. So we may have had a 1.0 with gyms, now we have a 2.0. And you’re part of that.
David Kortje: Yeah. It’s cool.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So it’s super exciting. High fives.
David Kortje: Thank you. Thank you so much. Same to you.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: So everybody who’s listening, check out climbbliss.com. There’s a blog, there’s all the information on the training and teams. And congratulations again on one year in business, that is huge. Good job.
David Kortje: Thanks, Kristin. Thanks so much for your help, too. I really appreciate all you’ve done for our business, and just helping us kind of get on track. So it’s been fun talking to you.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yep, we’re just getting started.
David Kortje: Yeah, [inaudible] keep going.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: All right, thanks so much.