By Rachel Walker
Here’s what you need to know about Samantha Killgore, the new marketing manager for SCARPA N.A. [Ed. note for full disclosure: SCARPA N.A. is a Verde client], who will officially start promoting the Italian powerhouse’s footwear in January: her humility is humbling; she credits much of her success to her mentors; and when she’s not working she is backcountry skiing, fly-fishing, or otherwise soaking up fresh air and sun. We caught up with her to talk about her career trajectory, work ethic, and more.
Mountain Diva (MD): Congratulations on your new job! What does the move mean for you?
Sam Killgore (SK): It’s really a dream job. I’m thrilled to be working with Kim Miller for such an established brand, and I know I’m going to learn a lot.
MD: You’re 12 years into your career, the last four of which you spent as Marketing Manager for Rab, a U.K.-based apparel company. What did you learn from Rab that you’ll bring to your job at SCARPA?
SK: When I joined Rab they were starting in North America, so much of my job was about notifying people that Rab existed and then to make the brand legitimate to core users. At SCARPA, the goals are two-fold. In skiing, we are the leader that’s being chased, and we need to put distance between our brand and the other ones finding their way into market. In climbing, SCARPA is strong but not the leader—yet.
MD: What is the biggest thing happening in the industry right now?
SK: The explosion of backcountry and sidecountry skiing. There is a huge amount of growth right now, and it’s imperative that we as an industry figure out how to promote it wisely and to connect with people to build knowledge and find ways to be safe in the backcountry.
MD: That’s an interesting concept. Backcountry safety has been a huge topic of conversation, particularly following the publication of last year’s New York Times article about the tragedy at Tunnel Creek. What role should companies play when it comes to promoting safe backcountry travel?
SK: The brands that take it upon themselves to educate consumers are the leaders. If you’re buying a boot to go into the backcountry, you ought to understand the multiple elements of backcountry skiing. I want to make safe skiing cool; it shouldn’t be about setting off avalanches when you go out.
MD: What level of education are we talking about?
SK: It’s not just about taking an Avalanche I course. It’s about understanding the big picture—avalanches, group dynamics, safe travel. I admire companies that make connections with regional avalanche centers and provide opportunities for consumers to learn more.
MD: Describe your career trajectory.
SK: My first job out of college was working customer service for AT&T. I did that for five months before getting a customer service job at Cascade Designs. I broke into marketing by offering the insight I got by listening to customer complaints to the marketing team.
MD: How important is customer service in our industry?
SK: Hugely important. Being able to connect with someone who isn’t happy with a set of circumstances and helping them is essential to what we do. Customer service also gleans critical information for the marketing and design teams. When you’re dealing with customers all day long, you know what the end consumer wants.
MD: What is that, exactly?
SK: Hand holding. It’s incredible. Of course, some consumers who call customer service want technical information, and when I worked at MSR, they would call asking for help on how to clean a stove. But a lot of people use customer service for help choosing what jacket to buy—what color and size, even.
MD: Why do you think that is?
SK: They know the product they are going to buy is expensive and they want to talk to the experts.
MD: How important is product placement in different media platforms?
SK: Consumers want aspiration. They want to buy a jacket that’s been on the summit of Everest. And if a product gets an editor’s choice award, that gives it enormous credibility.
MD: The outdoor industry can be predominantly male; has that had an impact on you, personally?
SK: I feel like I’ve embraced it. I’ve never had a man—or a woman, for that matter—discourage me from pursuing my career goals. I think it’s (male domination) different in the outdoor industry because even if the numbers skew toward more men, we have a shared love of what we’re doing. We are all passionate about the outdoors.
MD: Let’s talk mentorship…
SK: Hands down, the biggest thing for my career in this industry has been the mentors I’ve had. When I was at OR, Kaj Bune was the Marketing Director, and I saw how he puts his heart into all he does. I learned so much from him. At Cascade Design, Brian Mandell, who was the market research manager, took me under his wing and allowed me to help on projects. And I anticipate that Kim and Mark at Scarpa are going to teach me so much.
MD: You’ve been fortunate to have so many invested people helping you along the way.
SK: Absolutely, and I’ve also learned mentors aren’t going to come find you. You have to find them. Find your heart and your passions, and build those connections. I wouldn’t be where I am had I not done that.
Diva Rapid Fire Round:
- Chapstick or lipstick? Chapstick
- Coffee or tea? Tea
- What is your absolute must-have in your pack for every adventure? Rab Infinity Jacket
- Beer, wine or whiskey? Beer
- AWD wagon or truck? AWD
- Tele or AT? AT
- Dream ski vacation? Japan (again)
- Surefire way to stay warm in winter? Keep moving
- Off-season sport? Fly fishing
- Yoga or Pilates? Yoga
- What book are you reading right now? The Cutting Stone
- What’s your most diva-esque indulgence? Having my hair highlighted, cut, and styled on a regular basis
- Any guilty pleasures you’re willing to share with the Interweb? Listening to Sound of Music in my car.
You rule, Sam. Thanks!