Mayflower Hill is fertile ground for innovative ideas to flourish. Ask entrepreneur Theo Satloff ’19, CEO of Outdoorly. The startup, born at Colby, is now thriving—and employing 11 current or former Colby students, including a graduating senior.
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“Every intern, every employee we get [from Colby] has been phenomenal for us,” said Ian Patterson ’18, Outdoorly’s cofounder and director of partnerships. “We definitely want to do our part and realize that a lot of what we’ve accomplished, the connections we built, are from Colby. And we want to pay it forward.”
Outdoorly has been doing just that since its beginning, and it’s continuing that commitment now during Colby’s “Pay It Northward” initiative. More than ever, it’s looking out for the place where it all started, creating opportunities for Colby students at this young, Mayflower Hill-grown business.
Outdoorly spawned from an idea that Satloff, Walker Griggs ’19, and Carl-Philip “CP” Majgaard ’18 entered into Colby’s 2017 Business Pitch Competition, part of DavisConnects annual Entrepreneurship Expo. They came in first, winning seed money to get it off the ground. The company officially launched in September 2019 with Patterson and Kyle McDonell ’18 joining Satloff as cofounders and Griggs and Majgaard serving as advisors.
Based in New York City, Outdoorly is an online marketplace for outdoor professionals—such as adventure guides, ski coaches, and park rangers—to purchase discounted gear from a wealth of brands. The company, part of 1% for the Planet, has established partnerships with more than 80 brands, big and small, local and international—Mammut, Liberty Skis, Klean Kanteen, Flowfold, just to name a few.
“It’s a perfect fit for our brand, it’s a perfect fit for who we are,” said Klean Kanteen’s Director of Marketing and Brand Jeremy Cashman. “The audience they reach is perfect for us—so all around it’s a great partnership.”
The Colby team has propelled the business on a rapid upward trajectory. Outdoorly grew from three full-time employees and five Colby interns a year ago to now include Tristan Friedman ’17, who joined as vice president of marketing after leaving a position at NBC Universal, and Raj Kane ’19, who came from Epic Health to become an Outdoorly software development engineer. Now the company has a team of 19, about 60 percent of them Colby alumni or students.
And its most recent full-time Colby hire is from the Class of 2020.
“I really wanted something that could offer me a learning experience and some real-world experience,” said John Dowling ’20, who came onboard as a software engineer after learning about Outdoorly through DavisConnects. Dowling, a computer science and mathematics: statistics double major, feels this company is the perfect place to get started in the industry. “I’m really excited at the opportunity to engage with industry-standard technologies and get some experience connecting theory with real-life applications,” he said.
“To be honest, it was a big relief to find a job and secure one,” Dowling added, “because especially in this uncertain time, there’s a lot going on, and it’s a difficult market.”
It’s a tough time to seek employment—and a tough time to stay in business.
“There isn’t necessarily a shortage of jobs, it’s just a shortage of connections,” said Satloff. “And this [Pay It Northward initiative] is a really good way to spread the branches of this hiring tree.” And growing the team by a few people is low risk but has great benefits—especially if they’re educated on Mayflower Hill.
“We’re big on hiring Colby computer science people because we know what the curriculum is, we know exactly what skill sets they’re going to have,” said Satloff, a computer science and science, technology, and society double major himself. The curriculum teaches students how to learn and approach big topics, he explained. “For us, that translates really well to our development process in the way that we operate as a company.”
While Outdoorly’s strategy is a smart business move, it also benefits the Colby community.
Heather Jahrling ’21, a history and science, technology, and society double major, found Outdoorly through DavisConnects last summer. “I was in charge of all of their email campaigns. I designed them. I wrote them. I sent them out to thousands of outdoor professionals,” said Jahrling, who had no prior experience in marketing. She drew upon her writing and research skills from history classes and her design knowledge from art courses to go above and beyond what was expected, landing an offer to stay on with the team as a content marketing and strategic partnerships specialist.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount at Outdoorly,” she said. Jahrling said she wears many hats, works side by side with great people, and finds space to propose and implement ideas—something not a lot of people her age experience, she stressed. “This is our baby, and we’re watching it grow up before our eyes.”
And what growth it’s seen.
“Outdoorly has been growing fast since I got involved, and they put together a great team,” said Kojiro Murase, an advisor to Outdoorly for more than two years, who founded the fin-tech company General Semantics as an undergraduate at Yale University. “I think that’s largely thanks to where it started in the DNA. When the founding team started working on this at Colby, I think being on campus and having that support system was tremendously helpful to them.”
Also helpful is that Outdoorly differs vastly from other companies out there, both as a team and as a business.
Before becoming brand partners, Cashman saw the Outdoorly team shine as people. During the 2018 Camp Fire that consumed Paradise, Calif., the Klean Kanteen team, based in nearby Chico, received a box of homemade cookies shaped like their logo along with a note from Outdoorly. “We literally stood there staring at these cookies,” Cashman recalled. “We weren’t working yet [with Outdoorly], they had not received a penny from us, it was just good fate and goodwill and good people coming to help us—that just made a huge impression on us.”
So did the business model.
“One of the appealing things about Outdoorly is that they speak to a little bit of a different audience, and they go a little deeper with regard to the entities that they work with,” said Cashman, referring to Outdoorly’s system of verifying credentials of outdoor professionals, ensuring the products end up in the right hands. “The business isn’t huge [for us], but it’s growing,” he said, noting that Outdoorly solely depends on its audience, which increases all the time. Contrary to its competitors, Outdoorly’s profits are driven by sales, rather than fees. “It’s basically a growth model, and the more work they do, the more they sell, the more they make,” he explained. “I think if they can weather the storm right now … they have great potential.”
Lisa Noble, director of employer engagement and entrepreneurship and DavisConnects advisor for consulting, is impressed with Outdoorly and Satloff’s willingness to invest in Colby students, even in this economic climate. “The truth of the matter is this can’t be a very easy time for the sporting goods manufacturers, for other athletes, for the kind of work he is trying to do,” she said. Yet Outdoorly is not shying away from making room for Colby students to have meaningful internships or job experiences.
“It’s really impressive to me that he’s persisted with this idea,” Noble said of Satloff. “He’s taken it to heights beyond what would remotely be reasonable.”