Sarah Knapp is the founder of OutdoorFest, which got its start as a 10-day outdoor adventure festival bringing hiking, biking, kayaking, sailing, climbing, slacklining and many more outdoor opportunities to New Yorkers.
With a mission to “connect urban dwellers to local outdoor resources to encourage healthier, active, and more adventurous lifestyles,” OutdoorFest has thrived in New York City, and expanded to Washington, D.C. and Calgary, Canada. On top of its annual festival, OutdoorFest also offers weekly Mappy Hours, a publication called offMetro, and online resources on how to reach the wild from within the city.
It’s hard to believe, but the last time I spoke to Sarah, in summer 2014, the very first OutdoorFest had taken place only 10 days prior. Two years later, she is a finalist at Pitchfest, where she will be sharing OutdoorFest’s successes with a room full of outdoor industry leaders. Before then, however, I had a chance to catch up with her about what OutdoorFest has been up to, and what she has planned for the future!
What inspired you to found OutdoorFest?
For me OutdoorFest is the embodiment of two sides of myself that all work to create one central identity: the side that thrives off being in a creative hub like New York City and the side of me that yearns for summits and quiet rivers. For me, it’s about creating a community for people who share in this feeling so we don’t have to sacrifice a side of ourselves when choosing to live in an urban place. My slogan pretty much sums it up: Live in the city, love the outdoors.
What has your experience been like, so far, as a female entrepreneur in the outdoor industry?
It’s interesting because, to be honest, I don’t feel part of the Outdoor Industry. While I of course work with brands who are, the industry seems geared toward the needs and structures of retailers. I’ve felt much more connected with groups that promote community building or wellness for example. Programs like Pitchfest are a great start though, as now I’ve been introduced to 7 other amazing female-led organizations that I never knew existed, and that’s the beginning of feeling like there’s a community for us within the industry.
Why did you decide now was the moment to apply for Pitchfest? What are you hoping you and Outdoorfest will gain from the Pitchfest experience?
For the first few years, the goal of OutdoorFest was to create a functioning business and have proof of concept in one of the most challenging cities in the world to run events. 2016-2017 for me is the expansion phase where the programs and communities grow nationally (and internationally - shout out to Calgary Mappy Hour!) so I wanted to be able to expand my audience and talk to people with experience in other markets.
And what has the mentorship side of Pitchfest been like, for you?
It’s been great. My mentor, Kelly, has really helped me break down my customer segments and look at the business from a completely new perspective.
What are your goals for OutdoorFest in the next year or two?
We’re thinking big for the next two years, with goals to have the festival grow to 5 cities, Mappy Hour to 20 cities, and our publication, offMetro, to four cities. If anyone who’s reading this wants to help bring Mappy Hour to your city, please shoot me an email — great chapters always start with great local leadership!
What’s the best adventure you’ve been on recently?
A small but empowering one: I paddled in class II rapids by myself for the first time! It was thrilling and not nearly as intimidating as I’d expected. I’m ready for more.
What is your spirit biome?
Alpine for sure – give me lots of snow in the winter and wildflowers in the summer and I’m happy.
In a sentence, what is your perfect day outdoors?
Sunshine, sweat and slow campfire cooking.