Inspirational Woman Interview: Sarah Knapp

How did you come to found OutdoorFest?

I started OutdoorFest with the desire to connect my love for the outdoors and my love for New York City. Especially as our cities grow, it’s essential that urban dwellers are connected to the great outdoors. OutdoorFest  came as a recognition that there are specific challenges for accessing and protecting the outdoors in cities and that there wasn’t a central resource that existed to make that happen. Our Mappy Hour program has grown beyond New York City, and each year we’re adding new cities to our roster as more community leaders reach out, looking for a structure that works for them and their unique environments.

What were the main challenges you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?

There are quite a few challenges when starting a business. The internet made it easier as I could pop on a YouTube video to learn most skills I needed. t’s slightly abstract but I’m most challenged trying to figure out what it is I don’t know and yet need to know to succeed. Some things are obvious when you start (taxes, business plan etc.) but as OutdoorFest has grown, I’ll face realizations of skills I didn’t know I needed to make the business grow more quickly or make our participants even happier. I think one of the best ways to overcome this is to really look at what successful entrepreneurs did, and how they did it. Even when someone else’ story varies significantly from mine, the “aha!” moments always push me to think about how to continually find them for myself.

What are some unique aspects of OutdoorFest’s work that separates it from other outdoor exploration/adventure communities?

The most unique part of what we do centers around geography. While there are many outdoor adventure retreats, festivals, etc. they usually take place somewhere more obviously outdoor specific. We are trying to redefine what and who outdoor enthusiasts are by creating and nurturing communities within urban environments.

Outside your work for OutdoorFest, you also mentor for the Brooklyn Boulders Foundation. Can you share your key insights from this role?

Actually, my mentee graduated from high school so I’m not officially part of the program right now, though unofficially I am still in touch with my mentee as she works her way through university. We worked together for two years, meeting at the climbing gym almost every week to climb, stretch and chat. The goal of the program is ultimately to be a consistent and dependable adult in the student’s life. Rock climbing weekly was the vehicle to achieve that. While we spoke about goal setting and time management, I found that my mentee was most engaged in the active part of our sessions as she gained strength and pride in her strength. As far as key insights go, I wouldn’t say that climbing or even “the outdoors” was the key. It was the consistency. The process of building a relationship, depending on each other, communicating and growing together.

You also organize events for SheJumps, a local nonprofit. What were some of the main initiatives you organized here?

I’ve been involved in SheJumps in various capacities from fan girl to organizer to participant since my college years. Utah is the home of SheJumps, so while I was there for a ski season after I graduated, e I really got to see their leadership in action and come to understand the mission and passion behind the organization. In New York, we’ve done a climbing event at Brooklyn Boulders, a surfing meet-up with local group Surf Chicas NYC, and worked to bring SheJumps leadership to NYC to speak on a panel about inspiring women.

Can you talk about one woman who has impacted you?

My best friend recently moved to Chicago due to some unforeseen life circumstances and instead of simply physically moving to a new place, she’s re- envisioned her world and took the reins on some of her biggest dreams ignoring naysayers or “shoulds”. From trying out for the hit musical Hamilton (she got a call back!) to focusing her career on public service, she’s living a life of curiosity and passion that I find both admirable and inspiring.

What are your favorite books, websites, films and/or resources? (NOTE: I didn’t write in this in sentences… was I supposed to? 

My favorite email newsletter is Sticks & Stones covering news about women in the outdoors, issues of sexism and great writing by women.

My favorite “classic” book is the Brothers Karamazov, the first time I read it (in college) I thought someday I would need to learn Russian so I could read the original. That goal is pretty low on the priority list but re-reading the book in English is always fun.

My current favorite podcast is called Pod Save America. It bills itself as “non bullshit” conversation on politics. I appreciate it for it’s humor during fairly humorless times and the hosts ability to clearly communicate the deeply complicated political world.

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