Gnarly Business Model – The Making of a Recpreneur
Hatch Founder Interview Series – Ryan Taylor, Recpreneur
Ryan Taylor never set out to become an outdoor entrepreneur. He set out to go fast on a mountain bike and dirt bike. Which he has done around the country, quite successfully.
However, for many years he also found opportunities to be creative (or they found him), which resulted in a variety of outdoor recreation projects, primarily involving mountain biking.
“These projects were always in my sweet-spot because they involved my MBA, bikes, dirt, and various machinery to create tracks and trails. On-purpose and not, I’ve done a lot of projects, with nothing more than a gmail account and vision. Not even a business card,” explains Taylor, with a big smile on his face.
Ryan consistently gravitated towards projects which were a perfect combination of passion, education, blue-collar work, and two wheels. Plus, a heck of a lot of optimism. Ultimately, that very combination was what taught him 90% of what he needed to know about entrepreneurship.
Finding his Rhythm
He worked for a master craftsman, an artist, a software guru, Industry Nine, earned graduate degrees, and was mentored by some of the top minds in the region. Ryan then served as a product development business counselor at Western Carolina University, working for the SBTDC and WCU’s Rapid Center, giving him direct access to counsel hundreds of business owners. Plus, he continued to do passion projects, and the combination allowed him to see WNC’s outdoor recreation industry up-close.
Ryan also continued racing competitively, with a pretty impressive record, even while suffering from two decades of debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. He shared, “My struggles have been harder than any project, than any track I’ve raced. The insights I’ve learned to help cope have been extraordinary. I’m fortunate to have won a lot of downhill races, even though on paper I should have never gotten into the sport. It’s not for the untrained and anxious mind. To succeed in the sport, one must be focused and take hyper-calculated risks in constantly changing conditions.”
Mountain bikes and dirt bikes have been his escape from difficult times, especially when seeking relief from anxiety. Like many others, Ryan found “zen” at high speeds. He raced nearly every bicycle discipline and won at least one race in each of them. By his 20’s, Taylor became one of the fastest professional, privateer downhill mountain bike racers on the East Coast. And in turn was taught fundamental lessons around what it really takes to win.
He learned to not only master and overcome his own personal challenges, but also how to build a well-respected reputation within a highly competitive industry. “But for not my debilitating anxiety, I would never have had to search and learn so much to even leave the house. It has given me a huge competitive advantage. I’ve earned my success, more than most people would ever appreciate,” explains Ryan.
Through all his adversity, Taylor has learned to fully appreciate how powerful vision, optimism, and perseverance are in shaping the world around us. He has learned how to be a Recpreneur.
Struck by Inspiration
The idea for Recpreneur was born while riding a KTM 450SX dirt bike in the Arizona desert. On a cross-country vision quest with his dog and dirt bike loaded in a truck, Taylor was ready to rip and do some personal adventuring. “I was riding moto at the Four Peaks OHV area northeast of Phoenix the day I began thinking about the project,” noted Ryan.
Lucky for him, driving 8,950 miles offers a lot of window time. Along the way, Taylor met other dirt bike riders, many of them outdoor industry related small business owners like himself. They led motocross grading companies, were landscapers and trail builders, and owners of moto shops, bicycle shops, or small chains. These connections presented an ideal market research opportunity for him to test his concept in real life trenches and create the program structure.
Using his window time to strategize, Ryan crafted a methodology for current and aspiring outdoor recreation industry business owners (Recpreneurs) to launch and grow their companies. Leaning on his own experience as an outdoor professional, and as a business counselor with WCU, he took inventory of the projects which taught him the most powerful lessons.
“My passion projects did predominantly overlap with FTE status somewhere. It was hard. I worked every day for 9 months building Kolo Bike Park. I promoted 35 mountain bike races. I did landscaping and built private riding trails. Whatever it took,” sighed Ryan.
“In 2008, I launched the South’s first downhill mountain bike park at a ski resort, 26 West at Wolf Ridge Ski Resort. That project failed fast. Which taught me about first mover advantage and the other side of the coin. I built the business model, ran a race series, built a track – the foundation, for the South’s second bike park at Beech Mountain Ski Resort. A lot of people worked together from the resort, volunteers, the town, and my crew to reintroduce downhill riding. After a decade hiatus, Beech had bikes, and for the first time ever we got bikes on the chairlift – the same mountain I previously broke bones and bikes on during my racing career. In total and by my best MBA calculation, my work has created $5M of value in WNC’s outdoor economy. And I did it all by creating, sharing, and leading,” stated Taylor, with a mix of pride and exhaustion on his face.
Building a Gnarly Business Model
After journeying back to the East Coast, Ryan went to work. He sold everything he had to fund his vision, committed entirely to constructing the Recpreneur program, and built the strategic partnerships needed to move forward. He signed up to participate in the weekend accelerator program, Hatch This, where he polished his entrepreneurship skills and was part of the winning team. “Hatch This was the most fun I had, off my dirt bike, in Asheville in 2017. Exceptionally well-executed event, and I’m stoked to participate again,” explained Ryan.
Since then, he managed a solid beta test, refined the curriculum, and is currently launching the first certificate of its kind at AB-Tech’s Small Business Center. With a goal of creating, sharing and leading entrepreneurship education for the outdoor industry, Ryan is eager to connect with other Recpreneurs to offer them a proven process to reach their goals faster.
For those who are interested in the certificate, Ryan notes, “I’ve been blessed to overcome all obstacles on my journey so far. Some of them have been hard enough to make entrepreneurship seem like a safe-bet, believe it or not. And I think that’s my key so far: I learned not taking the risk is the biggest risk there is. Entrepreneurship is alive and well. I encourage anyone who feels ready to try an idea to do so now, immediately. Because making the jump is harder than the work.”
Additional information about the Recpreneur Certificate Program can be found by visiting the website at https://www.recpreneur.com/
Emily transforms communities through entrepreneurship and innovation. She is a Branding Specialist and Growth Strategist who specializes in building the framework, platforms, and partnerships needed to be impactful in today’s challenging economy. Currently serving as the Executive Director of the Hatch AVL Foundation, a non-profit foundation supporting high-growth startups of WNC through incubation, regional programming, and events.