So, what’s it like working for Denver Outfitters? Now that I am officially a part of the “crew” here, at Denver Outfitters headquarters, I get that question a lot. Many of my friends and acquaintances know I started here part time and gradually weaseled my way into a full time position.
I can tell you at first it was definitely intimidating. I walked into a group of people who literally went through hell and back together. I have heard a handful of stories from their pasts and I don’t know that I would have pulled myself up off the floor and been able to mold myself into the success they are today. I came from a totally different kind of “struggle”…if I am even allowed to call it that.
I grew up in upper-middle class America. I went to college – because that is what you are “supposed” to do. I went to graduate school to try to differentiate myself from the rest of the pack. I graduated into a market that wanted to hire me for internship after internship, yet I couldn’t pay my student loan bill on $8 an hour. Why did I go through all the mental and financial stress of college/grad school if it wasn’t going to pay off? What do I do with my life? After moving back home with my parents for a few months, I ended up in a sales role that had nothing to do with my degree; but it was commission based…So, I worked my butt off to chip away at that student debt. While this job served its purpose in my life, it also took away my life. I spent a great deal of time working, and the time I did have off, I was too grumpy or exhausted to do anything. I lost touch with friends, I stopped doing the things I love, I stopped being ME. The only reason I survived as long as I did at that job was my co-workers and my relationships with them. I spent more time with them than I did anyone else. So, I do want to pay my dues to those wonderful people who helped shape me for 2.5 years in corporate America.
After I saved up enough to be comfortable financially, I took a few months off and went on the search for what makes me happy. I had no idea where to start other than knowing the hobbies that made me happy. I started there. These wonderful hobbies led me to finally stumble upon Denver Outfitters. I knew about the Rod Vault, I wanted a Rod Vault…but other than that, I really had no idea WHO they were.
Turns out they are a rag-tag group of friends who came from humble beginnings. They saw an opportunity and built it into something great. I knew from the second I walked in, that Denver Outfitters was different. I sat down in a room of 8 people and the CEO grilled me about the 3 albums I would bring to a deserted island to listen to for the rest of my life (I don’t even remember what I said… I was so nervous, but I think I played it pretty “cool”). I learned that these people actually care about their employees. I learned that they cover health care (say what? for real?) I learned that they are flexible and know that life happens outside of work. I learned that sometimes the best way to come up with ideas is to just sit around in a circle with your friends talking. I learned that the only way we are going to progress as a society is by challenging the status quo.
Everything we do here is different than the corporate environment I came from. Bottom lines are important, they are in every business. But so often in the situation I came from, I felt like the only people that really benefited from the business decisions being made were the people at the top. Whether that was in the education world, or in the business world. I felt like a hamster on a wheel that no one actually gave a shit about. “Student debt?” Sucks for you. “No jobs to graduate to?” Well, you must be lazy or entitled…It seemed like the same story for countless others from my generation. I did everything I was SUPPOSED to do. I got good grades, I continued my education, etc. and it still didn’t yield the result I was told it would. The system is broken, even for people from privileged backgrounds like myself. I am not comparing my struggles to the group of people that I am now a part of, at all. But, I do want everyone to realize that a sense of purpose, belonging, and feeling cared about are paramount in the business and education world – which is something I feel like we have lost sight of as a society. We have to come together to create a system that is better for everyone, and it starts with small businesses like Denver Outfitters.
So, I am asking you to support businesses that do things the right way. We aren’t perfect here, at Denver Outfitters, we make business mistakes, and learn new things every single day. But we try to do things differently. I want us to grow, I want us to hire other people who have lost their way or feel forgotten about, I want us to succeed just as much as the original 7 friends that started this company. I might not always get my paycheck on time these days, but I can tell you that waiting a few extra days (on the occasion) is worth waking up every day knowing I am part of a team that cares about me. I still find myself in awe of the path they took to get here, and am humbled every day to get to be part of the story moving forward.
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