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Why I Swapped My Heels for Hiking Shoes by Jenelle Peterson

Close up of hiking boots walking along a log in the woods.

This week's blog post is written by a member of our community and affiliate partner CEO & founder, Jenelle Peterson, of Wild Life Outdoor Adventures -- subscription-based outdoor adventure boxes that are geared for kids aged 8-12. Jenelle is constantly showing us that the world is full of adventure through her company and personal adventures. Her childhood outdoor pursuits inspired her to explore over 30 different countries, live abroad, and experience the natural world not only in her own backyard, but all around the globe. Jenelle has shared her story with us today about why she swapped her heels for hiking shoes, and how she got to where she is in her adventure journey. She also talks about where Wild Life Outdoor Adventures is today. Here is what she had to say:

 

Jenelle holds out a subscription box.

Blame it all on my roots...Why I Swapped My Heels for Hiking Shoes

I’m a 6th generation Canadian, so we grew up spending time outside all year round. I grew up with two older brothers, and whether it was playing with “Army Ants” in the front yard shrubs, building snow forts that could rival a rebel base on Hoth*, or catching minnows - those experiences were a huge part of the person I became. The outdoors made me strong, curious, and confident.


Spending time outdoors as a child inspired me to explore Canada from coast to coast. I’ve hiked the West Coast trail, camped all over western Canada, portaged between Ontario lakes in Algonquin Park, hiked the hills in Montreal, and explored the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland.  My childhood curiosity inspired me to visit over 35+ different countries – hike Machu Picchu, Mt. Kilimanjaro, walk the green hills of Ireland and the Great Wall of China. Spending time outdoors gave me the confidence to live abroad and see the natural world not only in my own backyard, but all around the globe.


I’ve always been grateful for those experiences but never fully considered the impact. Now when I look back, most of the pictures from my childhood are outdoors, usually holding an animal, amphibian, or insect.


* Hoth is a fictional planet from the Star Wars franchise, well known for its cold and hostile weather.

When I became a Mom

When I became a parent, I thought a lot about my childhood and the childhood I want to provide my daughter. Being a working Mom was (and still is) challenging for me. For 15 years I worked in Marketing and Sales from big multinational companies to start-ups, I worked at marketing agencies and consultancies and spent all my career growing and advising other people’s businesses - which was great; but juggling time with my family (my partner works shifts at the hospital), really made me consider the value my work was creating. All of a sudden, the time spent away from home was more valuable. I struggled with my mental health and the dreaded mom guilt as I prepared for a return from mat leave back to the corporate work world. I had an inner voice that told me nothing would be more challenging, rewarding, and make me a better businessperson – than starting my own business. I thought about the times and places where I felt the happiest and where I learned the most important lessons I wanted to pass on to my children – I kept coming back to the outdoors.


Three subscription boxes.

It started with a Moose

One childhood impression that was left on me was by Jerry the Moose. BC Parks had a program called Jerry’s Rangers and we would collect stickers during our camping trips, attend amphitheatres, frequent the nature hut, and learn and explore on pursuit to earn our “Jerrys Rangers Moose Antlers”. It was a simple yet effective way to make learning feel like play. I decided I wanted to create a business dedicated to getting more kids outdoors, more often. To do this I felt like we needed to connect with families more frequently than just summer. After almost a year in the making – Wild Life Outdoor Adventures was born. I packed away the high heels and pantsuits and rolled up my sleeves to build a tool that would help parents and kids spend less time scrolling – and more time strolling.

We created 12 unique outdoor-themed subscription boxes for kids that provide outdoor gear, adventure ideas, skill-building lessons, and crafts that align with the school curriculum from grades 3-6. They’re ideal for the backyard OR the backcountry. We’ve shipped over 10,000+ kits across Canada and recently have launched in the USA! If you’re interested in what we’re doing, want to subscribe or grow with us – please reach out!


We launched on March 11, 2020

Right smack in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic. Not ideal. Our big launch was to be at the Outdoor Adventure Show with over 30,000 attendees. It was canceled. Like many, everyone on our small team was struggling with various work-from-home scenarios. Our supply chain was disrupted, our lead times tripled, exchange rates went the wrong direction, and having just launched this year, we didn’t qualify for financial aid. It was tough, it is still tough. It would be so easy to quit. But then I remembered why we started this all in the first place: to get kids outdoors more often. As the world gets flipped upside down and sideways, it’s never been more important to me to be an ambassador to outdoor spaces and the opportunities they provide, break down barriers, and give more kids more ways to be curious, to adventure, and to be wild.

Last month I celebrated 2 years at the CEO + Founder of The Wild | Life Outdoor Adventures. When unexpected things happen, plans often go out the window. We’ve had to improvise, pivot, and make tough choices. But I will tell you, the biggest value we’ve created and the most success we’ve seen, has been doubling down on community. If I could do it again, I would have created more of these connections earlier in our journey. Individuals, organizations, businesses, communities, and media outlets, if you have shared goals and purpose – there are people out there to support you. If you are a local business – find your people, find shared values and voices and lift each other up, ask for help, lend a hand, go the extra mile for partners, customers, and like-minded organizations.

Over the last two years the business has brought my family closer together and had many positive impacts, it’s put us and our children outside more often and taught us many new things about business and the outdoors. Sometimes you find work, and sometimes the work finds you. But I am convinced that when you start a business deeply rooted in its purpose, success will come. If you are passionate about the outdoors and have a business idea to help create access, experiences, or education – DO IT!

Whether you are a business owner, or community member; be patient, be resilient, be a leader, and get creative – when we use our shared voices, we can create change far beyond the products we bring to market.


Recently I got to spend a family weekend outdoor weekend in Canmore, AB with Adrianna Skori, CEO of Kids Who Explore. She is the real deal. Genuine and diligent in creating a diverse, quality, kid-focused social group – an outdoor mama with an entrepreneurial spirit, paving the way. It felt so good to be in good company. And that my friends is, how I know I won’t miss wearing high heels and dry clean clothes to work – I’ve found my place, my purpose, and I won’t stop.


Thank you, Kids Who Explore, for this platform to share our story and so many great stories. We are grateful to have allies amplifying the work of outdoor businesses. 


Stay Wild,

Jenelle Peterson

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