We welcome our new columnist, Christine Cunningham, who hails from Alaska. Christine wrote “Women Hunting Alaska,” and lives the life that she writes about in her freelance career. She also fishes.
The first time EvoOutdoors appeared on my screen, its name appealed to me right away. In a few clicks, I found a company that specialized in premium camouflage outdoor apparel, but it was the name that got me thinking. It evoked the kind of cultural evolution occurring in the outdoor industry — not just the growing number of women hunters, but also a shift toward increasing quality in the outdoor experience. Outfitters have long replicated a formula for success on both large and small scales, but when I met Tracy Harden, who co-founded the company with her husband, Dave, I learned that something altogether different motivated her to start the business.
As a female hunter, Tracy had experienced the familiar frustration of shopping for outdoor apparel. “Stores would seem to have a lot of everything but very little in what you where actually looking for, and to get one-on-one service — forget it,” said Tracy. Prior to Evo, Tracy had worked in all spectrums of retail, from customer service to design, but her favorite experience was as a personal shopper. A personal shopper is something everyone wants, but not everyone can afford. I imagine her brainstorm: What if there was a way to offer that service to the outdoor world?
Tracy and Dave both came to hunting as adults. Dave’s first chance to go hunting happened in his early 20s with his children’s grandfather, who slowly introduced him to the world of hunting. “I was amazed, awed and thrilled,” said Dave. Like many hunters, he recognized that participation in nature as a hunter made him more aware of the world around him. He started out modern firearm hunting for deer and muzzleloading for elk. Ten years ago, he decided to give bowhunting a try, and another world opened up. His hunting would take yet another turn after he met Tracy and she became his hunting partner.
The couple hunts during elk and deer seasons together. Tracy learned the hard way what it meant to have poor quality gear in the field, and recalls her early days of hunting and how the wet, cold seeped through her cotton clothes and her back ached from carrying a pack that didn’t fit quite right. “Hunters tend to take their clothing seriously,” said Tracy. For her, it kept coming back to a search for quality and wanting to offer it in terms of product, people and a team approach. The name EvoOutdoors captures her vision for innovation and an evolving process of growth.
Camo Concierge is just one of the ways EvoOutdoors engages people, but it epitomizes its customer service values. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for involvement and help hunters make educated decisions,” said Tracy.
How does Camo Concierge work? First, Tracy and Dave gather as much information as possible to make successful suggestions that are personalized to a particular customer’s needs, using a Personal Shopping Form. Then, they follow up with a few questions. Information includes type and length of the hunt, camp conditions, if archery or modern firearm will be used and if the hunter has a favorite camo pattern.
This information tells Tracy and Dave how the hunter will pack and gives them an idea of the weight of the product desired, what kind of layering system they would suggest, as well as fabric choices. After gathering all the information and getting to know the person a bit, they familiarize themselves with the area if it’s new to them and build a system. It’s a process that relates to individuals and builds honest relationships. “We never offer anything we don’t feel great about,” said Tracy.
Camo Concierge epitomizes Evo’s approach, but one of the simpler ways they do the same thing is by reaching out to a customer before sending an item that runs big or small. Their genuine customer service and focus on quality at all levels has a growing appeal. The company has attracted Field, Youth and Pro Staff who share a love of the outdoors where hunting and sustainability are equally important. “We all have a passion to get outdoors, keep life simple, provide for our family and respect our world,” said Tracy.
With 1 year under their belt, Tracy is excited about the possibilities. “Our brains are always moving and thinking what if.” It’s their goal to continue to explore new ideas and to keep their identity as a specialty place to shop. I can’t help but get excited about what’s in store for this gifted team that has caused me to evolve in 2 ways: my view on the industry and in worthy additions to my camo closet.