Welcome to Episode 332 of The Outdoor Biz Podcast with Kenji Haroutunian and Lance Camisasca from The Big Gear Show. We talk about the success of the inaugural Big Gear Show show and what we can expect this time out!
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I’m a lifelong bicycle industry professional. Started my way up through retail and spent seven years in retail management. Then decided I wanted to go to the other side of the fence and worked for, for brands.
And I worked with three different global brands for the next 13 years until this trade show concept was knocking on my door, which was the show director of Interbike. And I was lucky enough to land that position. I stayed with Interbike for 10 years as the show director.
And then I didn’t really like the way the show was headed. So I decided to leave and start my own little event company. I had a vision to do these very small, very intimate experiential events focused mainly on the media. I did these events called press camp, where we brought a number of media members in to meet some really interesting brands at a sexy resort. And we would spend three days talking about products and writing products and having good meals and really enjoying each other’s company. And I did that for almost a decade. And then I was kind of Unemployed if you will. I was consulting and helping the brands do a better job at trade shows until I heard about The Big Gear Show, and it was about to be launched and Sutton Bacon our CEO and owner of the show group, and I got on a call. We spoke for an hour and a half and within a week I was hired. I just love the concept.
I’ve mostly just tried to follow Lance around cause he does some really cool things, but we did work together back at the trade shows. I was there in charge of the outdoor retailer team. He was in charge of the Interbike team. And so, I learned a lot during that experience. And then also left to kind of do my own thing in 2015. I worked with different other events, including the Grassroots Connect and some other organizations, you know, connected to the outdoor industry. And then got together with Lance and we did a couple of outdoor press camps. So we had combined the bike press camp, plus an outdoor press camp into one like super-camp. A couple of times we did that. And then I’ve known Sutton actually for many years during his time serving on the board of the OIA and running an organism retail outfit, he called Nantahala Outdoor Center.
So he was a retailer in my world of outdoor. Specifically on the paddle, canoe and kayak side. And so, I got called into service. What I consider into service of the industry, again to help bring this vision to life of a new kind of event that kind of took the best of our experiences and brought them to the industry to kind of create a new model that fit better financially, that we focused our energies on the gear that gets people outdoors on participants and eventually the consumer where, you know, there was so much dynamic energy right now and excitement around new participants.
And that’s another thing I do, Rick is in addition to my work with the big gear show, I’m an inclusion and equity advocate in the outdoor space. So I work with the fly fishing trade association and OIA and other organizations to help advance our reach and our invitation to more people to come and be part of our world. And that’s the greater outdoor recreation world that includes compatible and outdoor and even some motorized categories.
Two or the two or three of the outcomes that you’re most pleased with from that first event
Kenji– I mean, first of all, you have to question the wisdom of launching a show in the middle of a pandemic, but such is our madness, I guess. But I think, the main thing is we struck the right vibe and by this vibe is one of those crazy terms, you know, sort of, what are you talking about? It’s a little bit like other terms that I’ve used with people over the years, what does that mean? You know, core, what does that mean? But that’s really so important when you’re producing an event that it feel a certain way that it actually helps people kind of feel like they are welcome and there it’s it fits through. They are, and they don’t feel awkward.
Lance– I’ll talk more about the fundamentals. I mean, we really set out to have a show that would have product discovery, would have good education, would have a great demo component to it, particularly in cycling.
We wanted to have good media there, you know, all the things on the whiteboard that actually shaped and formed the show, and I think we, we hit on every one of those bucket list, check marks. And then as Kenji said, I mean, the vibe of all of that coming together was as powerful. I think we all high-fived at the end and realized. We met all those objectives.
Are there a couple of activities or a couple of things that you wish went more smoothly or in some way better?
Kenji– I think staffing, registration, you know, the process element of it. We needed to put more horses on that earlier on. And I think we’ve learned to create some systems and, and put in place systems that are improved over last year. We were very focused on retailers last year, but we didn’t have a person in charge of retailers. And this year we’ve changed that. Food options were challenges last year, partly because of staffing and just the nature of what was going on with pandemic the response to pandemic.
Lance– just to touch on the food, we had some things lined up that didn’t even come through in the final hours because of the pandemic and lack of staffing and that type of thing. But I think Kenji said it really well. I mean, I think the communication aspect of the show we did the best we could. And you know, when you, when you have a new show that no one’s ever been to, and they’ve really never even been to a show like this show, you’re kind of telling people to squint and imagine this, you know, and how do you communicate that effectively is really difficult.
What’s new this time out?
Lance– We liked the floor plan we laid out, It’s going to be bigger of course. But I think, generally speaking, the show is going to look a lot like the show we had in 21. We’re going to try to not do zones as much as we did. We were pretty zoned in 21, where we had paddle in a specific area and cycling and outdoor. There’ll be some of that because of the necessity, for example, paddle needs to be by the water. So that’s going to be a natural zone. But I think we built a show around cross-pollination and bringing segments together.
Kenji– It will be a little denser for sure. It’ll be a little tighter because we purposely made large aisles and spaced things out quite a bit. We have the room to do that. And again, created that sense of safety and airiness, you know, is was really important. So it’ll be a little more compressed this time, just cause we’re going to fit more people into the same spot.