Founded in 2013 by a small group of gear manufacturers, Outdoor Gear Builders of now includes more than 75 members, and is made up of businesses and organizations representing the entire outdoor industry in Western North Carolina. Our members include: Gear Builders, Experience Providers, Skills Instructors, Outfitters, Retail Shops, Supporting Businesses, and Nonprofits.
In local sourcing
Matt has been an advocate, business leader, connector and educator in our outdoor industry for many years. He has been engaged with the OGB since the early days serving as a founding board member including a term as board chair before exiting in 2020. In partnership with the OGB and Mountain Bizworks, he developed the Waypoint Accelerator, an outdoor entrepreneurship and innovation accelerator program for early-stage, outdoor-focused companies which he has led for the past 3 years. At the same time, he served as the Outdoor Industry Business Specialist for the NC Small Business & Technology Center.
He loves being outside fly fishing, paddle boarding, hiking, camping and skiing. The Appalachian Mountains hold a special place in his heart, having spent the majority of his life living in Western North Carolina with his wife and two boys. Matt studied business and outdoor recreation management at Appalachian State University and earned an MBA from Western Carolina University. He believes that providing a platform for collaboration, networking, the exchange of ideas, best practices and connections is one of most important value propositions the OGB offers their member companies. This platform spurs innovation, competitive advantage, business growth and overall positive impact within our outdoor economy and community.
Board of Directors
Anna has over a decade of experience working in the outdoor industry namely in the events, sales, and marketing sectors. Currently, she is the Marketing Director at Eagles Nest Outfitters, Inc (ENO) spearheading the events program, strategic partnerships, and public relations, all combining her passions of building and growing relationships, environmental stewardship, and expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion within her local community and the outdoor industry. She relocated to WNC in 2011 and currently resides in Mars Hill, NC with her partner, dog, cat, and many chickens. Outside of the office, she enjoys hiking, surfing, fishing, gardening, and getting people outside.
Stacey is an outdoor industry veteran with more than 17 years of experience in trade show management. She was appointed Executive Director at the beginning of 2020. During her tenure, she’s helped the organization grow to over 600 members with 14 annual shows servicing 3,000+ retailers. Her and her husband are long-time residents of West Asheville, NC. When not walking their dog in the neighborhood, you’ll find them on weekend adventures hiking, biking or at the beach.
Russ has been an avid hiker and camper his entire life. He joined the Outdoor Industry 30 years ago; the last 3 years as COO for LightHeart Gear and Excelsior Sewing LLC. He has worn many hats during those years with experience in purchasing, inventory management, government contract administration, shipping, receiving, sales, customer service, PR, HR, IT, and Operations Management. He started attending OGB meetings as soon as he joined LightHeart Gear and joined the Board at the beginning of 2020 as Treasurer. After living in Asheville for seven years, he and his wife Rita moved to Hendersonville, where they live today. They love our mountains and their community.
Allie was first exposed to the OGB during the summer of 2017 at the Annual Campout and has been hooked ever since. Currently the Custom Lead Engineer at Rockgeist, she has been involved in the outdoor industry in Western NC since graduating from NC State in 2018 and loved every second. When not building bikepacking gear, she enjoys exploring nature with her boyfriend and 2 pups.
A lifelong outdoor recreation enthusiast, Laurel has participated in almost every adventure sport under the sun. From rock climbing to whitewater kayaking, and marathon running to snowboarding, she’s never lacked for new things to try. These days, she sticks mostly to hiking with her dogs and mountain biking in WNC. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Laurel traveled the world in her role as a public affairs officer for many years before leaving the AF to start her own outdoor photography company, and eventually founding Status Forward, a web design agency that works with outdoor-focused brands.
As a young person growing up in Switzerland, Matt was always looking for US brands in his adopted hometown of Zurich. In time, this hobby developed into an academic interest about why brands succeed or fail when entering foreign markets. After completing his MBA with a focus on international business at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Matt started with K2 Sports, eventually serving as General Manager for Europe Team Sports Platform. In 2010, Matt decided to combine his work experience with his personal interest in branding and new market entry to start Sport Hansa where he serves as Managing Director.
Decades of wrenching on bikes and guiding backcountry cycling trips throughout the US led Tim to Kitsbow Cycling Apparel where he’s now the Technical Team Manager, responsible for overseeing the efficient operation of all the machines on the production floor. He fuels his days with coffee, pizza, chocolate, and a passion for problem solving to stay focused on constantly improving the manufacturing process. He fills his free time enjoying the outdoors and laughing with his family or daydreaming about where to go on the next bike adventure.
Spending time in the mountains of Vermont as a child instilled in Alyson her love of the outdoors. After an early career in the fashion industry in the DC metro area, she found her way back to the mountains in Asheville, NC where she has lived for over 20 years. Combining her fashion experience with her love of the outdoors along with a newfound joy for running, she launched Blyss Running in 2015, a women’s running apparel brand. She is passionate about empowering women through running by providing them with functional and comfortable running gear. In her free time, Alyson enjoys running and hiking the trails of WNC, biking the gravel roads, cross country skiing when she can find it, gardening, being a soccer mom and spending time with friends and family.
If depth of experience is the metric by which you judge, few can match Devin’s resume in the outdoor industry. From retailing to guiding, from bikes to whitewater and everything in between, Devin has been involved in a whole host of roles in every corner of the outdoor economy during his 11 years in the industry. A true native son, Devin graduated from UNC Asheville and focused briefly on building a resume in marketing before starting Asheville Adventure Company. During his company’s early beginnings, it has seen tremendous growth as an outfitter in the Asheville area. This has been due in part to Devin’s leadership in brand development, his deep knowledge of the area, and his entrepreneurial talent. In Devin’s quiet moments away from work, he is an avid and well recognized runner. As one of the few sponsored runners in Asheville, Devin’s athletic resume includes a 2019 Shut In Trail Race victory here on his home trails.
Stuart began a career as an outdoor educator and guide in the early 80’s leading wilderness trips in Northern WI, MI, MN, and Canada. It was during these early days of wilderness travel and exploration that he also found his love for working with people in this setting. In 1988 Cowles completed a Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail and that jaunt solidified his desire to be in the mountains and develop a career in the outdoor industry. A short stint living and working in the industry in CO helped boost his love for rock and alpine climbing and a few years up in NH allowed him to learn how to suffer through long cold winters and swing the ice climbing tools to the highest level of proficiency. In 1992 Cowles moved to Asheville, NC specifically to start one of the country’s very first rock climbing gyms, Climbmax Climbing. Beyond pursuing advanced training and certification in his field, Stuart has also been actively engaged in his community, working on the board of many area non-profits, promoting parks and greenways, and helping to create the long-lasting Mountain Sports Festival. When Stuart is not out sharing his love of climbing with others he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, trail running with his pup, and even creating and sewing gear through his small company Earthsports Design.
While Jenna is new to the outdoor industry, the outdoors have been a part of her life since she was a kid growing up in the mountains of western North Carolina, Northern Georgia and the upstate of South Carolina. Jenna comes from the non-profit management and victim services industry where she coordinated volunteers, worked on strategic partnerships and community building, fundraising, marketing, and event planning. During her 7 year tenure in the non-profit world, Jenna would escape on the weekends to the mountains to play and decided to jump all the way into the outdoor industry. Jenna currently works as Marketing Leader at Cane Creek Cycling Components and is responsible for leading all marketing, promotional, public relations, advertising, sponsorship, social media and sales support initiatives. When she’s not in the office, you can find Jenna mountain biking, hiking, skiing (when it’s cold enough) or climbing with her friends.
Chris credits his grandfather, a founding member of the Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, for inspiring his love of the outdoors but it wasn’t until college that he really got hooked. Mountain biking and hiking the area around the campus of Western Carolina University was where he decided the outdoors would always be a part of his life. After college he found whitewater raft guiding and his true passion. Chris was a raft guide for 12 years on the French Broad River and continues to paddle recreationally almost every week throughout the year. Chris comes to the OGB as a nine-year co-owner of Second Gear, an outdoor gear consignment shop in the River Arts District. With a mission to make the outdoors more accessible to all socioeconomic classes and keep gear out of landfills Second Gear has been thriving for the last 18 years. Chris is excited to be a part of the OGB and to explore new ways to get more exposure for local makers’ products.
Abby really found her footing in the WNC outdoor community (literally) when she first joined the NC Mountain Trail Runners (NCMTR) back in 2016. After spending 2 years serving as President of NCMTR, she continued being actively engaged within the community, serving on the board for the RUN828 Foundation, working on creating more trail running opportunities for women, and co-founding WNC’s first and only hundred mile race, the Hellbender 100 Miler. If you haven’t already guessed by now, Abby loves trail running, but what she’s valued most from it are the new connections and insights she’s made from people of varying backgrounds in the outdoor industry. Currently, she is the Digital Marketing Manager for White Blaze Marketing, where she works on developing, implementing and managing marketing campaigns for a number of businesses. In her role, she has produced targeted marketing campaigns, social media and display advertising along with email campaigns to help increase brand awareness and loyalty for companies both small and global. When she isn’t immersed in the digital marketing world, Abby loves digging into a good book, trying out new recipes, and tagging high peaks with her partner.