In November of 2002 Kim Walker and Mike Callas took the final step after years of preparation and opened a new outdoor store on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO. Downtown Boulder already sported over a dozen sporting goods and outdoor stores, but just like every entrepreneur, Walker and Callas had a twist, and this one has worked.

The pair opened the first all women’s specific outdoor retail shop in the country called Outdoor Divas. Kim Walker modestly told BOSS, “We saw a need up there, so Mike went to business school, and we looked at several locations, and our research told us that Boulder would be the best place, after all, everyone is active and 51% are women.”

With more Vendors designing clothing and equipment for the women’s market, and more sophisticated design elements going into this category, Callas and Walker thought it was time for a more sophisticated female-oriented shopping experience. The response thus far has been more than either has expected.

“People really react to seeing everything in one store,” said Walker. “We get everyone coming into the store – tourists, college students, and sponsored athletes – and they are all excited to see such a huge selection of women’s gear all in one spot.”

Walker told BOSS that when they first pitched the idea to vendors, most of the support came from the companies that only did women’s specific gear. “Companies like Isis and Moving Comfort really offered a lot of support in the beginning,” said Walker. “A lot of vendors and manufacturers weren’t too sure of the concept in the beginning, but this past year we’ve had more and more companies showing interest. Vendors are definitely interested now.”

One of the key requirements for the brands at Outdoor Divas is the design. Walker said that most companies are moving beyond the “shrink it and pink it” styles that defined women’s outdoor gear just a few years ago. “Women on the design staff are very important. A man can’t design or test women’s skis appropriately,” Walker said. “You can tell which companies have women out their testing their gear. In the ski industry K2 is really leading the way with that.”

Walker said that most categories in the outdoor and snowsports markets are very well assorted when it comes to women’s gear. “The climbing vendors and manufacturers have really stepped up in the past few years with shoe designs from Five Ten and Sportiva and more clothing selection,” she said. “Paddle sports are probably lagging behind everyone else, especially whitewater. Ski products are getting better, but we need more expert level product.

There is a very real gap in the assortment when you look at the high-end gear, especially with boots there is one tier missing… Snowboarding is definitely leading the way in women’s winter sports gear and ski is lagging behind.”

Walker is quick to emphasize that many vendors are doing a great job with their women’s gear programs. “The ones who really stand out are the ones who focus on fit, function and style, in that order,” she said. “Women shop differently and have different priorities than men. There is much more focus on the shopping experience, and the industry is realizing this.”

Callas and Walker have been approached on numerous occasions by people looking to franchise their concept. Walker said that they have some very definite goals in mind about growing their company, but remained elusive on expansion details other than to completely rule out any franchises.

Outdoor Divas’ next step is to expand their web presence. “We are working on a full-on e-commerce site which should be up and running this spring,” said Walker. “Right now our website is really just a place holder with pictures, instruction schedules, and events. The new website will give us much more growth potential.”

Editor’s Note —

Each month, The BOSS Report will feature an in-depth look at a company in the Bicycle, Outdoor, or SnowSports market that makes a difference in the industry.
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