Could you provide a brief recap of your career since graduating from Owen?
After graduating I was a program manager at Microsoft for about a year. During that time I started my company LOGE Camps. It was a concept I developed while I was at Owen and had pitched it for the launching the venture course in my second year. As soon as I got to Microsoft I started to have the itching to do it. During those 11 months I began building out the website and raising capital. I partnered up with someone out here in the Northwest and I left Microsoft just a month or so before we opened our first property as LOGE Camps. Since then we’ve scaled from one property on the coast of Washington to 6 across four states.
What is your company and where did the idea come from? What served as the biggest motivator or influence in starting your company?
LOGE Camps is an experiential hospitality company. We have a line that we like to use — “we buy crappy hotels and make them awesome,” but we do more than that. We buy distressed assets in regional and tertiary markets and renovate them. We typically add cafes, a live music venue, outdoor amenities like kitchens and firepits and a lot of programs – everything from hosting avalanche safety courses to game nights for locals to connecting people to give mountain biking lessons. We try to create community through both programming and the amenities we have on site and our staff. We do that through redeveloping dated motels.
The biggest motivator is a couple of things. As I developed the business at Owen I was so excited doing the work. It was the first thing I had done in quite awhile that I really liked. I was of my own volition working an extra 20 hours a week. I loved it and was so excited about the thought of building and creating. When I got to the end of the course and pitched the idea, it was the first time I saw someone who actually would invest. I was already going to Microsoft but up until that point I had thought of it as a really cool project.
That moment flipped a switch and I thought the only difference between this being a project and a fun, profitable business is me deciding to turn it into reality. I think from then on the entire time at Microsoft that seed was planted. I think someone approaching me at the pitch for the launching the venture course set the seed and made it something I had to do.
What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur and how have you worked to overcome this challenge?
Definitely the most challenging thing is doubt. For students and when you’re raising money it’s always about “what if no one invests” and then for us, once we had raised the money and were getting ready to open our first property, it was “what if no one comes?”. Everyone thinks there is going to be a finish line that you cross where that doubt just doesn’t exist and where you’re totally confident — but it never does. We were completely full the first night we opened and as soon as we knew that was the case, the doubt shifted to the second night. Then we were going to open our second property and it was the doubt of what if we can’t carry on that specialness. There’s always that doubt and no one can reassure you. As the entrepreneur and founder you are the one that’s tasked with wrestling with that doubt, knowing that it’s never going away and knowing the only way that you overcome it is by getting after it and making stuff happen. I think you doubt everything and you realize everything happens because you make it happen. It’s your job and that’s just hard. Everyday it’s hard to face doubt and realize that the negative side will happen if you don’t push hard enough and make it happen.
What qualities are most important to possess as an entrepreneur?
There’s a lot. One of the most important is a learning mentality – the ability to learn. You never know it all. It’s the ability to learn or to continually learn. Once you think you know something it’s either time to learn the next level or time to learn something entirely new. You’re shifting from learning how to build your product in the real world to learning how to build in the technical world. No matter what, I think learning is one of the most important.
Number two would probably be optimism. Not blindly optimistic or hopefully optimistic but just willing to wake up each day and know that if it’s raining the sun is shining behind it and you can go and make things happen. I think that’s hugely important. Along with optimism goes persistence. Even if the situation is not great you have to be able to turn a path that will make it great again and make it work out.
The last one would be communication. Communication is huge. As a founder and entrepreneur you have a vision and the only way that gets out of your head is if you’re able to communicate it. To start your business you have to be able to communicate that vision effectively to investors and from there you have to communicate your vision effectively to bring on a team and customers to try your product. I think learning, communication, optimism and persistence. Those are the four qualities that are absolutely critical and never go away. There’s never any phase where those things will drop off from being important.
What are you most proud of about your business?
I’m most proud of the team that we’ve built, which sounds cliche, but you learn it’s not easy building a team especially for a young and risky venture when you’re asking people to put their livelihood on the line to join you. That’s difficult. The people that have become involved in our business as investors, advisors and team members are all amazing. There’s been quite a few times, one of them was back when COVID started, as we navigated the COVID crisis and the onset of that, seeing how well and quickly we were able to respond and do things. That is our team being amazing people. I am so proud of who that team was, how they work together and the fact that people are operating from the same value base. Our team is by far what I’m most proud of.
What advice do you have for students as they launch their business? Are there any tools you consistently use as an entrepreneur?
My biggest piece of advice would be to launch your business. There’s a lot of great ideas and smart people at Owen and I think a lot of people have the notion of only moving forward if they get that next domino in place. There’s never a perfect time. Just do it. Just launch. Just go. That’d be number one because I want to see more businesses coming out of Owen. Just start your business.
Number two would be to never stop talking to customers. Dave Owens talks about this and it’s in every entrepreneurship book ever. It’s 100% true and it’s very difficult to do. You can’t ever stop talking to your customers. Early on, every single day we’d interview customers about what they liked, what they didn’t like and how we could fix it and what we could make better. It’s not necessarily about the answers to the questions you ask, it’s about the dialogue and what you open up. One, you open up the fact that you truly care to your customers which is important in today’s day and age. Two, if you just open the dialogue they’ll start telling you things that you didn’t think to ask but you really need to know. I think that communicating with your customers will help a bad business find its way to be a good business and a good business find its way to be a great business. It will also help people more rapidly accelerate product market fit, scaling and it keeps you grounded in the day to day and not get too lost in the spreadsheets.
As far as resources I used some ProForma templates that I had started in business school. I definitely looked at initial pitch decks from big tech companies. Those were super helpful to see how people framed their story in real investor pitches. I also used books about startups and venture capital by Brad Feld to better understand that ecosystem. Otherwise just people. Your network is going to be huge. It doesn’t have to be your Owen network but start reaching out and building relationships with people. There’s no instant success in building a network, just that slow accumulation of great contacts that I try to stay in touch with.
What do you do to live a balanced life? Do you have any interesting or fun hobbies?
I ski, climb and run a lot. I do those first things in the morning. I’ve found that moving gives me time to process things in my head. Maybe it’s something from being in the army that stuck with me, but I workout every morning and it gives me good processing time. The other thing is — I have two kids. I’ve told every team I’ve ever worked with, from Owen to my current team, I set aside dinner time with my family every single night. I never work through that period. Most of the time I’ll work after it but it’s finding the thing that’s sacred to you and blocking it off and communicating that to other people and making sure they know it. That helps a ton. I tell people dinner with my family is sacred to me so from 6-7:30 I’m with my girls. I’ve communicated that and other people stay away from it. It helps me to remember what’s important.