Straight Talk: Heather Balogh Rochfort & WildKind

Heather has been publishing incredible outdoor content for years at various publications and her own blog, Just a Colorado Gal. Then she had a baby and like many of us who lived and breathed adventure before having children, wanted to continue the adventure. Being a driven entrepreneur, she co-founded a business to support outdoor driven families like her’s. But it’s also to help eliminate barriers of entry for new parents who weren’t that outdoorsey pre-kids. Introducing WildKind, a new community for outdoor families.

The website has a little blurb about how this started around skiing skills and a trip to Cuba, but is there a more indepth story about the inspiration behind WildKind?

Before our daughter Liliana arrived in 2017, I was heavily involved in the outdoor scene. Brooke Murray, my co-founder, was the same before her son Huck arrived in 2015. But then, I got pregnant and it was relatively shocking how fast people wrote off our outdoor lifestyle. The second my baby bump became visible, I feel like I heard a lot of: “You better enjoy (((insert activity here)) now while you still can because that won’t happen once the baby arrives!” And honestly, I became really frustrated with people assuming outdoor adventures ended once family began. My husband and I vowed that we’d continue our lifestyle as best as possible, helping our daughter learn how to adapt to our way of living rather than the other way around. And we did. We took Liliana on her first backcountry skiing hut trip at four months and her first international campervan trip at six months. Then, when she was seven months old, we took off on a three-month road trip where we lived in a tent and bopped around the American West. It was our way of learning how to adapt our past lifestyle to our new family, and it was a wonderful experience. 

After Brooke relocated to Denver from Utah a few months later, we realized we had a lot in common. We both loved outdoor experiences with our budding families—and we both knew that adventure logistics scared the living daylights out of most families. We strongly believe in the healing and rejuvenating effects of outdoor adventure on adults and children, so we knew we wanted to help as many families as possible find their wild. From there, we identified the common obstacles—largely logistics and expensive gear—and worked backwards. We know that inspiration is great, but it can only get you so far. Families need tangible action-items like instructional videos and discounted/free gear to chip away at the barriers and help them get outside.

The other component, of course, is our nonprofit. In addition to WildKind, we also founded a registered 501c3 nonprofit in the state of Colorado. Set to open in 2021, WildKind Closet will be a free gear loaner library for families looking to dip their toe into outdoor adventure. Again, it comes back to those barriers to entry. Gear is expensive and we know many families can’t just drop $300 on a kid carrier or $500 on a new tent just to try camping for the first time. I mean, what if they hate it?! (Haha, just kidding…they won’t!) By creating a free gear loaner library, we’re helping shrink another obstacle by providing affordable access to gear. Once we realized we wanted to tackle this endeavor, we knew funding would be key. Again, we worked backwards. Now, 5% of our annual profits at WildKind go straight to WildKind Closet so we can begin building up that operational budget. 

You were outdoorsy long before you had a child, so you have some insight to what it takes to get out on adventures. How are you serving parents who don’t have that previous experience?

Having outdoor experience may give you a fair bit of background knowledge, but it doesn’t necessarily help everyone! At WildKind, we just got an email from a wife-husband duo who are both NOLS instructors. They have oodles of outdoor experience but she was emailing because she was terrified about taking their new baby on her first camping trip! I think hearing stories like that is a great place to start. So often, the outdoors are viewed as this hardcore environment where you have to be able to talk about nylon deniers and vertical gain in order to qualify. In reality, getting outside can be as simple as having the confidence and desire to do so. I love when new members drop us a line and let us know that they have never been camping before. That just means they are in our community because they WANT to get outside and that is the best place to start.

There are various parenting/caretaking configurations (single parents with jobs, single income families, dual income families, etc.). How do you cater your content to serve all these circumstances?

Family life never looks the same for anyone so it’s no surprise that getting outside is different from family to family, too. Brooke and I tried to acknowledge that from day one and we’ve actively built a team while keeping that in mind. For example, Brooke spent some years as a single mother so she can speak to that experience. Brandi, our team member based in Los Angeles, has three adult children but is now raising her two-year-old nephew, so she evaluates outdoor fun from a different perspective. Tyler, our team member in Salt Lake, is a stay-at-home-dad while his husband works as a doctor, so his input is invaluable based on his life experiences. Sarah, our sustainability expert, went through painful infertility issues and ultimately had her son via IFV, so she has yet another perspective to offer. Ultimately, we knew we could never create a community based on any single limited life perspective, so we’re trying our best to build a larger team that’s representative of the bigger picture. Hopefully that comes across in our content, too. 

How did you come up with the various courses and content to kick off the program?

We took to social media! Brooke, WildKind, and I have a combined total of roughly 57K followers, so we set up a lot of polls and questionnaires. We read through each response carefully and consolidated the most widely-asked questions into the videos now living in our membership community. It was actually entertaining to read through all of the surveys because thousands of people responded but we actually received the same dozen topic requests on repeat!


Learn more about WildKind at their website: wildkindinc.com

Photo Credit: Will Rochfort
Photo Credit: Will Rochfort

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