“Oh no… not again,” thought Derrick Knowles, as the clouds let go and the rain started falling. “Are you kidding me?”
It was the eve of the second annual Spokatopia Outdoor Adventure Festival, and Knowles was staying overnight at Camp Sekani Park, keeping the area secure for exhibitors who had set up their gear and info booths. For the second year in a row, the East Spokane natural area known for its mountain bike trails was getting soaked… in the middle of July. The first Spokatopia had been a modest success, despite landing on one of Spokane’s only rainy days in months.
But when morning came and Shallan Knowles (Derrick’s wife and business partner) joined him for the event, they got a welcome surprise. As co-owners of Out There Monthly magazine, they had taken a gamble, and they needed some good luck. They had bet on the notion that they could enhance the publication’s mission by adding events. The hope was to strengthen the connection between the magazine, its readers, its advertisers (from gear to beer), and of course, the outdoor environment. That morning in 2016, the good luck came.
“The clouds started breaking up, and then the sun came out and we get this perfect day,” Derrick remembers. “We looked down at the road, and people just started pouring in.” The two laugh, pinpointing that moment as a major turning point, when both of them knew that this was going to work. That day felt good; in fact it was almost too successful.
“The first year I was hiding in a tent, upset because not very many people had come,” Shallan says. “The second year, I found myself hiding out just to get away from the crowds for a moment!”
Out There Monthly, currently re-branding as Out There Outdoors, is the Inland Northwest’s in-print celebration of the region’s bountiful outdoor recreation scene. Having purchased the magazine in 2013 from original owner/publisher Jon Snyder, Derrick and Shallan have been hard at work in their newly-added home office, reshaping and expanding what Out There is and what it does.
The brand was nicely established, having been in print since 2004, but the couple saw an opportunity to expand in a few different ways. First, the hope has been to grow the audience by including the more casual outdoors enthusiast, rather than focusing primarily on hardcore outdoors athletes. Why shouldn’t it count to do a couple nearby trail runs per week, or grow a backyard garden? If you’re out there, you’re out there.
The diversity of topics led to an expansion in the page count and in digital/social content. To keep delivering the goods for the seasoned backcountry experts while also speaking to parents searching for family-friendly activities, you just need more space. So they’ve doubled the pages, added more web stories, and they’ve been circulating more free copies around town, growing from 20,000 to 30,000 per issue.
And of course, there’s the expansion to in-person events: both Spokatopia (July, Camp Sekani) and the Spokane Outdoors & Bike Expo (February, Spokane Convention Center). Both have seen thousands of locals come out to try new gear, watch exhibitions, and learn about new ways to enjoy the region.
Four years in, the public has really responded to their efforts, and Derrick and Shallan are feeling the affirmation. Perhaps surprisingly, the busy life of running the company has been a great thing for their relationship (even with a toddler!). They foster a work environment of mutual respect because they each bring different skills to the table, and they empower their team members and freelancers to use and develop their gifts as well.
As successful as their first few years have been, Shallan and Derrick turn the conversation away from themselves, and toward the broader mission of simply helping people get outside.
“The thing we’ve loved seeing the most is just the growth in how many people are embracing all the outdoors activities our region has to offer,” says Derrick as he and Shallan walk the trails together at Camp Sekani. “When we come out to a place like this, we’re noticing more and more people getting out on the trails, using the river, visiting the mountains. That’s been fun to see.”
INB is proud to take part in that mission, meeting Out There’s banking needs while also sharing the desire to celebrate and steward this beautiful place we call home.