This interview is part of an ongoing series with ColoradoBiz Magazine to learn from Best for Colorado companies about the impact they have in our state.
With the rise of social media, obesity and other unhealthy trends, more and more, kids are losing out on the opportunity to get outdoors. Which is why the Boulder-based Avid4 Adventure founded in 2004 to reverse these trends and affect change in kids across the country.
Avid4 Adventure is an outdoor kid’s camp created to inspire adventure and outdoor preservation. And in the years since its founding, it has expanded to the San Francisco Bay Area as well as Portland, Oregon.
Avid4 Advenure is making the outdoors an inclusive space by using a sliding scale financial assistance program and instituting strong initiatives surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. We sat down with Paul Dryer, CEO of Avid4 Adventure, to learn about what makes their company different and why they are Best for Colorado.
ColoradoBiz: What makes your company different?
Paul Dryer: One reason our program stands out from the rest is our staff. People and parents tell us all the time our staff is incredible. We hire folks who are educators and want to be in the field of education specific to the outdoors for their careers.
The second way we stand out is our approach to risk. We all live in a culture that is already (and becoming even more) risk averse, prompting the avoidance of all risk. At Avid, we lean into positive risk taking. From the youngest age, we really try to have kids be a part of risk management discussions, instead of risk aversion discussions, and empower kids to take appropriate levels of risk.
CB: How does corporate social responsibility fit into your business?
PD: Corporate social responsibility is built into the DNA of Avid4 Adventure. Most people who play in this space are schools or nonprofit outdoor adventure organizations. They are socially-driven as nonprofits, but struggle with the bottom line to really achieve those missions. David Secunda purposefully founded Avid4 Adventure as a for-profit, mission-driven organization so we can be fiscally sound and support our social mission and social responsibilities. We are flexible and lean into social responsibilities in a nimbler way because we don’t need external investors.
CB: You have received a lot of recognition for the opportunities you are providing for less privileged children to get outdoors. Can you tell me more about these programs, practices and priorities?
PD: People often ask if Avid programs are for under privileged or less privileged kids. My answer is yes, Avid can be for everyone. We really try to remove the financial barrier, so we offer a sliding scale financial assistance program. We recognize that there are tons of different family circumstances and our camps are expensive. Our sliding scale assistance program looks not only at income, but also social factors of the household. Families can apply for as small as a 10% award to a 100% scholarship. This year, we were able to offer financial assistance to 100% of families that applied.
CB: Your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is impressive. Why is it important to integrate this into your business model?
PD: DEI is a major and important initiative. We are a summer camp, but we are also firmly a part of the outdoor industry, which has been lacking diversity forever. We consider ourselves to be a leader in the outdoor industry, particularly with the younger kid programming. It is our direct responsibility to provide positive change. This is an area of our industry that has just been lacking and very slow moving for too long. At our size, if we are going to call ourselves a leader in this industry, it is our responsibility to lean into that.
DEI training is a big part of what we do and what we have to do, because of the nature of having seasonal staff. If we don’t lead with inclusion and a welcoming and diverse space, we will fall behind, and we will lose the advantage of having a great staff.
CB: Can you expand on your participation with the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge?
PD: It is still relatively new for the industry and for us as well. This pledge is outward facing. We are looking for concrete and specific ways to make a difference in our industry, be inclusive and start an uplifting conversation around diversity.
The pledge also holds us accountable. We are assigned a diversity partner, who serves as a consultant and coach for us. Like I said, the outdoor industry is lacking on this end and I think it is not for a lack of conversation, but a lack of accountability. This pledge hopes to hold organizations like Avid accountable to really drive impact.
CB: What is most rewarding or challenging about this aspect of your organization’s work? Why?
PD: Something that is both challenging and rewarding is that I am a white cis-male and I am approaching every one of these conversations from a ridiculous point of privilege. I acknowledge that I am at the top of the privilege pyramid and that is really challenging because I can’t change that. I know it holds me back in certain conversations because we all have tons and tons of unconscious biases. From my position in the world, I have those [unconscious biases] as well that automatically drive my thinking. That is challenging, but also incredibly rewarding, because it forces me to approach conversations with humility. It forces me to raise awareness and to try to combat unconscious biases by bringing them to the forefront and making the conscious from the unconscious.
CB: Do you remember a specific challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
PD: Myself and our corporate leadership are dominated by white faces and that is a specific challenge. We face it head on and lean into conversations, like we push kids to lean into risk. We lean into challenges like this because it is something we want to change, and we are actively looking to learn how we overcome it to create change in that space.
CB: What do you recommend for companies who are interested in being more thoughtful about DEI but don’t know where to begin or how to start the conversation?
PD: Reach out to other people. I would happily be a resource to other folks, but more importantly, reach out to folks who do this work full time. There is a group called the Avarna Group, specifically focused on DEI in the outdoor space, and they have great consulting resources. Reach out to organizations like that who are focused on this type of work and bring in that expertise.
Through our pledge, we now have an outside coach who does bring in an underrepresented voice. Reach out to those individuals and organizations that are different than you and help them hold you accountable and set goals.
CB: Why did you join Best for Colorado and what are you hoping to gain from this partnership?
PD: In short, we joined because we have high expectations of who we are and we strive to be the best at what we do. We are Best for Colorado because we want to be the best in the world. We are actively pursuing B Corp certification and becoming Best for Colorado seemed like another great way to be part of the B Community of incredible organizations doing amazing things. We also joined because it is valuable to be part of these conversations, share best practices and learn from other Best for organizations.
Best for Colorado is a program of the Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support.