The Grit Show kicks off the first episode with a great brand and a fantastic guest—Hames Ellerbe, Packaging Program Manager at Gerber Gear. As Hames explains, Gerber is well-known for bladed tools such as folding and fixed blade knives but more recently has become Gerber Gear as the business has expanded into multi-tools, overlanding, and survivalist tools such as shovels and saws.

What is your role at Gerber?

Hames’ current role is rather double-duty, taking on the duties of the Packaging Program Manager, as well as those of the Product Marketing Manager. This puts him in charge of Gerber’s global packaging program, including everything from design and die lines to size and shelf presence. He even coordinates with suppliers to address the materials and production processes.

Once packaging is complete, Hames’ role is responsible for creating briefs to market and sell those products. This commonly involves lifestyle photography, studio shots, sell sheets and any other materials required for sales. This allows him to float between sales and marketing as he gets product to the end consumer.

Why did you choose a career in the outdoor industry?

Hames grew up in mountains of North Carolina with a love for the outdoors starting a young age through activities such as skiing, mountain biking, hunting, and fishing.  As he grew up his journey took him from building terrain parks to skiing sponsorships. This led him to a role as Terrain Park Supervisor for Boreal which included making a lot of marketing videos. Seeing his skiing career beginning to slow, Hames then began to focus more on the operations sides of ski resorts. While pursuing a path of grad school and freelancing he managed to find his way to an opportunity with Gerber Gear.

What steps might the audience take if they were interested in a similar role?

Hames feels that the most important step toward a similar role is to develop industry connections. Maintaining a network of industry pros helped him find an available role through word of mouth. His reputation and skills helped the hiring team recognize how strong of a fit he would be in that team.

How long was the process from finding a lead to getting hired?

About 3 months.

Advantages of working in the outdoor industry

  1. The people
  2. A subject I care about
  3. I like the work I do

Largest challenges to working in the outdoor industry

  1. Compensation
  2. Opportunities can be limited by where you live or require relocation

Were there any projects you’re proud of?

Hames’ led an effort at the request of Walmart to work in RFID on all Gerber & Fiskars products sold through Walmart. This effort isn’t so much consumer facing but benefits from a logistics stand-point. With a lot of skus and on a short timeline had to turn it around it was not a small accomplishment.

What makes the outdoor industry unique from other industries?

The outdoor industry seems to be made up of a lot of people that are passionate about all the activities they part take it. Their work and play have overlap, whereas other industries may have less overlap with individuals personal hobbies.

Three tips for making a pivot into the outdoor industry

  1. Networking
  2. Send out lots of applications—don’t give up
  3. Cold calling

Predictions for the outdoor industry in the coming years

Hames is skeptical that we will continue to see the growth rate caused by the outdoor boom of COVID-19 shutdowns. The rates of growth we saw isn’t sustainable for most businesses and certainly not for outdoor resources such as bike trails. With growth rates in biking as high as 800% Hames expects the industry to dip but retaining many of the new participants.