Houston businessman Bill Voss has always found his zen through his lifelong passion for the great outdoors, but there’s one aspect that infuriated him: shopping.
Exhausted from driving to physical stores, long lines and dreaded returns, Voss turned his necessity into an invention and launched Everest.coma new shopping/lifestyle marketplace and community platform that connects active customers to over 1,000 US-based merchants and retailers.
Using what it describes as “state-of-the-art” artificial intelligence, the company aims to create the world’s largest market for the outdoor recreation community, covering activities such as hiking, camping , biking, climbing, winter sports, water sports, team sports, fishing, hunting, kayaking, rafting and road and trail running.
Voss’ timing is good: Current industry estimates suggest that consumers spend $700 billion on outdoor recreation, with less than 20% of those sales occurring online. To that end, Voss plans to increase its number of salespeople to 10,000 by 2023.
Everest members can also enjoy perks through a program dubbed Caliber, which offers its members several exclusive perks including free shipping, advance sales, travel perks, deep discounts on equipment and – a plus these days – fuel discounts. Voss notes that the site’s core values are pushing made-in-the-USA products and giving back; Everest will have nonprofit and conservation partners.
CultureMap caught up with the Voss asset on the heels of its Everest launch.
CultureMap: Congratulations on the launch. Essentially, did you create an Amazon for outdoor enthusiasts, but with a sense of community too?
Bill Voss: We started Everest.com to create the first online marketplace with the sole purpose of providing outdoor enthusiasts with retail products to purchase from merchants across the country who carry locally made products.
In our experience, people who love the outdoors also appreciate the concept of community. At Everest, we want to strengthen that community by giving local businesses a broader business reach, contributing to local and national charities, and asking everyone in our community to share their “Everest” story.
We take a fairly segmented market and bring it together into a community-driven ecosystem. We call this ecosystem Everest.
CM: Which Houston spots inspired you the most? And have you ever visited Everest?
GB: I am a fisherman at heart. I’ve been fishing the Gulf of Mexico since I could hold a rod. There’s nothing I’d rather do than spend an entire day on the water casting, trolling, or reminiscing about many epic fights while rocking a big one.
So naturally, I like Galveston, Kemah, etc. and being so close to the Gulf is a huge reason I love Houston. The city itself may be a big metropolitan area, but it’s full of parks and recreation areas that are great to stroll through when you need a bit of an escape from the city noises – which Houston really doesn’t have enough credit or exposure for.
Houston has an amazing outdoor community with so many choices to support it – it’s hard to pick a single activity that ranks number one.
I have plans to visit Everest actually! I am organizing a trip with two brothers who have reached the top more than anyone and they assure me that it will be an incredible trip.
CM: Obviously, you are an avid outdoorsman. Is it correct to say that Everest was inspired by the frustration and hassle of bouncing around on other sites and stores?
GB: Exactly! I found myself doing this and it’s infuriating. I would visit multiple stores, go through multiple checkouts, and wait for multiple boxes to arrive – and sometimes face multiple return scenarios. So, I decided to fix it – for all of us.
I grew up fishing, spending hours on the water with my dad. To me, that’s one of the best parts of any outdoor activity, quality time spent with the people you love. I don’t think you get the same experience if you’re sitting around a TV screen together, and you certainly don’t get it if you spend hours on your computer trying to find the perfect fishing rod for your daughter. . Time is precious, and the endless toil of compiling material eats away at those few spare hours we have to spend together.
By consolidating thousands of outdoor brands and gear retailers and centralizing them into one marketplace, we make it easy for our users to hop on, find everything they need, and pay. We’re just getting started, but over the next two years we hope to add even more sellers and products as well as more community offerings.
Being on the water showing my kids how to bait a hook or how to find a school of fish are the memories I hope they will take with them. With Everest, it has been important to me to help make these kinds of experiences easily accessible to everyone and the people they love.
CM: Speaking of other stores, do you plan to compete with the REI and Sun and Skis of the world? Or Amazon?
GB: I get this question all the time and I love it. As for the first two, definitely not. We’re a marketplace, we’re here to help companies like REI and Sun and Ski, who can participate as sellers and reach new customers.
The difference is that our members can grab everything they need, from multiple retailers, in one shopping cart, with an easy checkout option. Many big names are already promoting and selling products on Amazon – they can do the same with Everest. We are a community of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts who were looking for a niche market to serve us all.
Think about what Chewy has done in the pet industry – we do the same for those who love the outdoors. Amazon should be everything for everyone. We don’t want it and we don’t want it.
CM: Do you see Everest creating physical stores?
GB: Wonderful question. The beauty of Everest is that we are still a young company with options to consider. But remember that one of the main principles of Everest is to support our sellers. We are not looking to enter into a situation where we are in direct competition with them.
However, we would love to one day open a shop selling Everest sweatshirts and swag in downtown Houston. It would be so rewarding to see the outdoor community wearing Everest branded apparel and putting Everest stickers on their gear in the future.
Ultimately, we’re sprinting as hard as we can in hopes of one day waking up as a true disrupter, household name, and eternal brand.
This article was originally published on CultureMap.