Local company spreads outdoor spirit
November 28, 2014
Tori Sowul was skiing at Jackson Hole Resort in Wyo. when the idea hit her. She had been laughing with a friend about something or other when someone nearby asked what they were doing.
The reply rolled off her tongue, off-hand and natural: "We’re spreading stoke."
Those three words ended up resonating with Sowul. They eventually helped spawn the idea for the company she helped create — Spread Stoke (spreadstoke.com), an online multimedia platform for outdoor athletes and enthusiasts to share their experiences.
"(Stoke) is that feeling that you get when you’re doing a sport outdoors, whether it’s rock climbing or skiing or mountain biking," Sowul said. "We all kind of share that feeling. So I thought it would be cool to create a community of that online."
The website caters to people of all backgrounds. Sowul said that several publications provide space for professional athletes to share their adventures. While Spread Stoke counts experienced athletes among its users, the access it provides to regular people is what sets it apart.
As long as they’re posting about the outdoors, anyone can put their stories, photos or video on the website. Sowul said that gives Spread Stoke the feel of a unique community.
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"We have some professional athletes on there, and then we have Joe nobodies on there, who you’ve never heard of, but some of their stories are just as good," she said. "We wanted everybody to be able to share their stories. We’ve had 7 or 8 year olds and we’ve had the older generation, telling their stories about their days surfing back in the 60s."
One of the keys to ensuring everyone has equal access to the site was making it user-friendly. Sowul and her co-founders used her parents as the model: If they could figure out how to post, Sowul figured, anyone can. And about a year since Spread Stoke began, many are. Sowul said the site’s popularity has grown steadily through word-of-mouth.
Currently, most users are either in Utah or neighboring states, but Sowul hopes Spread Stoke’s reach expands to the East Coast this year and grows worldwide in the future. Especially because the website is less about where people are having their adventures than about what it means to share them.
"I think people all over want to share stories to inspire others to live a life of doing what you love," Sowul said.
Providing a place for people to share those stories has been eye-opening for Sowul. In the year since Spread Stoke began, she has come to learn just how meaningful outdoor sports are to the people who participate in them.
"Our job is pretty easy — we just get to read awesome stories all day," Sowul said. "It’s definitely been a whirlwind. Starting your own business, you hit every emotion on the board. But it’s been extremely gratifying."
With Spread Stoke continuing to grow, Sowul expects a big second year for the site. Sowul plans to offer several giveaways during the year as a way to say thanks to the contributors, as well as hold events for users to connect in person. Improvements and new features to the website are also planned.
But no matter what is ahead for Spread Stoke, the fact that people flock to it to share their stories will make it a success.
"I think passion fuels our site," Sowul said.