Not many small business owners talk about clearing trees as part of expanding their business. For two-time Olympic snowboard cross Gold Medalist Seth Wescott, however, sports and business have a lot in common, and he’s happiest when they come together outdoors.
“As an athlete, you have to look at the thousand little steps you take. It’s the same thing in growing a business.”
Fortunately, that’s not much of a challenge. The Rack, the restaurant he and two skiing buddies bought several years ago, sits adjacent to Sugarloaf, the famed Maine outdoor recreation center where Wescott learned to ski and snowboard as a boy. It serves as a home base from which he ventures out to competitions and outdoor adventures all around the world. When he returns, it’s back to clearing trees, “pounding nails” (Wescott’s term for renovations), and occasionally entertaining restaurant guests with lectures and slide shows of his travels.
Much of that work Wescott does by himself, and that’s how he likes it. “Most snowboarders train against others,” he says, “but I train alone. I believe in forming your own game plan and doing your best with it. If you do that, it doesn’t matter who is on the course with you.”
He and his partners adopted a similar attitude in running their restaurant. Wescott believes that becoming a champion is the same in business as it is in sports. “You have to set goals for yourself and then achieve them,” he says. “Some are very small, but they add up over time. As an athlete, you have to look at the thousand little steps you take. It’s the same as growing a business. The whole thing is a learning process.”
That learning process began when Wescott was growing up in Maine. His father was the track and field coach at Colby College, and his mother was a choreographer and modern dance professor. “My parents put me on Nordic skis at a young age, and the track and field trail was used for cross-country skiing,” he says. “By my friends’ standards, I was late to alpine skiing—about 8—and I fell in love with that immediately. I was already a skateboarder, so snowboarding came naturally to me.”
With his dad being a coach, “I grew up seeing the structured community that he set up for his athletes,” says Wescott. “With my mom, I saw a very focused practice. I was a freestyle snowboarder in the early part of my career, and a lot of what I saw in her dancers and their creativity rubbed off on me. They followed their passions and worked really hard at it. It was a great foundation for me.”
Small businesses lend early support
Along the way, Wescott worked to support his early career—“I washed dishes, picked veggies, pounded nails, and shoveled driveways”—and was fortunate to have support from some small businesses. “The owners of Colorado Boarder, a snowboard shop in Crested Butte, Colorado, saw promise in me as a young kid and really helped me out,” he says. “So did a couple of small companies in Maine run by friends.” Today, he has major sponsorship from Visa.
Wescott won Gold at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games and in 2010 in Vancouver; his training is now focused on a try for a third Gold at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. His training, competitions, and pursuit of adventure take him all over the world. “I have a Visa debit card, and it helps keep my life organized,” says Wescott. “I’ve used it to travel to six continents, and it helps me track my expenses.”
Wescott’s next business venture is a partnership with an outdoor clothing company in a line of winter wear and active wear that will be introduced this fall. “I have been testing the line during my training,” he says. “It will be marketed through its own catalog, in which I will tell the stories of how the various pieces were developed.”
Wescott hopes the combination of passion, focus, and storytelling will succeed as well in clothing as it has at The Rack, which locals have made a favorite gathering place. “It has been very rewarding to see the kind of atmosphere we wanted, take off,” says Wescott. “This past year was the best we’ve had, even though it was the worst winter season in my memory. One of the things I enjoy most is sharing time with the families who come in and trying to inspire their kids to become the next generation of champions.”