When we found out about DNK Presents the only woman, LGBT owned adventure company in Indiana I had so many questions, mostly what is an adventure company and how can I get my adventure on immediately! So I chatted with DNK Presents’ co-founder Danielle Wolter Nolan to learn all about running your startup in the great outdoors, how her business supports and empowers women all over Indiana, and how feminism plays a role in her work.
You and your wife started the only woman, LGBT owned adventure company in Indiana and the surrounding states, DNK Presents- can you tell us how this business came to fruition?
Kate (my wife) and I love the outdoors and adventure. We realized that being able to unplug and disconnect in nature gave us a high quality of life and fulfillment. We noticed more and more of our friends following our trips online and wanting to try the things we were doing in the great outdoors but more often we saw feedback of people being fearful of going out on their own, no knowledge of what to do, where to go, and what they needed, or no one to go with.
We felt there was a need to get more people back outside in a safe, trusted space, trying something for the first time, connecting with like-minded individuals, learning new things, and re-connecting with themselves through nature. We started our company with that mission, and now have guided hundreds of people on life-changing adventures in and outside of Indiana.
I’m obsessed with the Women’s Adventure Contest- what a great way to get the word out about your business and pass along some #girlpower karma. How did you pick the winners for the contest and how did you get them to agree to be in a documentary about the adventure?
The Live Adventurously Women’s Adventure Contest is my favorite thing we get to do! It is so rewarding and impactful for us as guides to lead these amazing women who win the contest. When we started getting in nominations for the first contest in 2016, we quickly realized there was no way Kate and I could choose the winners, we wished we could choose all of these women, because they all deserved to win.
We formed a diverse committee that reads through all the nominations, votes and provides feedback on their choices. Kate and I review these and interview the finalists, the committee reviews again until the winners are chosen. It is a difficult process but also so much fun at the same time. I had a woman who made it to the final round this year but did not get selected but is now working as a guide for us!
Sometimes we call people and they have no idea what the contest is or that they have been nominated, those calls are the best, you never know what can happen! From the beginning the nominees know if they were selected they would be being filmed for a documentary so there are no surprises, one of our initial questions is asking if they are comfortable being followed by cameras and sharing their story with the world, so far all have agreed. We had a woman film maker producing her own feature length film from the 2017 contest this year so we are really excited for her film, it should be completed in early 2018.
Does feminism play a role in the work you do or how you run your business?
Feminism and being a feminist is a huge part of my life personally and being a business owner of DNK Presents. We are a certified woman owned and LGBTBE company, I am a board member of The Startup Ladies, and speak openly about the importance of reaching equality for women in all areas of business.
When we started our company we didn’t realize the separation of men and women in the outdoor industry, and the discrimination some women guides have seen throughout the years. Luckily, Kate and I have not experienced this as being business owners or guides. We make sure we provide a safe place for women to try something new, learn how they can excel in the outdoors, and of course have so much fun while getting dirty!
Other organizations have also moved the needle for women in the outdoors, we partner with women business owners as much as possible including Muddy Pedals in Baltimore, MD, owned by Erin Wells, and Shredly, owned by Ashley Rankin in Carbondale, CO. Organizations making waves for women in the outdoor space also include the Outdoor Women’s Alliance, REI through their Force of Nature campaign, Trek Bicycle with their Women’s Advocate Program (Kate is a Trek Women’s Advocate), and many more.
What’s the hardest part about running your business? What advice do you have for someone who might be interested in taking a service/adventure venture off the ground but doesn’t know where to start?
At DNK Presents we know when people come on an adventure with us they are taking a day, weekend or sometimes a week out of their already busy schedule to be part of something life changing that they will always remember. We provide that unique experience for people, a chance for them to un wind, connect with themselves again through nature and adventure, but also sweat and get a little dirty along the way.
One of the hardest parts is making sure Kate and I do that for ourselves, making sure we have down time for each other that is not guiding a trip or business related.
My advice to someone interested in starting an adventure company or service related is to get defined. A friend told me, “the niche-ier you get, the stickier you get”. Make sure you define what your services are, it’s easy in the beginning to say, we do everything, and then you look back and realize this not the business you wanted to start at all.