The phone rings and I look down to see the name Alex Marshall.
I answer, “Hey Alex! What’s up?”
“Just got out of a meeting with Corey and Ali, and WE GOT IT ALL!”, Alex exclaims.
To paint the picture, we’ll have to go back in time a bit. Back to two friends chatting about the annual MWK Club Trip to Colorado and how fun it would be to camp. One of those friends does not own a lick of camping equipment, the other works for a locally based KC outdoor lifestyle provider.
During the conversation an idea would be born. Me, being the one without equipment and not really wanting to shell out hundreds of dollars not knowing what I really needed, made some crazy comment about how nice it would be to try a tent before buying. Alex immediately perked up. With some back and forth, fragments of ideas flying through the air, a picture began to form.
Alex stops and says, “What if we partnered together (MWK/CORE) to offer members only some tents to try out for free? Kind of like a “Tent Library” where you check a tent out, try it and bring it back. That would help solve the “what size is right for me” question so many have.”
“That makes so much sense!” I blurt, “Truthfully, I may only camp once a summer. Investing a few hundred dollars in a tent doesn’t seem practical. But if I had this at my disposal, I might take advantage of it and camp more. If I camp more then I’ll need a tent of my own. This is brilliant!”
After a few additional conversations over as many weeks, the idea was formalized. Core would provide MWK eight tents of different sizes, for the dues paying members to use as they needed. The name “Tent Library” stuck, and we’d go to our respective leadership to discuss. Alex to the heads of CORE and I to the rest of the MWK Board. ZOOM meetings would ensue, more conversations would be held, and multiple questions answered, everyone agreeing on the benefit to both CORE and MWK. And after a special meeting and the subsequent phone call (see intro), the Library had plans approved for construction.
Breaking ground. Like making anything, you move from idea, to theory, to application and design to construction. Let’s start with the list of questions. Which tents would be offered? How would we check them in and out? How long could you check a tent out? Could you check the same tent out multiple times? How would we announce? Most importantly, how would we manage the program? Great ideas can be washed away without a solid plan to execute. We had a great idea, a solid theory and now on to the “how.”
Emails, phone calls, in person conversations would yield some thoughts with merit, others without. We would of course keep the good (or what we thought was good) and toss away the less so. Take those ideas to the team and see what worked and toss out a couple more. In the end, we knew we had to keep it simple and straight forward. After all, camping is a primitive action. Why complicate it with a dozen hoops? We’re talking about a great product, serving a great cause for a great group of people. Simple is best. With this as our north star, we finished the CORE Tent Library. Everything fell into place. Eight tents in all, four different sizes, all available through a quick and easy request portal. Simple.
As many know we introduced the CORE Tent Library at the April MWK meeting. Alex was there in true showman fashion. The six-person instant cabin he brought was set up in forty seconds. FORTY. SECONDS. That must be some kind of a record. He didn’t stop there. Folding chairs, camp tables, soft sided coolers rounded out the CORE product offerings and made for a heckuva display. Christina even shot a portion of our Facebook Live from inside the tent! The coolers were a big hit as well. I heard multiple people talking about the quality of them and how they had to order one. Dave even gave Alex and I the mic for a bit to better explain the program and to answer a few questions. (For the record, JZ asked all the right questions in a fantastic manner helping people learn about the product, the program and have a good laugh at the same time.) All-in-all I think it was received well and am excited to bring the members such a valuable offering.
Somehow, I was able to parlay the Library and club meeting into a tour of the CORE World Headquarters. Let me say folks, it did not disappoint. Quite the opposite to be honest. It’s far more than a warehouse with a bunch of tents and camping supplies on shelves if that’s what you envision. It is a center of design, creation, and a genuine love of all things outdoors. Pulling up to Insight2Design building, the parent company of CORE Equipment, it immediately lets you know some really cool things happen inside those walls. The modern building design is what you may think of when visiting a retail store, not a manufacturer. Of course, the real magic is on the inside. Since moving into the new building in 2018, the number of cool things the Insight2Design team has done is staggering. New creations and product lines, like a new ultralightweight, superior quality hiking line Ampex Gear, are the standard by which other brands are now being held to. With high quality lines and innovative products being the cornerstone of the company, they quickly caught the attention of Amazon and Wal-Mart, two of their biggest marketplace partners. You can literally feel the creativity the moment you walk into the lobby. It’s palpable, but in such a good way.
A quick shoutout to Ali Dopps, Director of Brand Management and Corey Helus, Brand Manager for CORE Equipment, who helped us launch the Tent Library and soon to be announced CORE Sunflower Hydration Station. Thank you for being in our corner from the first conversation.
Meeting more of the team was humbling. Starting with Eric Fassnacht, Product Manager for Ampex Gear, to insanely talented Tyler and Ally with the design team and Laura (who may the be world’s greatest CSR), they were all so welcoming. As though we’d been friends forever. It was nice to go from a handshake to laughter within seconds. I wish I could list everyone but know that even if I did not list you, you made an impact on me. Truly, a phenomenal experience and once again proof that it is the people that make all the difference. The community inside Insight2Design mirrors that of MWK. This is the partnership we look for. Like-minded people that share a passion for creativity, the outdoors and community, and that is who this team is, at their Core.
Not leaving you out Alex. We are thankful for you being a part of the club and all you have given over the years. Whether that is through friendship, amazing photography, killer graphic design or most recently connecting CORE and MWK together. You are pretty awesome man. Glad to call you a friend.
Walking through the halls, Alex let me in on some of the history. Founded in KC, they started in a small office in a strip mall. Much like with the Tent Library, it started with an idea and was grown into the entity you know today. As mentioned, they built their new home from scratch and moved in right before the pandemic. Brand new building and now you are working from home. Wild ride, right? Thankfully, the team stayed tight and worked through the hurdles that being remote can throw at you. Growing the brand to new heights, including entering the Wal-Mart stores, once again allowing the retail giant to offer a quality product at a reasonable price. So, what sets them apart? At the center they remain passionate outdoor enthusiasts who make gear they will use, not just more camping white noise. And you haven’t seen anything yet. The Research & Development department is always hard at work, making the best better and good into great. Love what you do and good is never good enough. This is their recipe for success.
We ended the tour in the warehouse. An impressive facility that is almost as organized as an actual library. Steel racks from floor to the 24’ ceilings filled with CORE goodness. Full tents, replacement parts and everything in between. Alex even explained to this camping rookie what FRP means. For those that also don’t know, it stands for Fiberglass Resin Pole. You know, the poles that were so revolutionary in the 80’s that are now the bottom of CORE product offerings. This ain’t your grandpa’s camping gear everyone. There is some serious science involved here. It was cool to see that they’re so excited for the program that it already has a home in the warehouse! Having quality partners share in the excitement makes all the difference. After snapping a few pics and getting a team to help load up the Jeep with Sunflower prizes, it was time to let them get back to work. But I have to say, I am looking forward to another visit. Next time will be to pick up a tent from the all-new CORE Tent Library.
Look for the CORE Tent Library live here on the club website. If you’re on the fence about camping, check out a tent and find out. Enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. And it’s much easier when using CORE Equipment. And stay tuned for more information on the CORE Sunflower Hydration Station coming this year to the 6th Annual Sunflower Trail Ride!