Please note: This was published over a year ago. Phone numbers, email addresses and other information may have changed.
It's Their Next Adventure
Photos and Story by James Hill
by Donna Schmidt
Three years ago, Bryan Knudsen sold his home in Bellingham, Wash., quit his job of 11 years as a mechanic with Les Schwab Tire Centers, loaded his remaining possessions in a U-Haul trailer and headed to Portland for his next adventure.
Make that the Next Adventure, an alternative sporting goods store at Southeast Stark and Grand Avenue Knudsen founded with his childhood buddy, Deek Heykamp.
The two have never looked back ? a good thing for local outdoor enthusiasts, who can find the gear they need, from mountaineering to fishing, skiing to cycling, at affordable prices. Next Adventure stocks new and used sporting equipment, clothing and accessories, easily filling about 7,200-square-feet of display space in the two-story building.
A mix of key moves, a little luck and intense planning have helped Next Adventure carve a solid niche in a receptive Portland market, Heykamp said.
"We planned this for three-and-a-half years," said Heykamp, a former Seattle resident who had been an independent businessman with 12 shoe-repair stores in two states.
Part of that plan is for personal and professional growth. Which is why Knudsen is a second-year student in Portland Community College’s Small Business Management Program. "I’m going to PCC to upgrade my business skills and knowledge ? obviously going from being a mechanic to doing this is a big change," Knudsen said.
"It’s great to go to a school at an affordable rate and when someone like me has time," he added, noting that traditional college schedules are a drawback for entrepreneurs devoted to long work days and flexible schedules to meet customer and business needs.
The Small Business Management Program, he said, offers the environment and flexibility small-business owners can tap into to learn new skills, try new approaches, embrace different perspectives and still keep the doors open.
Students meet monthly in a three-hour classroom session with their instructor. Instructors also make site visits and hold one-on-one sessions with individual students. The course covers topics such as marketing, advertising, record-keeping and legal issues.
But if Knudsen could only list one benefit, he said, it would be the connections he has made. He and Heykamp earlier this year met with visitors from Byelorussia looking to establish business contacts and partnerships in the states. And Knudsen’s classmates, small-business owners in a variety of professions, have been a source of advice, experience and support. Some have become customers, too.
"PCC has been pretty good for us," Knudsen said. "The connections from that class have been incredibly valuable."
A recent article featuring Next Adventure in The Oregonian, a story idea pitched by college staff, has also helped in gaining exposure and new customers.
Part of the power of their success, the two partners agree, is understanding and capitalizing on each other’s strengths. Knudsen’s strong background in customer service and sales is perfect for running day-to-day operations, supervising staff, tracking inventory, negotiating consignment sales and attending to other store details.
Heykamp’s business credentials, including bachelor’s degrees in finance and in management from the University of Oregon, keep him busy with strategic planning, long-range finance and developing factory-direct resources.
The fact that the two are childhood friends with a long history and deep passion for the outdoors is a plus. But Heykamp adds a caveat.
"It’s not for everybody. You have to have very specific roles and responsibilities, especially when dealing with a friendship," he said.
So what’s the next adventure for two friends turned partners?
Online shopping. Next Adventure will offer its first e-commerce site beginning this month so you can gear up for your next adventure from across town or a world away. Log on at www.next-adventure.com.