When you think of a book club meeting what picture comes to mind? A group of mousy women gathered in a library, book store, or cramped living room sipping tea and discussing the merits of one Mr. Darcy? What if the scene were moved to a glowing campfire under the northern skies, enjoying a glass of Michigan-made wine, after a day of exploring the wonders of nature?
Outdoor Book Club may be just the adventure you have been looking for!
A fledgling business started by Jill Hinton Wolfe, Outdoor Book Club strives to lead women into the outdoors to discover their hidden talents while incorporating all the stimulating and lively discussions a great book can elicit. Hinton has established herself as the chief heroine in her new adventure.
Once a marketing executive with Priority Health, Hinton found herself wanting more than a 9 to 5 cycle of attending endless meetings and sales presentations. “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” confides Hinton. She also knew that she wanted to do something to empower women to reach beyond their limits; to try something new.
Hinton was deeply interested in literature and writing, stating, “I’ve been a writer since I could hold a pencil.” Research led her to find that no one had a business model that incorporated the wonders of nature and the great outdoors with literature. An idea was born.
Hinton, an army veteran, attended a conference by the IVMF (Institute for Veterans and Military Families) in Chicago. It was there she was encouraged to enter her business concept into the Citibank Realizing Your Dream Business Competition for Veterans – a call for veterans who are aspiring entrepreneurs to submit small business plans to share in $130,000 of seed funding.
Research and planning, and relying on her marketing background, cemented many of Hinton’s ideas in a working business plan that drew the attention of the judges. Hinton was among 17 semi-finalists who presented their final pitch in January 2013, in Long Beach, California. Hinton won Third Place and a prize of $10,000. Her Outdoor Book Club became a reality.
Having experienced divorce herself, Hinton expressed a desire to teach women to trust their instincts, take risks, and live a more adventurous life. Her initial thought was to appeal to single professional women, those with kids, those who were divorced or living independently. “I was surprised how the book tours appealed instead to Baby Boomers, those women who were seeking a challenge while maybe their husbands preferred to sit on the couch watching sports.”
Outdoor Book Club has many idea templates for book trips and workshops listed on their website (Outdoorbookclub.org). Options include hiking, biking, kayaking, backpacking, and wine tours. Hinton supplies all the necessary equipment for each adventure, as well as providing healthy, locally sourced meals and snacks. “We have fun with it. Each menu is based on the book’s theme,” explains Hinton.
Trips can be tailored to those who have very little outdoor experience to those who enjoy a strenuous physical challenge. Being a veteran and an experienced camper, Hinton does not claim to be an expert. Although at home in the outdoors, she is open to learning and trying new things with her clients. “I recently tried mountain biking and found that I really love it!”
As much as the focus of the trips is on literary discussions and outdoor activities, Outdoor Book Club is really about getting outside of your comfort zone. Hinton encourages women to stretch their abilities to the limit or discover something new about themselves, as it leads to increased confidence in all aspects of life. Hinton shares, “It is incredible to look back at a trip and hear a woman say ‘I never thought I could do this.’”
Hinton is not short-sighted on the future of Outdoor Book Club. As any reader knows, there are so many excellent books and so many places authors urge you to explore. “I think it would be great to do a trip to India while reading Eat, Pray, Love or explore Key West while reading Hemingway.”
Expanding to national and international tours leaves the future wide open for growth. As Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love expressed, “I’m making space for the unknown future, to fill up any life with yet-to-come surprises.”
Outdoor Book Club has several upcoming workshops and trips scheduled including:
Meditation Retreat ( January 30-February 2) at Circle Pines Retreat Center. Book Selection is Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn
Women’s Empowerment Camp (February 20-22) in Manistee, Michigan. Book selection is Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.
Women’s Wine Camp (March 20-22) in Traverse City. Book selection is Sideways by Rex Pickett
Finding the Guts to Start Your Own Business (March 7) at the Blandford Nature Center. Book selection is #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso.