Second Calling: Bryce Phillips

Ian Coble

Bryce Phillips at the Seattle storefront of the retailer he founded 12 years ago, evo.

[Editor's note: This is part three of a new series called "Second Calling," about freeskiers turned entrepreneurs. It is written by pro skier Griffin Post (who also happens to be a bit of an entrepreneur). Stay tuned next Wednesday for the next installment, a story about a pro skier who wanted to build an indoor action sports training facility for himself and his friends.]

Bryce Phillips has built a name for himself as a hard-charging, world-traveling professional skier for more than 10 years. Concurrently, he has helped develop the ski shop that he founded, evo, into one of the most iconic shop-brands in the snowsports industry. Phillips started evo by selling skis online out of his garage 12 years ago and he opened the brand's Seattle, Wash., storefront in 2005. Recently, Phillips chose not to renew his long-standing sponsorships with Patagonia and K2 Skis, and instead he's taken back the reins at evo as CEO. I recently caught up with Phillips to discuss getting back to evo full time, balancing two time-consuming careers and, or course, what's next.

You recently reinstated yourself as CEO, stepping out of your long-standing sponsorships with Patagonia and K2, theoretically retiring from the world of pro skiing. What brought on the change?
It was time. From sleeping on couches in Whistler when I moved there when I was 20 to getting the opportunity to travel the world doing what I love, I had a great run. I was fortunate to have built many of my closest relationships and moved through my ski career relatively unscathed. This coupled with the opportunities at evo and what is an integral time for the business made it a very clear decision. Stepping back from skiing professionally is giving me the time and focus needed for evo and my family.

Throughout your skiing career, were you able to leverage your status and relationships as a pro skier and translate them into business success?
Whenever there is shared passion and camaraderie, strong, successful relationships are created as a result. It's all been very organic. First and foremost, it's been about the love for the sport. The enthusiasm for snow, travel, progressing as an athlete and all else that comes from being fully immersed with people that you end up doing business with can only help your chances of success. That said, it has to be authentic.

Skiing professionally and running a business are both full time jobs, particularly in the winter months. Over the years, what has proven to be the most difficult part?
I've always thrived on having a number of balls in the air. That said, evo could have never progressed in the way that it has if there was not a great team in place. The biggest challenge during the winter months is being physically present and trying to manage communication and move projects forward remotely. This is another reason why this transition has been important. In order to give all of my energy to evo and make sure that we are moving the company in the right direction, I need to be present and it is something that I am really looking forward to.

Do you find it hard to separate your skiing and your business life?
Because it has been part of my identity since the beginning, I do think that the skiing brought evo some credibility, especially early on. The ski brands were much quicker to sign on as suppliers for evo than most of the snowboard brands because of relationships that I had established through my skiing career. All in all, I believe that skiing professionally had a really positive effect on the business. Hopefully, now that I am moving on, it doesn't take us backward.

A 30-second elevator speech about what's next for evo, now that you've returned as CEO. Go.
Building an iconic retail brand and business, creating the very best place in the world for our employees to work and leveraging our successes in order to give back to underprivileged youth -- we try to strike the ultimate balance when it comes to our goals at evo.

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