We reached out to Bobbilee Hartman, Founder of Lodged Out, a company dedicated to creating outdoor retreats that extract people from the noise of daily routines and devices, and immerse them into natural experiences in destinations all across the US.
Delve into the story of this amazing company, how Bobbilee has made it different from other retreats, and what her vision of business and entrepreneurship is like.
The origin of Lodged Out
Bobbilee Hartman worked as a software engineer for years, but she wanted to further her role in the industry, pushing her to pursue roles that combined engineering with the strategy and production side of things. She started running events as a way of connecting industry people beyond the work they do in the office. Bobbilee, who is also a Developer Advocate at Square, would then create Lodged Out.
Experts in the business of creating experiences, Lodged Out takes individuals, groups, and entire companies on retreats that are brimful with outdoor activities, spaces for relaxation, and creativity, curated for authentic connections with people. These events move you away from your phones and closer to each other.
Why did you start Lodged Out?
I used to go to a lot of tech conferences in big cities, and was frustrated that everyone seemed to be on their phones and computers during talks and not truly engaged in the content. I also noticed that folks tend to stick with their team or hang out with people they already know.
But what I did take away from these events was that folks were spending a lot of time networking in the “hallway track” in between and during some of the talks. This made it obvious to me that there should be some sort of hallway track event where there is less structure, and less time and money spent by individuals and companies.
I also learned from going to so many large events that panels, fireside chats, and workshops were the places where attendees would be the most engaged. These were also the places where I would always meet new people.
What’s your connection with the outdoors?
It was this realization combined with my passion for going hiking in the morning before a conference that led to Lodged Out. I grew up going to summer camp every summer for years, which fueled my passion for the outdoors. Being away from Wi-Fi and closer to the mountains fueled this idea further, and I officially created my first unplugged retreat series in 2014.
It’s also important to me that these events take place in locations that most people don’t know about; usually in beautiful, forested areas.
The majority of the venues I choose are historic. My dad is really into old trends, places and things with historical stories. My dad and his entire family are into old cars, planes, collectibles, decor, etc. I remember growing up and going to my great uncle’s house full of old Hamm’s and Coca Cola memorabilia. I mean, he had an extension to his house or guest house just full of this stuff and old cars. We’d all meet at old car and motorcycle shows as a family where my dad, his brother, and cousin would have their hot rods there to show.
A passion for “the good old days” is a large part of why I run my events in this style. To find these locations, I sometimes go to libraries and browse through up to 20 books. I take notes on them because Google just doesn’t cut it for me in certain cases. This is part of the reason why these events become a unique experience for attendees.
Biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
Another challenge is hiring and getting folks up to speed quickly. I don’t have a great understanding of how to get there. I’m busy so it’s hard for me to carve out the time to train people. I’m looking for a true business mentor to help me grow my business with my vision in mind and how to prepare for employees and longer-term interns.
A word of advice for entrepreneurs?
Check out the book Rejection Proof [by Jia Jiang]. I read it really early when starting my business. I still get sensitive if someone reviews my event and and didn’t like a part of it, but this book taught me fearlessness for when I reach out to big brands to work with me for collaborating or for creating a partnership.
The book essentially teaches us to not be afraid of rejection. You will not lose by trying. I’ve had some really cool collaborations with some of my dream brands like Patagonia and Juniper Ridge thanks to this book.
Advice for female entrepreneurs?
I really think we have a leg up. People want to work with people who offer diversity these days. This is a really good time to be a female entrepreneur, and the press wants stories of female leaders.
Here’s my advice: be more vocal, get out there, ask for things, look for funding. It’s getting a lot easier than it used to be for us.
What keeps you up at night?
Not having enough time in a day, which goes back to needing to hire someone I trust. Having a project manager would help since I don’t really use project management tools. As a software engineer, you usually have a project manager who tells you when things are due so you’re not as stressed. As a solopreneur, I haven’t had time to put resources into something like that.
Favorite projects/clients so far?
Juniper Ridge, a true outdoorsy apothecary line of products harvested in the American west. All their products are made from ground-up forest materials, and they’ve sponsored all my events since 2016. I had a cool experience with their founder Hall Newbegin last year.
We went on a nature walk where Hall pointed out all the plants he could recognize and what their medicinal properties were. We grabbed some fauna from the ground, brought it back to camp. He drove all the way California to Washington with his small distilling van, and we distilled all that plant matter into a hydrosol spray (facial mist).
We also learned how he started his company, their mission, and how they put all the pieces together, which is always cool.
Favorite business books?
I haven’t read that many business books to be honest, but Rejection Proof is worth mentioning again. The guy who wrote it actively sought out rejection, teaching himself to ask more questions, not take things so personal, and to differentiate failure and rejection.
What does your daily schedule look like?
It’s pretty standard. I get up around 7, exercise or bring my dog to the dog park, come back, and work until 5:30-ish. I’m good about not working after hours, and my boyfriend is rarely on his computer for work, so that makes it easy. I’m able to unplug. Exercising really helps me sit down and focus for long periods of time.
I have a very simple to-do list system with a “today,”, “can wait”, and then three more categorized as LIFE, WORK (Square), or BUSINESS (Lodged Out). I like to keep that system organized and consistent. It also helps to make notes after every meeting and have a buffer between meetings. This system allows me to remain organized and focused.
What are your thoughts on failure?
Failure and rejection are very different feelings. People write books all the time about how their startups failed but they always learned from it. But rejection is something that’s way more ingrained and used to stick with me much longer.
Way, way back in the day, if you got rejected from a community for doing something wrong, you might not be able to get food and water. So when I can recognize something that didn’t go as planned, I learn from it quickly, and I don’t get personal about it. If failure lasts longer than it should, it probably has rejection tied up through it.
I had a big ‘failure’ happen this year, because of the Swan Lake Fire in Alaska. I had to cancel my first event ever without refunding attendees because the whole area was evacuated two days before the event. I had a system in place with waivers and policies in case something like this happened. But at the end of the day, there was nothing anyone could do. It wasn’t our fault, and I worked with a lawyer early on to protect me from this situation. Was it still extremely hard to email the attendees the news? Oh 100%. But do I still sulk in this devastating moment daily? No.
Why bank with Novo? What other apps do you use?
I use an all online personal bank called Ally. And I wondered if there was an online experience like that for business. I heard about Seed, so I used that until it went out of business a couple years ago. I tweeted, asking if there was an alternative to Seed. Seed told me to use Azlo, but then I quickly got a direct message from someone at Novo that day. I realized they could do checks and the other bank couldn’t. So the rest is history.
Other apps I use are Airtable to manage all my venue and vendor directories. It helps me with research and planning too. I use Google Sheets to conduct quick, pre-budgeting of custom events, and Slack for communicating with my attendees. I also use the amazing free design tool Canva, because I have a design aesthetic, but not a design background. I’m also starting to onboard a new business contract management system for my private clients this year!
What can we look forward to with Lodged Out?
We’re working to streamline the onboarding process and automating things on the backend, which will make working with us more organized, aka less emails all over the place.
As far as events go, we’re partnering with Mexico-based Aire Libre to produce all of their up-and-coming US events. I’ll produce an event for them in May 2020 here in Washington. I’ll also be running my annual engineering retreat at the end of the summer of 2020 in the Pacific Northwest. And some private experiences will be mixed in there as well.
Last time you took a vacation and totally unplugged?
Her Rails Camp retreat in August 2019.
A desire to reconnect with nature and each other led Bobbilee Hartman to create Lodged Out. She carries this mission forth to the entrepreneurial community with unplugged retreats at summer camps and lodges. We love having her as a Novo customers, and we can’t wait to see what she does next!
Bobbilee Hartman is the founder of Lodged Out. She’s an award winning event producer, software engineer, and speaker. She runs retreats all over the U.S. and is currently based in Seattle with her boyfriend and pup Forrest.