My First Midwest Recruiting Trip

By, Max Tardy

During the last week of February, Spencer and I went on—what we like to call—a “recruiting” trip. We touched down at Minneapolis’ Lindbergh Terminal, both anxious and excited for the week ahead. This was my first opportunity to hit the road and share the PlayHard GiveBack story, a milestone I’ve been looking forward to since indulging into my first bag of Fuel and Flow

With all of the friends, connections, and potential accounts we could jam into our brief trip, we were ready to hit the ground running. Nerves aside, we were confident we would make the most out of our time the Midwest, although it didn’t help that my bag missed our connection in Salt Lake—the bag packed with PHGB products, swag, and all of my clothes for the week. Despite the initial hiccup, my bag made it Thursday morning, just in time for our first meeting.

On our first day, we covered the entire Twin Cities metro area; we started at the Lifetime Fitness headquarters in Chanhassen, working our way 30 miles east to downtown St. Paul where the first Vertical Endeavors climbing gym was established. Along the way, we stopped at numerous targeted contacts: corporate headquarters and boutique hotels. The day was long, but incredibly productive. We capped off the afternoon with a smooth stout and good conversation at  Minneapolis’ Indeed Brewing Taproom, a great way to reflect on the day’s successes and progress. After finishing our beers, my mom (graciously) taxied us two hours up I-35 to Duluth—thanks mom! We had tickets to my alma mater’s men’s hockey game, and we arrived in time to catch the final two periods. The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs pulled off a tight win over their conference foe, Miami of Ohio, scoring the go-ahead goal in the closing minutes of the third period.

Friday was more of the same, Spencer and I pursuing prospects around Duluth while I doubled as a tourist guide, sharing bits of Duluth history and nostalgic stories—I did spend 25 years there, after all. Midday, we met with my former professor, John Kratz. John’s influence resonated with me as much as any professor during my time at UMD. He’s a very interesting character who exudes enthusiasm, molding his students into young professionals throughout the school year. His career began as a butter salesmen, where he became the top butter salesperson in the country—no small feat. Many accomplishments and experiences navigating the entrepreneurial landscape later, he now shares his knowledge with his students at UMD as well as businesses across the United States. He focuses his message in the art of storytelling, one of his most intriguing characteristics. After listening to the evolution of PlayHard GiveBack and our mission going forward, John invited Spencer to share the PHGB story as one the main speaker’s at UMD’s Entrepreneur Conference this October—count us in, we’ll see you there!

Our Friday culminated with the Bulldog’s final home series and the last time the seniors would play a regular season contest at Amsoil Arena. Despite the Bulldog’s loss, UMD’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) had their Make-A-Wish night as well, raising over $3,000 for a local, ill child. Friday night was a perfect example of the giveback movement PHGB wishes to drive and encourage. After the game, we went down to the locker room, and I gave Spence a tour of my home for four years. I introduced him to some of the players and provided a few of our favorite PHGB snacks.

Early morning on Monday, we met with UMD’s athletic director, sharing our story and goals. He was exceedingly receptive to our passion and message. Now, it was time to return south to the Twin Cities and wrap up our final meetings before departing back home to Ketchum.

The University of St. Thomas—one of the places where Spencer shaped his goals and cultivated the direction for PlayHard GiveBack—was our last stop. Nestled amongst giant oak trees, whose canopy block the towering skylines of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, the University of St. Thomas is incredibly picturesque. Meandering around campus, Spencer pointed out landmarks, like where he brainstormed PHGB ideas for class projects and where he took the first photo for PHGB.

Our final meeting was with Spencer’s former professor, Mary—PlayHard GiveBack’s very first investor. As they reminisced, their conversation painted the raw evolution of PHGB: from Spencer’s senior year wanting to build a brand that was unique and impactful, to now, piecing together a strong, dynamic team with a clear focus. Watching her expressions as Spencer spoke, she looked proud of Spencer; every day, he’s materializing his business plan and turning his dreams into reality. As a newcomer to PHGB, their conversation was a powerful indicator of how motivated Spencer is to make PHGB a success.

In the blink of an eye, we were headed back home to Idaho. With a long layover in Salt Lake City, I reflected on what went well, what we can improve going forward, and where we want to go next. One of the most profound takeaways from the trip was that connecting, in person, is key to establishing relationships. While sending an email is certainly easier than traveling across the country, connecting face-to-face is the most optimal way to gain traction, establish trust, and create longevity in partnerships.

This is just the beginning. Spencer and I can’t wait to hit the road this summer in the epic PHGB Winnebago, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share the PlayHard GiveBack story.