Written by: Meg Keller
When I was 23, I decided it was time to get a “real” job — the main qualifier for “real” being health insurance — and move away from my idyllic but poverty stricken ski/trout bum life in Colorado. So I scoured the internet and sent out my resume to anyone who had a posting. I was thrilled to get one call back about a job at Orvis working as a coordinator for their Fly Fishing product development team and somehow managed to convince them to hire me.
I arrived at my first corporate job ready to learn and prove myself, but not old enough to rent a car. It was a perfect job for me, and I look back on that first position and the people I worked with fondly. A few years later I moved on to be a buyer for that same department – what luck! It was my dream job, and I scoured the marketplace for the latest fishing accessories, technical clothing and eventually waders.
And that’s where the fun began. A 26 year old female fishing buyer did not necessarily fit the stereotype of a fishing industry veteran. I’d walk into people’s booths at trade shows, and I’d swear they all thought I was someone’s daughter. No one even tried to conceal their shock when I started to talk business. I looked at it as my secret weapon, although in retrospect I don’t know how much of a weapon it actually was.
I have a lot of good stories from that time, as the only woman on the guys fishing trip or accidentally being booked in the same hotel rooms as my co-workers (I always got out of those ones)! But the most hilarious story was when I went on a sourcing trip to Scotland and then China, visiting wader factories with my boss. My luggage got lost somewhere between Edinburgh and Seoul, and I found myself in a small manufacturing city in northern China with the clothes on my back and a toothbrush. At this point, I was just glad I had the toothbrush. After a full day like this I decided the luggage was not coming, and that I needed to go shopping. I went to a Chinese department store with my boss (a guy), our agent (also a guy) and the factory owner (yet another guy). I finally shooed them away enough to buy what I really needed – socks and underwear – and went up to the counter to pay. As I was swiping my debit card, I had a sinking feeling as it came up “declined.” I don’t speak any Chinese, but managed to gesticulate enough that they swiped it a few more times. Declined. I was sweating at this point, thinking about the remainder of the trip in the clothes I’d already worn for too long and my other credit card sitting in my hotel room. To my rescue came the factory owner, who very kindly bought my new socks and underwear for me without blinking an eye. I will never forget that moment, or how beet red I must have been.
I’ve since moved on to work on the apparel side of the business, which I’ve discovered is truly my passion, but will always look back with affection on those early days – and those stories.