Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance expands board of directors

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Tue, 11/17/2020 - 1:23pm -- Denise Sortor

At its second annual Membership Meeting held virtually on November 11th, the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA) elected a slate of board directors that include three new members:

  • Wendy Knight is a marketing communications executive and former freelance adventure and travel journalist for the New York Times who recently served as Governor Scott’s Commissioner of the Department of Tourism and Marketing and as Vice-Chair of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC).
  • Laura McLaughlin is the Buying Manager for Pinnacle Ski & Sports in Stowe and has worked in the outdoor industry for 25 years in capacities ranging from wholesale sales for The North Face and Patagonia to ski resort marketing and ski racing coaching.
  • TJ Whalen is the General Partner and Managing Director at FreshTracks Capital and brings 25 years in consumer brand and business leadership in product, marketing, sales, strategy and finance from companies like Keurig Green Mountain and as the current Board Chair of 1% for the Planet.

“The deep expertise of the newly-elected Directors augments the industry leadership of the re-elected and continuing Directors, lending a unique set of skills and perspectives to VOBA’s ongoing strategies and initiatives,” said Mark Yardley, Vice President of Global Sales at Darn Tough Vermont and VOBA’s recent Board chair. “Their experience in finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, policy development, sales, and customer relationships will strengthen VOBA’s efforts to spur a swift rebound of the sector in the short –term, and reimagine an innovative and sustainable industry for the next decade.”

The new directors will serve two-year terms. Other directors re-elected to the board:

  • Mark Yardley is the Vice President - Global Sales at Darn Tough Vermont with 26 years in the industry, including 15 years at W.L. Gore (Gore-Tex).
  • Jordan Jiskra is the Finance Director - Global Direct to Consumer for Burton Snowboards and has been in the industry 18 years.
  • Greg Manning is the owner of GM Consulting with 22 years in action sports business development and athlete mentoring.

Industry leaders continuing on the Board through 2021 include Marc Sherman, Outdoor Gear Exchange; Corinne Prevot, Skida Headwear & Accessories; and Miguel Reda, Outdoor Gear Exchange, who leads VOBA’s justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion initiative. Executive Committee Directors are:

Chair: Drew Simmons, Pale Morning Media  

Vice Chair: Michael Schmidt, Velocity Sales & Marketing

Secretary: Lisa Lynn, Vermont Sports and VT Ski+Ride 

Treasurer: Jordan Jiskra, Burton Snowboards

U.S. Congressman Peter Welch joined the VOBA Membership Meeting virtually with a Congressional update and insight on federal support for the outdoor sector.

“There is such support for the outdoor recreation economy moving forward because of the pride of place and sense of localism which is at the heart of what you do, the focus on environmental sustainability that is core to your mission, and the universal appeal across party lines to have access to the outdoors, no matter where you live,” said Congressman Peter Welch. “That is what gives me hope in the next Congress.”

Vermont Tourism and Marketing Commissioner, Heather Pelham, provided an update on the Scott Administration’s COVID-related restrictions and marketing strategy. “Outdoor recreation is a core part of the storytelling for the state’s visitation and brand awareness strategy,” said Commissioner Pelham. “The state is also communicating how people can travel safely, especially in anticipation of the upcoming ski season, and how consumers can support our existing tourism infrastructure by buying locally this holiday season.”

Key accomplishments of VOBA the past year include:

  • Advocated for $1.5 million in outdoor recreation economic recovery grants from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and an additional $2 million in relief grants from the Vermont Department of Taxes.
  • Hosted 8 virtual networking events attended by 100+ people that fostered dialogue, highlighted best practices and resources for businesses impacted by the pandemic.
  • Facilitated new market access for established companies and start-up brands through participation in industry trade shows and profiles in industry media.

The Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance (VOBA) is a statewide non-profit organization of outdoor recreation businesses that works to educate Vermonters about outdoor recreation and to educate Vermont outdoor recreation businesses about business development initiatives, collaboration opportunities, and outdoor recreation economy policy. VOBA is dedicated to strengthening, expanding, attracting, and retaining outdoor recreation economy businesses in Vermont. For more info: