By Steve Hubrecht
steve@columbiavalleypioneer.com

Local enterprise Women Who Wander is set for some big expansion in the coming months. The organization began as a Facebook group, but founder Kayla Kay has taken a leap of faith during ongoing the COVID-19 pandemic and has relaunched it as a full-blown business.

“There were so many doubts and uncertainties. I was a part of another organization and was en route from Denver to Montreal and then to New York and back to Canada for a Women’s Empowerment Tour in partnership with Arcteryx right when the borders were closing, and the world was going into shut-down mode. We had to cancel our entire tour, and then I was laid off due to COVID-19,” Kay told the Pioneer. “It was here that I made the decision to make a go at doing things on my own. I found a silver-lining and made the best of my circumstances.”

As part of Kay’s expansion, she is launching an ambassador program that will see Women Who Wander expand into six new communities beyond the Columbia Valley, including Kimberley and Golden.

“The ambassador program is integral to our mission, and it will provide an opportunity to amplify the women in leadership roles within the outdoor industry. Our goal is to support our local leaders, and we want our organization to help propel them forward,” said Kay.

Kay started Women Who Wander as a Facebook group in April 2018, when she was at what she describes as a personal low point.

 “I was at rock bottom, recently divorced, in a new community. A single mother to a two-year-old, feeling pretty lost. I desperately needed community and a means to find myself. It was on the trails, surrounded by nature and other women that I found this,” said Kay. “I began coordinating hikes and outings for other women. Each time we made it to a summit, I watched as countless women would take a deep breath and unload the weight they carried on their shoulders. They would sit in silence and feel their accomplishments and the space they created for themselves. Every single outing had a theme. Each time, someone would say ‘I need to do this more often for myself’ or ‘I needed this’. It was in these moments that my mission became clear. As women, we often put ourselves and our needs on the back burner, particularly mothers; we naturally nurture the needs of our loved ones. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to carve space out for ourselves. That’s why this community is so powerful.”

Turning a passion project into a brand and a business has not been without challenges, but for Kay, it has paid off with success.

“It has been a rollercoaster of a launch and many moments of me questioning my sanity, but it has been incredible, and we have seen the most growth during COVID-19,” she said, adding the group now has almost 1,400 members. “Typically we host big gatherings and events. So COVID-19 really forced me to get creative with other ways to keep building value for our community and doing our best to promote the benefits of getting outdoors and finding balance, particularly during a pandemic.”

Among the other new programs, Kay is hoping to roll out soon are expedition scholarships that will send women on outdoor trips, Avalanche Skills Training Level One courses, introductory backcountry skiing and split boarding, and cross-country skiing clinics.

“At the core of Women Who Wander is a deep desire to make a positive social impact. Whether that’s within our community of members or supporting organizations making ripples and paving the way for diversity, inclusion, environmental awareness and beyond, we are on board and excited to team up with these powerhouses to support and share their missions,” said Kay. “This is why, each year, we pick a non-profit to donate a portion of our profits to. We are currently looking for our non-profit partner for 2021.”

To find out more, visit www.womenwhowander.club.