Living Her Adventure profiles women in and beyond the outdoor industry who are living their fullest lives and pushing their limits. Ed. 003: Jess Southwick, Co-founder of Animosa.
An avid outdoors woman, Jessica Southwick’s passion for the outdoors and wild places began by joining the Girl Scouts and spending one-on-one time with her father, a Boy Scouts leader, in the outdoors near their home in Stillwater, Oklahoma. “I learned to sail with the Girl Scouts. My dad actually got us a little sail boat so that I could teach him. That was always our connection and our place to learn: out on the water, reading the wind, watching the water.”
Passionate about nature since a young age, Jessica fulfilled a lifelong dream by joining a university conservation biology program in Central Washington to work with chimpanzees. But as she explains, “the industry of working with primates is bleak. It’s a devastating degree because there’s not much hope, especially from a conservation point of view.” After a lot of self-reflection, Jess transitioned into organic farming soon after graduating, which enabled her to care for the land, empower the local community, build relationships, and work outside.
These values are what first linked Jess to her Animosa co-founder Kate Blazar and to their mission: creating “Gear for Adventurous Women” while defending and promoting wild places. “Neither Kate nor I are business people. We’re non-profit people. We’re both into this because we want to support the causes we care about through business. To be able to combine those things together is what drives us.” Their first product, the Go With The Flow Pack, a hygienic menstrual kit for off-grid adventures, is a great example of this philosophy in action. Jess shares, “We recently had an article in the local newspaper because a mom reached out to us explaining that her 16 year old daughter was going to volunteer in a small Nepalese village and was very nervous about having her period there. Kate, having traveled there numerous times, went over, did a presentation for her and 4 of her friends, set them up with some packs, and it made a huge difference in their overall experience.”
As Jess knows personally, exposure to great experiences outdoors is essential, not only for self-development but also as a tool for preservation of our natural world. “Having experiences in the outdoors puts an intrinsic value on our public lands, and if there’s more than a monetary value attached to nature, people will be more invested in keeping our public lands safe. The more people who can access nature, the better for the longevity of our environment.” From her perspective, nature is our greatest teacher: “Lessons are easier to learn out in the wild. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in nature is that we’re a part of it. It’s not about focusing on yourself, but rather on everything as a whole. Especially as someone who thinks a lot about conservation and ecology and how systems are working, I’ve realized the world doesn’t revolve around us. We’re actually a part of this huge thing.”
Even on a smaller scale, Jess and Kate truly are a part of something big and it’s only getting bigger. “It’s almost been overwhelming with how well the Go With The Flow Pack has been received. We’ve had so many people recommending partnerships and making purchases. It’s almost more than we can do. We’re trying to keep up with our sales all over the country.” According to Jess, this success results from their tight knit team’s strong connection, shared values, and work ethic. “We’re all definitely adventure-driven, but not in an isolated way; we’re always looking for ways to include our community. And there’s so much openness between us – it’s just that connection. What’s awesome too is that our problem solving approaches are different- we all have different ways of looking at things, which makes us stronger. The ultimate goal of Animosa is empowering each other.”
As Animosa continues to grow, Jess looks forward to building deeper connections still with her teammates and her community: “I now have my own troop, my own outdoor family, thanks to Animosa. We’re setting up roots and making connections and we’ll continue to grow as a team first.”
In March 2019, Ambassador Justine Mulliez set out to ski and splitboard the 33-mile Crater Lake Rim Route and find some extra elevation and good lines along the way. Read more Justine’s experience on her blog, Just A Wild Thought.