October 17, 2000 – A Domain Name Was Registered, the Rest is History
Right around age 24, and a few years out of college, I founded what would later become one of the most well-known outdoor clubs in the greater Atlanta area, the Atlanta Outdoor Club (AOC). Having been involved in the outdoors for much of my life, including heavy involvement in the Salisbury University outdoor club, during my years there, I found my sudden transplanting in Georgia the day after graduation left me with the desire to explore, but no one to do it with. At the time, during the IT boom, people were constantly coming and going from the city. It was relatively transitional and it was rare I met a local. So, I used my extremely basic HTML skills at the time to build a basic web site and through free classified ads in the local free weekly paper, got the word out. Quickly too. The group grew beyond my wildest expectations to a couple hundred members just in the first nine months.
March 18, 2002 – Building Social Networks, and Creating Offline Connections, Since Before Those Words Were “Cool”
Unfortunately, during that time, I went through an unplanned change of jobs and took the opportunity to relocate back to Maryland, where I had grown up. I swore I would never go through all that blood, sweat, and tears again (anyone that has started or run a business or organization knows exactly what I mean). A few months went by. I just couldn’t find the same kind of club that the AOC was, in the greater Baltimore / D.C. area. This time around, I implored help from friend Mark Zawodny, to co-found the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC), which is over 7,000 members today.
Both the MOC and the AOC were founded on similar principles of the Salisbury University outdoor club. I wanted a fun, inviting place for young (at heart) adults to experience the outdoors in a low-cost manner. By organizing events in group-style, it would often bring down the cost per attendee. There was quite the balance between low-cost and low-impact on nature.
All events of the MOC could be grouped into three primary categories: adventure sports, travel, and social. Which are words still emphasized in the logo today.
Events were often constructed to challenge the experts and welcome the novices alike.
February 23, 2004 – Not Every Organization Was a Success
Trying to emulate the success of the MOC in a women-only group (there was a real need for women-only activities amongst members of the MOC), a group named Girls and the City was formed. Instead of working with the slightly raised event costs the MOC used to garner funds to operate, an annual membership fee was charged — which went to paying for web site and marketing resources mostly. The organization was in full swing around the time that the first Sex and the City movie premiered. But, most of the event organizing still fell on me, I was stretched thin and needless to say…the event calendar tapered off a bit after that. Everyone was on Meetup, mostly for free, after all … as the group organizers were absorbing both the annual Meetup fee and woes of running a group.
I gained some permanent friendships out of this group, and am pretty sure others did too although I’m not in touch with every member still today.
I’m still happily active members of both the AOC and MOC, but have hung up my “entrepreneurial” hat so-to-speak for a while. Occasionally, you’ll find me consulting with the new officers elect and organizing from time to time.
I’m good with just being a regular, old member these days. And, no I won’t be assuming the group owner role on any of your going-defunk Meetup groups. I got enough going on. And, I’m managing to say “No” better these days. In the meantime, I hope you will get enjoyment and lasting friendships out of these many on- and offline outlets.
A friend of mine from Atlanta, who later returned to her home country of Canada, formed the Calgary Outdoor Club (and later the Calgary Culture Club). And, later, one by one, other clubs branched out off of one another. Today, there are a total of seven sister clubs in the network:
- Atlanta Outdoor Club (AOC)
- Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC)
- Calgary Outdoor Club (COC)
- Toronto Outdoor Club (TOC)
- Edmonton Outdoor Club (EOC)
- Vancouver Regional Outdoor Club (VROC)
I wonder what will be next…