We had the good fortune of connecting with Liz Thomas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Liz, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Prior to starting my business, I was an outdoor athlete that held the Fastest Known Time (aka speed record) on the 2,181 mile long Appalachian Trail. I noticed as an athlete that none of the gear reviews I read were by women. And none of the highest level professional gear reviewers were BIPOC like me. So, I decided to start a business to change that.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started Treeline Review as an outdoor athlete, who looked around at who was reviewing gear and wondered where the women and People of Color were. I started Treeline Review because I wanted people to spend their spare time outside playing instead of indoors researching gear. I myself had spent so much of my income over the years on gear and knew that if there were objective and reliable reviews available, it would save everyone time and money. Best yet–I knew from my prior environmental consulting career that one of the biggest environmental footprints behind outdoor gear often comes in the manufacturing and the end-of-life cycle disposal. That means it’s actually better for the planet if we buy one item we love rather than replacing gear every year. Prior to starting Treeline Review, I worked for the New York Times product review website, the Wirecutter. I reviewed outdoor gear and that gave me the background to write objectively about items people use. I started Treeline Review with my hiking partner, Naomi. We had trusted our lives to each other facing grizzlies and raging glacial rivers, so I knew I trust her in business, too. For me as a creative, the most challenging parts of starting a business were tax forms, accounting, and logistics. Naomi’s corporate background in (as I describe it) reading long, boring legal documents and making complicated spreadsheets, complemented my skills. Now, over two years we have grown to a team of over 20 people. We’re all remote and represent people from all around the country, from hikers and backpackers and campers to rafters, skiers, mountain bikers, and climbers. About 50% of our writers identify with one or more traditionally underrepresented groups. We have almost 100 gear review stories now and remain the only (to my knowledge) women-owned gear review company of this size and the only outdoor gear-focused media company focused on representation and inclusivity. My background as an athlete and also our recruitment of top voices in the outdoors that haven’t had opportunities to shine in other outdoor media is changing how the outdoor industry thinks about representation.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As an outdoor athlete, I am known for this thing called “urban thru-hiking.” It takes the long distance multi-day (or week or month) spirit of the Pacific Crest Trail or John Muir Trail and brings it to the city. I hiked a 200+ mile route all within LA called the Inman 300 that connected by foot all the public stairways in the city. When friends visit from out of town, I take them on a section of that route–usually around Silver Lake. It’s a workout up and over every hill, but I love being able to explore by foot and find hidden stairways behind bougainvillea. I think on foot is the best way to see the hidden quirks that you miss in car. Part of the Inman 300 includes the “Tomato Pie” route through Silver Lake/Franklin Hills neighborhood and ends at the pizza joint on Hyperion. Other than that, as an outdoors-person, the Mt. Baldy area is my go-to for a mountain experience. A moonlight hike up to the Notch (or riding up on the ski lift!) with a meal or a beer at the lodge is my definition of a great night. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I started Treeline Review with my hiking partner, Naomi (yay! women-owned business). I knew I could trust Naomi because we had literally protected each other from grizzly bears and forded raging glacial-melting rivers together. As women, we were part of the demographic less likely to have spare time to research gear and have the expendable income to buy and try out many items. I wanted to encourage people to get out and have fun with confidence in their gear choices. and create a welcoming space where people could save time researching gear and save money buying outdoor gear right the first time. My top advice for entrepreneurs is to partner with someone you trust with your life. Whether that is a co-founder, mentor, or coach, having reliable support is essential–especially during those first 6-months to a year where every single day feels like the hardest day of your life and you’re learning so many new things and each thing you learn you need to do seems like an insurmountable task.
Steve Redmond -shoes John Carr- 3 backpackers Duncan Cheung- snowshoer jumping