On the Road and Off

This week we bring you an interview with TJ Maurer, founder of On the Road and Off. In this conversation with TJ, explore a behind the scenes look into a rep agency that is doing amazing work to support speciality outdoor retailers like TB&C. On the Road and Off is a collection of individuals with two goals: encourage folks to breathe fresh air often and empower and energize independent retailers for the future. TJ and his team are sales reps by trade, but they love all things outdoors. They work hard and we play hard like the TB&C team. We hope this interview inspires you to do the same, incorporating your passions into your daily life and making time to get outside and breathe fresh air! 

Tell us about yourself. Who are you? What inspires you?  What drives you? What brings you joy?
First and foremost I am a rock climber. My passion for rock climbing has led me to meet so many people and see so many places. It has introduced me to many experiences and opportunities including where I am today as a rep for Fayettechill, Metolius, and Teva. I founded my own rep agency in 2015 called On the Road and Off. It started as a side hustle and turned into a full time business when I began working with Teva last May.

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What inspired you to start On the Road and Off?
The inspiration for On the Road and Off came from a play on words from one of my favorite writers, Jack Kerouac. In college I took 2 road trips, 1 to Mexico and 1 to Bishop, California. In 2009 I met a few people in California who were living in vans. This was before before #vanlife and it got into my head then that I wanted to experience that lifestyle. I bought a white, 93 GMC safari, with an old scratched 5-points Deli logo all along the side in 2010. My journey started outside of El Paso and followed a path many climbers take - following the cool temperature north.

I met a ton of people, two guys in particular, who became close friends. One of them got a sub rep job in Colorado and connected me to a sales rep job in Chattanooga with Sanuk. As I learned more about rep groups and the outdoor industry, I felt like there was a need for a regional marketing arm connecting brand, rep, and store which would resonate with folk in the southeast. The desire to start On the Road and Off came from combining two existing ideas - sales and marketing, and my passion for the outdoor industry.

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What is your company mission? What is your personal life mission? How do they influence one another?
There are two main pillars to On the Road and Off. First, inspire more people to get outside, breathe fresh air more often. It doesn't have to be anything extreme, just being outside. The second is to empower independent retailers for the future. I am still developing the blueprint for how to best support speciality retail shops in creative ways and don’t subscribe to the articles about the gloom and doom of retail. Retail offers a great opportunity for people to interact. Independent retailers are a place where people can go to get information, motivation, psych and gear. I hung out at my local outfitter Half Moon when I was in college in Athens, GA and loved everyone who worked there and the culture it created. We are humans, we are meant to interact and I don’t see a world where there is only online shopping.

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How do you incorporate play into your life to create a healthy work/life balance?
Every spare minute I have is spent outside. During my busy times of the year there will be weeks where I can’t go on big adventures but I will always make time to get out for a few hours and hike with my dog, trail run or throw some flies. Having a wife who is just as stoked about getting outside helps too. Working hard makes my psyched to play hard and the same goes with playing hard...it makes me eager to get back to work.

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What are some of the obstacles you have overcome to pursue this dream?
One obstacle is I have never worked for an outdoor retailer so learning how retailers operate was an initial crux. Trying to grow and pioneer smaller brands is a constant challenge - but exciting. Being on the road requires early mornings and late nights emailing and following up but working for myself is motivating even when the days are long.

My favorite part about being a rep is that you have your really busy times where you have to hustle for weeks on end with seemingly no break...but then there are slow times where you can take off a Wednesday and go do something fun outside.

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What are you excited about right now?
There’s a lot I am excited about right now. From a life standpoint, I am excited about spring fly fishing! I have been climbing all winter and am excited for the warmer weather. In terms of work I am excited about this busy sesaon approaching! I am also trying to grow the content side of my business, becoming a better storyteller, photographer and content builder. I signed up for a 50K in the fall that I am training for which I am excited about too.

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What piece of advice do you have for outdoor enthusiasts with entrepreneurial spirits?
Try to find like minded people. Find people who have the love for the outdoors and the drive to make it a part of what they do. It is amazing what other people's ideas will trigger for you. It comes back to the human interaction piece I talked about earlier. You can only do so much by yourself. There is a guy working with me now who I brought on board in August and it is so amazing to have someone to bounce ideas off of and chat about how we can grow On the Road and Off. It is an amazing feeling when things are clicking and alot of work is getting done all while new ideas are flourishing.

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What would you have done differently when you started your company if you knew then what you know now?
I assumed we would start the social media and content part and that it would take off but I am learning that it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. You hear that all the time, but for some reason I didnt expect it. A lot of it is just putting out content on a more regular basis and getting more people involved. I was overzealous about how much time I had in the day to do the rep job and also be a content creator. It is a slow build and consistency is key.

What’s next?
Growing my business. I want to create more accessible content for retailers and the brands I work with  and continue to be the best rep I can be which comes down to doing what I say I am going to do. The biggest thing I have found about being a good rep is showing genuine excitement about products, being honest and knowing the store and employees I am working with - every store is different. Authenticity is key. Having a life rooted outside grows that authenticity so that when I come into stores, I am sharing my lifestyle and self. After being in a constant state of change for the past few years, I am excited to have consistency, growing my brands, and working on executing my vision. I’m looking forward to putting all my ideas into effect and providing retailers with southeastern imagery. We want to also create original content from the road featuring coffee shops, restaurants, trails and rivers along the way we find. We live half the year on a perpetual road trip so we want to share those stories with everyone.

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What’s your favorite product and why?
My favorite product is my Teva Arrowoods. They are waterproof, superlight weight boot/shoes. I did a 3 week backpacking trip in Patagonia with them and also wear them around town nearly every day. I like products that transitions from trail to tavern. My other favorite product is Metolius chalk - given I use it every time I climb and of course every awesome Fayettechill tee I own.

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What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone who is authentic, genuine, and driven. When I have kids I want to be the best dad. If I could change the industry a little bit by creating authentic regional content and  inspire more folks to get outside and shop local, that would be great. Getting outside makes you feel better point blank.

Anything else you would like to share?
I encourage everyone to try something difficult, especially outdoors like climbing, trail running, long hikes or mountain biking. Doing things outside teaches you how to manage failure and just go for it. My life is founded on what I have learned climbing - you might try a move a 1000 times before you get it. Pushing yourself outdoors helps you be less afraid of failure. Try hard and be the best you can. You don't get any time back in life.

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