Women Involved Series: Lisa Gerber
I mountain bike, ski and trail run as much as I’m able hopefully with my husband Patrick and my rescue dogs Murphy (Bernese Mt Dog) and Pepper (black lab mix). Every now and then, I shave my legs and get a pedicure and go out and in public speak at conferences on the topic of storytelling.
I took my very first mountain bike ride when I lived in Aspen in the late 80s, and I kind of hated it because it was so frustrating.
Later, when I lived in Seattle, I got more into road riding and had a bike that was more expensive than my car. Imagine my concern, leaving my Bianchi Eros on the bike rack of my 15-year old Honda Civic. Car was unlocked, but that bike was strapped down!
I ski first and foremost. It’s pretty much my reason for existing. So when a friend took me mountain biking again, in the Pacific Northwest, I discovered it’s a lot like skiing through the forest! And I was hooked. The only thing better than sweet flowy single track is a beautiful powder day.
How I got here: I (finally) put my business degree to work at the age of 30, when I joined a real estate development company in downtown Seattle managing the marketing for their mixed-use developments in the city. They eventually bought a ski resort in Idaho I had never heard of (did someone say "ski resort?") and I quickly took advantage of my free ski pass at Schweitzer Mountain. It wasn't long before I fell in love with the place. When the marketing director resigned just before ski season, I was offered the position. I had two weeks to close up my life in Seattle and make the move to Sandpoint, Idaho.
I had a ski rack in my office. I took ski breaks at lunch. I talked skiing when I wasn’t skiing. it was a dream job. Until it wasn’t. And that’s when I decided to take a big leap and start my business. With Schweitzer agreeing to be my first client, I launched Big Leap Creative in 2004 and I advise CEOs and entrepreneurs on how to bring their ideas to life by way of effective communications and compelling story.
I am fascinated by the way our stories affect the way we show up in this world, not only the stories we tell others but the stories we tell ourselves. This is why I started The Gear Show podcast, weekly conversations with outdoor active professionals and entrepreneurs who are pushing boundaries and redefining how we do life and business: on our own terms, so you and I can gear up mentally and physically for our next big leap.
Your introduction to mountain biking wasn't the most positive. Knowing what you know now, how could your experience have been improved?
My having a negative experience was a consequence of two key things, maybe even a third, which underlies the first two: First, I was woefully unprepared in terms of equipment. I had a bad bike and bad clothes (like lots of heavy cotton). Secondly, I was not in shape at all. The third underlying factor: I was young and not terribly smart about things. How bad can it be when some friends say let’s go mountain biking? It sounded more fun than hiking! That was a long time ago. Today, I don’t think people would make that mistake. The bike technology is far more advanced and you have to know where to begin. Maybe don’t start on a black diamond trail your first day out!
Your mountain biking re-introduction was more successful! Was your success more terrain-based? Bike based? Skill based?
Hell yeah! So much more fun. I think I had the same bike so it must have been terrain and skill-based. Most importantly, I was in much better shape, we started on softer single track (not so rocky and treacherous!) and I was hooked on the flow of the trail.
Clips or flats? What do you use when and why?
Clips. I need to feel connected to the bike. I can’t stand being unclipped. I especially like the uphill pull.
Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I did, but fortunately, nothing causing injury (knock on wood). It was a downhill fall on a sidehill, you know that one, don’t you? But it was on the slick rock of Sedona and it hurt. A lot. I laid there for a bit as I recovered from the shock of the impact against the rock. What freaked me out about this was that it wasn’t a particularly technical spot. And it, therefore, knocked my confidence because if I can fall unexpectedly there, I can fall at any time, anywhere.
What did you do to heal and overcome?
I told myself not to be such a wuss. I can let that moment define me and decide not to ride anymore or… keep riding and get over it. We chose how we want to react to things.
Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?
I might not be the best person to ask this question. My risk threshold tends to be relatively low. If I approach something I don’t feel comfortable riding, I might session it to get it right but I have a huge aversion to getting injured (and subsequently not being able to ride for an indefinite future) so I have no problem getting off and walking something I don’t feel remotely safe on. I’d rather walk a few yards and ride tomorrow. I am not out to prove anything.
For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?
Start mellow and progress slowly! There are plenty of beginner rides and easy flowy single track that will get you pumped and having fun. Progress with little features and technical skills and most of all, establish trust in your bike. It’s amazing what she will get done for you. Lastly, don’t stress yourself out worrying you have to ride things you don’t feel comfortable riding.
This detracts from the joy of riding. Push yourself when you’re ready.
What do you love about riding your bike?
What is not to love? I am a skier first and foremost and mountain biking makes me happy while I’m waiting for ski season to start up again. :) Riding a mountain bike is like skiing through the woods. There is a flow to it and you pick your line just as you would skiing. Its faster-paced and more exciting than hiking and it’s way more interesting than road riding! Often more scenic and of course there is no traffic!.
Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have a Yeti 575 and am in love with it. Honestly, I’ve been riding a Cannondale Scalpel with the lefty fork for too long. It was an awesome bike when I bought it more than 10 years ago but it’s been holding me back, something I’ve really become aware of riding with besties on IMBA epics and listening to them hoot and holler with joy as I’m struggling and on and off the bike. Getting on my Yeti was like opening the door to a new world. The second I started riding it, I had a perma-grin. Immediately, I could ride things I’d never ridden before. I always thought it was my own mental game holding me back. A lot of it has to do with the bike - a new geometry, more travel, better tires and I am now biking a lot more. Who knows, maybe I’ll even start to love it as much as I love skiing!
What inspired you to take the leap into starting up your own business?
Oh yeah, that was a big one. I had moved to Sandpoint, Idaho to take the marketing job at Schweitzer Mountain Resort and it was a dream job. I emailed my friends and co-workers back in Seattle to show them the photo of my office with skis hanging from the wall. After three years, I needed more of a challenge. I asked to take a six-week leave of absence while I decided what that might be. At this point, there were no other jobs for me in the small town of Sandpoint and I didn’t want to leave because I love it here and I had my boyfriend whom I had just met, who would eventually become my husband. I returned to work after my sabbatical with a plan for my business - PR and communications and a proposal for my employer. They said yes, and agreed to be my first client. In July 2004, I literally took the leap, and launched Big Leap Creative. It’s what allowed me to stay here and do what I do.
What has been the most exciting thing for you since creating your own business?
The most exciting thing is the control. I can work as hard as I want, learn new things, and evolve the business accordingly, pursuing work and projects I want, and getting the satisfaction of attracting the work I want. It also means I have no one to blame but myself when things aren’t going the way I want them to. I have 100 percent accountability to me.
What has been the most challenging?
When we are really busy, I’m stressed out. When we are slower, I’m stressed out. If I let it, this thing will give me a heart attack! I’ve really worked on trying to even out my own response to shifts in our business, and have a bit more faith in the process. Over the past 14 years, I have worked very hard to have more ease in the process and to have to know that everything always works out, whether it goes as planned or not.
Tell us about the Gear Show Podcast and your goal behind creating the show-
Funny you should ask because the Gear Show was a product of a slower period of time in business. I decided to use the extra time to launch this project because I really wanted to get more into working with mountain lifestyle clients. That was our goal from the beginning of Big Leap and as luck would have it, we began working with hospitality clients in the mountain towns, but then, oddly, clients like healthcare technology, manufacturing and hi-tech came to us needing help. I love the variety and the challenge, but how can I get back to being more intentional about attracting businesses from the outdoor industry? Let’s start talking to them. Let’s learn the medium of podcasting, and interviewing, and how to market podcasts and build audiences. Now, I’ve amassed a great deal of awesome content from inspiring men and women in the industry and what will I do with that next? I have ideas!
What do you love about sharing their stories?
I love sharing their stories because patterns start to arise - patterns on how individuals are redefining the way they live life, do work, and we can learn from these patterns. You start to see how they react to challenges that might knock some of us off our course, that make others grit their teeth and work through it. I learn so much from each and every interview so it starts as a selfish curiosity but if I’m curious, then others must be too, right? I hope by sharing their stories, I inspire others to take their own leaps. To make their ideas happen.
Do you always know who you want to feature or do you take submissions?
I definitely take submissions! One of the hardest parts of doing this podcast is sourcing interesting guests. I am looking for outdoor active professionals and athletes who are redefining the way they do work and life. Please submit your ideas at https://www.takeabigleap.com/connect/
What do you love most about the concept of storytelling?
Great question: Humans are wired for story. In fact, we communicate in story. Think about the last time you got together with a friend. You shared stories back and forth, right? Stories draw us in as we anticipate what is going to happen next. We feel empathy and understanding as we live through characters vicariously. What so many of us fail to realize is that our own story has a huge impact on how we show up in the world. The way we tell our story is rooted in the story we tell ourselves first and foremost. That’s where we need to start. Because we have a choice on how we tell our story. If we want to make change happen, we have to start with the story we tell ourselves.
What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I know this is a thing because I have spoken to so many women on my Gear Show podcast that have started businesses to empower women to get into cycling. And we’ve discussed it at length, and they would be far more qualified to answer this question than I because from my perspective, I don’t see it. I have lots of badass girlfriends who love to ride. Others who don’t, love doing other things, so I don’t attribute it to the fact that they are a woman, they just prefer to hike, run, insert their favorite sport here.
What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
I want to inspire women to make their ideas happen. if that means they want to ride more, then that’s great. Making an impact on someone’s life fills me with joy. Whatever the reasons are that keep us from making that idea happen - what are they and how can we shoot them down like beer cans on that bench - fear? time? kids and other obligations? I get it. It goes back to the story we tell ourselves, shifting that story and getting shit done.
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
I majored in French in college and have a deep love for France. Freshman year, I freaked out my first week in 19th-century literature class, worried it was way over my head. My professor calmed me down and suggested I give it more time. I did and ended up doing well in that class. In fact, upon graduation, I was awarded Greatest Academic Achievement in a Foreign Language, much to my surprise. It was a proud moment for me.