After becoming discouraged with the lack of information online about recreational activities, local resident Fynn Glover partnered with Rock/Creek leaders to create a tool that guides users to the best outdoor experiences across the country.
“We were just running into a sea of mediocrity on the Web,” Glover said.
Searching Google for “best hiking” or “best trail run” produced an overwhelming number of results, some of which were unreliable.
And after interviewing 1,000 people about roadblocks to getting outdoors, Glover; Dawson Wheeler, co-owner of Rock/Creek; and Mark McKnight, Rock/Creek marketing director, founded Roots Rated this year.
“People wanted to get out,” McKnight said. “It wasn’t that they didn’t think that was valuable or they didn’t think being outdoors would help them in their life-they just had these psychological barriers.”
Users can find the top five to 10 best outdoor activities ranked by industry experts in each city.
For example, Robyn Carlton, head of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy, wrote about experiences on the mountain.
Roots Rated content is generated by people whose livelihoods depend on outdoor experiences and who truly know the area, Glover said.
“We generate all of our content through specialty, independently owned retailers,” Glover said. “They are the experts. We tapped into authors who have a real economic incentive to participate in something that promotes this outdoor community.”
And that helps ensure the long-term viability of the participating businesses, McKnight said.
The trio has lined up investors-Dawson, Horny Toad Activewear and Shelby Howe-and retailers have already started buying advertisements on the site, founders said.
Founders didn’t want to talk specifics, but launching the site-which is optimized for mobile use-wasn’t inexpensive.
Glover said the site provides a positive user experience.
“We think this is special because of the way we designed it,” he said. “It is intuitive.”
And founders will be working with leaders at the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, McKnight said.
“This is not their core focus, but it’s really helpful to their constituents,” he said.
Dave Santucci, vice president of marketing at the CVB, said he personally uses Roots Rated. He said he loves it and that it may boost local tourism.
“Roots Rated is an incredible way to engage that outdoors crowd and to encourage them to stay longer,” he said. “They might wind up planning on coming in for a day or two and find out there is so much to do.”