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Campfire Co-Op Demo Days 2023

Campfire Co-Op Demo Days 2023

Under the canopy of towering Sweetgums and Water Oaks, I am sitting on one of several benches surrounded by the outdoor industry's youngest and oldest "movers and shakers," the best teachers, product makers, and content creators. We are listening to Craig Caudill, Founder of Nature Reliance School, give a discussion on Primitive to Modern Lostproofing. Caudill explains how in nature, there are indicators for cardinal direction, such as the appearance of trees and their growth patterns, that can be used as navigation tools to never be lost. "A tree will develop thicker rings on one side based on the direction it is leaning. Now, the question I have for you, that I am not going to answer, is how does a tree know how to do that?" he asks. 

It's Mid-March in Georgia, and heavy rains are on the menu for a private weekend event entitled "Demo Days," sponsored by a collection of individuals called the Campfire Co-op, with attendees traveling via Jeeps, planes, converted four-wheel homes, and even a Japanese mini Kei Truck. The precipitation held out long enough for the leading engineers and makers of fire-starting implements, handcrafted knives, wearable accessories with cache components, adventure gear, waxed canvas goods, and multipurpose packs and pouches; to get together and share their individual strategies on brand awareness, innovation, and desires in driving their businesses forward. 


Standing alongside these entrepreneurs are TV and TikTok personalities, journalists, and best-selling authors exchanging ideas with these makers and each other on how to improve their level of storytelling and connecting to a broader audience in the outdoor space. An outsider familiar with business tactics may think this event could be taboo as certain operations should be held close to one's chest in the cutthroat world of consumer interests, but instead, Demo Days was a coalescence of hive minds organically networking and sharing solutions to find common ground and further their individual or brand growth. 


Jayberry Miller, Founder of Tuff Possum Gear and first-time attendee said, "Probably one of the most valuable takeaways from the event was when Shane from ESEE and Mikey from LTWK took the time to really deep dive on email marketing with me one night late around the campfire. It really impacted how I do things and actually made the whole topic a lot more doable. We really left Demo Days knowing that there is a group of solid folks out there rooting for our success in business and in life. That's huge!"


It's early evening on Friday and the overcast has dissipated, and attendees were randomly chosen to form groups to participate in a fire challenge. Each group is given an ignition source to create a flame that will then be brought together to launch the evening's central fire. Around the campfire each night were open discussions and live music that allowed varying personalities to come together to share stories, values, and ideas, thus fueling the connection and tradition this event can bring. 


Phillip Liebel, Founder of Primitive Wilderness Survival, led the class, Primitive to Modern Firemaking, "I learned some awesome tips and tricks for content creation and marketing. Those are the areas that I'm weak in, so it was nice to hear from people that are much better at it than I am. I was just blown away by the acceptance and friendship from such giants in the industry!"

With panel discussions and lectures given by leading instructors in the industry, one could walk away with information on how to further their outreach but also learn more about themselves and their surroundings in the process. 


Michael Mojica, Founder of and Engineer at Outdoor Element, "Most of my life, I thought I was walking around in a field of weeds, and suddenly, Carleigh Fairchild provided a paradigm shift and had me connecting to the land in new ways, eating half the greens under my feet! Phillip Liebel's instruction on hand drill resonated with me on a DNA level, and Craig Caudill opened my eyes to a new level of land navigation. I walked away with a new curiosity and a drive to learn more [...] true friendships were forged. I walked away a better businessman and a better person from this event. Big business should take a lesson from the Campfire Co-op on what collaboration, support, and synergy look like." 


This was my first time attending Demo Days, and I still don't have the words to describe the monumental impact the event has made on both myself and my drive to be a voice in this vast outdoor space. I've always held on to the belief that every story has an audience and every voice is worth being heard, but in the flooded sea of branded babel, it seems too easy to drown. But from observing the chemistry of Demo Days, I found that the sharing of ideas, a bit of courage, and even a bit of vulnerability is what will allow us to stay afloat. It's our connection to others that allow our roots to grow strong, it's our drive that allows us to stand tall, and it's in this community where one will never be lost.


  • Jacks Genega, Founder of Wildcard Wilderness LLC
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