We had the good fortune of connecting with Bryan Hylenski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bryan, what do you attribute your success to?
I truly believe in challenging one’s self. No matter whether you are 14 learning to play softball or 50 starting your own business. I believe the minute you stop challenging yourself to learn, experience and/or get involved with new ideas, concepts or people…you will get “stuck.” When I get “stuck” I take the time to think of what I can do to not only challenge myself but engage the most exciting parts of my self. I love climbing, I love being outside, I love problem solving. In the past I have challenged my self to climb mountains and walls that were never climbed. I challenged my self to start a business, I challenged myself to be the best father and/or husband. in 2019, I had a health scare and needed to get “unstuck,” when it came to my personal health. My businesses were going well, my family was strong, yet my personal health was suffering. I could go climbing, I could take a month off to disappear in the mtns, woods or some trail, but those things were no longer challenging. I have spent my life doing those things, so I searched for something that felt “impossible” to me. That’s when I came up with the idea to ride my bike across the country. I would pedal 4500km in 45 days on my 45th birthday! I don’t like bike riding!
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.
All I ever wanted in life was to travel, climb, hike and see the world. I wanted to make just enough money to accomplish these things. So, in 2003, when my wife and I looked at our core values, yet at 28 found ourselves attached to our houses and our jobs…we decided to quit, put our home up for rent and head overseas. Over the next 12 years we found ourselves climbing or doing Yoga across Southeast Asia. We taught climbing, sports, dance or english in multiple countries, we lived, traveled or spent our breaks hanging out in new places. We both worked, we lived off one persons check and saved the other’s. We followed each other’s dreams, no matter where they took us. At the same time, we never lost that connection to our home and to our financial goals. We bought a few homes in our hometown and continued to utilize this new thing called the “internet” to manage our rentals from afar and build some financial stability. In 2007, we got pregnant, but instead of trying to navigate the US healthcare system we decided to have our little one in South Korea, under universal health care. The same medical care at 5% of the cost. We worked 10-15hrs a week, focusing on raising our daughter, not our careers. We focused on making enough money to survive and save, not living extravagantly or focusing on work…we had a daughter, we wanted to enjoy watching her grow up. But, we never lost sight of our dreams. When Shauna wanted to become a Yoga teacher, I stayed home for months while she traveled to India for study and experience. When I wanted to spend 8 weeks climbing a new Himalayan peak, Shauna and Hana would find fun new places to meet her family and enjoy the company of her sister and neices! When we were together we spent our weekends camping and climbing all over Korea, Japan or Thailand. We focused on our dreams, our savings and our family. But, in 2014, our daughter asked to live somewhere she looked like everyone else. Where she wasn’t the focus point of each interaction good or bad. So, in 2015, we decided to start our own business and move back to the US. We had founded and been managing a small South Korean non-profit in our spare time, but we knew moving home and starting a real business would be much more difficult. We knew the move itself would be a chore, we would need to focus more on work and our businesses and that would force us to sacrifice something. This would prove difficult, while Shauna built Shri Studios (yoga studio) I was building HMH outdoors with my team and growing brands like Butora and 8Bplus. Our relationship suffered and we struggled to get used to working 12 hour days and not spending as much time as a family as we had grown accustomed. To successfully move home we knew it would be expensive and we knew it would take most of our savings. But, we also knew the only way to be successful at it would be to dedicate ourselves to the goals and focus 100% on what we wanted to achieve, Therefore, we decided, along with my team, that to build this business it meant living in my car for nearly 12 months traveling across the US visiting every climbing gym in the country, training our newest employees and growing the business one account at a time. We had to learn what challenges these gyms were facing, what products they required and what our customers needed. Our team was successful and by the end of 2016 I was back living at home and focused, no longer on starting the business, but managing its growth. Our business, due to the quality of our products and the dedication of our team…the long hours…the work ethic, the hours on the road…was making massive strides forward. We started with one container load of products stored in a landscaping warehouse closet, then to my garage, then to a bigger garage, then a full on 3 unit warehouse here in Longmont and now a 12,000 sq ft warehouse in Lander, WY. During this time, the growth of our business allowed us to achieve another dream… opening a climbing gym in Longmont, CO. I attempted to open a gym in 2008, but could not find financing due to the credit collapse. In April 2013, we tried again, purchasing an option on some land in Longmont, but in Sept. the 100 yr floods ran right thru this property. The project felt cursed, but in 2018, my business partner, wife and I were finally able to found and launch a new gym here in Longmont. By 2019, we had merged Shauna’s Yoga studio with our climbing gym to offer full fitness, yoga and climbing experience all under one membership here in Longmont. Climbers no longer needed to travel to Denver, Boulder or Ft Collins to train and stay fit! Yet, the lesson we all learned was that with any achievement comes sacrifice. Unfortunately, I had sacrificed my personal health to focus on the these businesses, maintain my family and put food on the table. I felt as if I was successful because the business was thriving and my family was still together, yet inside my own soul and confidence was fading. I had lauched and successfully built 3 businesses (gym, distributorship and commercial real estate) in 4 years, but something felt wrong. I was overweight, constantly tired and incredibly stressed. I had spent my entire life avoiding the “American Dream,” yet I had just built three of them and I was now trapped and being crushed by them all. If something did not change, I would work myself to death. In the spring of 2019 I found myself in the hospital due to heart issues. I was embarrassed to tell my family, my friends…but I was letting this “dream” kill me. I realized at that point, it was time get myself “unstuck” from this life. So, I decided in true “Bryan fashion” as my wife likes to say to find a new challenge for myself. I have spent my life outdoors, climbing, camping, hiking searching for adventure. But, the previous 4 years I had suppressed this part of me. Now it was time to let it breathe. But, I new it needed to be something new. I needed something that I was not good at, something that there was real risk of failure. I love challenges, but I hate failing more than anything….that’s when I decided to pedal across the country…ON my 45th birthday I would pedal 4500km in 45 days across the country. Did I mention I hate biking? I used to run triathalons. I even completed an ironman, but I eventually stopped because of my distaste for riding a bike for hours on end. Yet, this was it…if I could ride my bike across the country I would achieve 3 primary goals: 1. Building up my confidence and fixing my personal health. 2. Allow my businesses to grow and function without me 3. Provide me with an opportunity to rebooth and build a healthy work/life/health balance upon my return. Yet, in 2020, COVID hit! the world was shut down and on May 3rd, my planned departure date our gym was shutdown, along with all US gyms, so our businesses were being crushed. Yet, in June my team, along with my wife and daughter told me to go! Take off and do it! They would take care of things…I needed to trust them and go for it. So, on June 12th I headed to LA and dipped my bike in the pacific ocean at Seal Beach…I spent the next 3 weeks riding my bike from LA to Kansas City. I slept under the stars, camped with the homeless, stayed with friendly cyclists or stopped at a motel each week to get cleaned up…but no matter what each day I got on my bike and rode 80-100miles a day. up 10,000 ft climbs, thru thunderstorms, 100 degree heat, no matter what I pedaled on. I carried 20-30lbs of gear on my bike, including a tent and sleeping bag, but very little food. I relied on home cooked meals from friendly strangers, grocery stores or gas stations. I was lonely, sunburnt and extremely frustrated with the elements. But, by week two I had a break though. I found myself in the desert, dragging my bike 4 miles along a dirt road covered in 6″ of sand. The only way forward was one foot in front of the other, just like my days on the mountains. one move at a time up a tenuous part of a wall. or one foot in front of another on a slog up a valley to find a peak. My old self kicked in and after 5-10 mins of screaming, cursing and shouting at the top of my lungs, releasing 4 years of hatred, resentment and frustration….I collapsed and sat on the ground and cried. I missed my family, I hated my life, I hated this bike, I was a failure. I give up. Fortunately for me in that moment, just like on the wall or on a mtn, there was no helicopters, no ambulances or help to call for. I had no cell signal, I had very little water, no food and it was only going to get hotter as i sat there feeling bad for myself. The only way forward was to get up and finish this day myself. I walked another 3 miles to the road. I was rewarded with a 5 mile downhill ride out of Nevada and into Bullhead Arizona. I took a rest day the and 36 hours later at 2am I began a 4 hour, 25 mile uphill climb out of Bullhead. My legs felt great, my body felt light and I felt invincible. I was through it! By July 4th I had made it to Kansas, where my family decided to join me. My 12 year old daughter and wife Shauna, hopped on their bikes and rode 400 miles in 8 days across Missouri on the KATY trail with me. It was an amazing 8 days, probably one of the greatest weeks of my life. But, in mid July, I had made it to St. Louis and it was time for my ladies to return home. My heart and soul was leaving, all I wanted to do was go with them. I had ridden half the country and felt great. I should head home and make sure the businesses were ok, see the dogs, spend the rest of the summer with friends. But, a piece of me would not let me leave. I had to finish. So despite 99% humidity and unending heat I spent July riding thru Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The only reprieve was those east coast thunderstorms that brought soothing rain drops. I pedaled over miles of rolling hills, dodging fallen trees, wild dogs, wind storms, lightening and sweltering heat. Yet, the first week of August, I rode thru Maryland and into Delaware. My home town. I met my mother and uncle for breakfast in Bear, DE, then onto the capital, Dover, where my two best friends, Brian and Scott live. They had organized a small gathering of friends to celebrate and to my surprise, when I awoke at 4am for my final ride to Rehoboth Beach these lifelong friends surprised me on the final miles by driving alongside shouting encouragement. When I arrived at the beach, my wife and daughter, who had flown in the day before, met me on the boardwalk. My family and friends then followed me onto the beach where I took the final dip with my bike in the Atlantic Ocean. I had completed a dream that only weeks earlier felt impossible. I shared this moment with my closest friends and family. I had, yet again, provided myself a chance to grow and change. 2020 was a rough year, but it will always remain as the year I saved my own life!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Meet at DIA, stay on our farm, just outside of Longmont. Have dinner at Pumphouse Brewery, grab a beer at Grossenbart, then head to the mountaings for a hike up Mt. Meeker or go climbing in Lumpy Ridge! After a long day in the mtns we would head down to lyons for the pinball museum and a beer at Dale’s place..Oskar blues…then back home to watch the sunset over Long’s Peak from my back porch with my two furry friends, Koda and Stella!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My wife, daughter and team. My wife, Shauna Hylenski supports me, no matter the challenge I create. In fact, most of the times she joins me in a way that is meaningful to her, but she never tells me “You can’t do that.” Its amazing to have someone in your corner that believes in you, no matter what crazy idea, concept or dream you come up with! She brings out the best in me, when I have an idea, she doesn’ say “no way,” she says “Tell me more, how would that work…” She provides me with the courage to tackle anything. No matter whether I fail or succeed she is constantly reminding me that it is the journey and the challenge that matters most! My daughter is my inspiration. This young lady, from the day she was born, has faced challenges, whether it was being forced to grow up bilingual in a country where everyone looked different, to trips to Himalayan basecamps, spring breaks on the Appalachian trail or summers biking across the country in 100 degree heat. Yet, she never complains. She is the perfect partner, she trusts us to keep her safe, then she gives us her best. She is one of my best friends and to this day she continues to make me laugh and challenge me to be the best friend, papa and person I can be. My team – I run two businesses and these folks carry the weight. These businesses are alive and well because of the dedication and effort these folks give. I could not have achieved anything in the last 5 years without these folks. They keep me on my toes, but they’re loyalty drives me to be my best. They are my family, they are my friends, but more importantly they are a support system that keeps me strong, engaged and enjoying life!