We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaytlyn Gilner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaytlyn, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I have always been a lover of the outdoors and a big believer in getting outside and staying active to nourish mental health. As an extrovert, the pandemic was a struggle for me and it was for a lot of my friends too. Luckily living in Colorado we are fortunate to have the mountains and infinite outdoor access. That is how we stayed sane and connected when everything felt so divided.
I always had a personal goal to build my own business and as a woman doing it solo and after a recent traumatic brain injury from a car accident, I knew it would feel empowering. During lockdowns, like many of us, I had a ton of free time. And with the state of things, I felt compelled to help promote inclusivity in the outdoors and find ways to keep people connected and active.
I am fortunate enough to have experience and the community that allows me the freedom to adventure in nature. For many, that is not the case and finding ways to get out in nature can seem daunting or damn near impossible. It shouldn’t be that way.
With that, I wanted to help motivate myself and others to find joy in the cards that we were dealt globally. So I started a clothing company designed to inspire people to get outside and appreciate nature. With a mission to promote community and inclusivity Meet Me West represents everyone.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am a female outdoor enthusiast. I rock climb, snowboard, mountain bike, backpack, you name it. Sadly, in January of 2021, I was on my way to go uphill at Keystone when I was hit by a semi truck on I70. This left me with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. To top it off, just one week after I was diagnosed with COVID which affected my neurological and physical health. It was hard for me to imagine getting out of bed, let alone trying to get back out there on my snowboard or on the rock.
A lot of days, it was hard to remember my own name or complete basic tasks like going to the grocery store and I needed an inhaler to go for walks. It was an invisible injury that no one could see or understand and I was afraid I would never be myself again. The only thing that got me by was repeating over and over again my favorite memories outside and adventuring with friends. It is what keeps me sane and what gave me the fire I needed to create my brand and start my business.
What makes Meet Me West different is it’s story of perseverance and inclusiveness. MMW is for everyone and is designed to inspire more people to get outside and cultivate positive experiences in nature. Now during these challenging times it is important that we find alternative ways of staying active and connected. You don’t have to be an extreme mountain climber, you don’t even have to have access to mountains, you can still get outside and experience it.
Oftentimes, I see a lot of hate and judgement in the outdoor community. It can be competitive and intimidating even for the most experienced mountaineers. Add being a female to that equation and it can be even worse. The point is, it doesn’t have to be that way. No one is more or less deserving and it’s important to be welcoming and promote inclusiveness.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is a great question! I would suggest we spend the weekend in Denver and check out Meow Wolf, and ride scooters around the RiNo Art District to see the graffiti art. I’d suggest we grab an appetizer at Barcelona Wine bar and grab a drink at Union Station. We would have dinner at Senior Bear in Lohi and then head back out for drinks in Rino. We’d start at the Ramble Hotel and make our way to Finn’s Manor.
The next day I’d suggest a morning hike up and around Red Rocks. Then out for brunch at Bacon Social House and walk around the Highlands and check out the cute boutiques.
After a weekend of city fun I’d bring them to where I live which is the highest incorporated town in the US, Leadville. We would ride bikes around the mineral belt trail and have dinner at the Treeline kitchen. The next day we would hike one of the several 14ers in the area and then hit Mount Princeton Hot Springs.
We would take a day trip to Buena Vista, hike along the river and get food at the Surf hotel. If its summer, I’d take them to SUP at twin lakes and drive over independence pass for lunch in Aspen.
Some other favorites are visiting the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Taking a walk over Royal Gorge bridge, and hiking Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to thank Doug Schnitzpahn, for always connecting me to great like minded people in the outdoor industry. Thank you Kristian Barowsky, for your mentorship and for always telling me to keep going when I wanted to give up. I would also like to thank my good friend and photographer Tom Valdez, for always lending a helping hand with photoshoots and creative business ideas. Lastly, thank you to all my friends and family for your support and for believing in me every step of the way even when I didn’t believe in myself.
Linkedin: Kaytlyn Gilner
Sean Turner and Tom Valdez Photography