Heading into his senior year at college Spencer's "big idea" entered the picture. On a road trip with his dad down the Pacific Coast Highway, Spencer's entrepreneur's mind was spinning with problems that needed solutions. At the top of his list was that challenge of making ends meet as an up and coming athlete while at the same time being able to contribute to society. Brendel's solution? Create a profitable business which can help an athlete make a living while at the same time giving back to charity. And his project was born; the quest to create the ideal win-win-win.
Once the idea was more or less embedded in Spencer's brain, his high energy and alarming at times, laser-like focus saw him apply for and get awarded a grant from the Sun Valley-based Wild Gift, a non-profit which seeks to empower a more socially conscious generation of entrepreneurs. Wild Gift then took him into the wilderness for a 20 day walk (as is the custom) wherein he worked with mentors on further developing his idea and ultimately, a business plan. He emerged from his trek with what would become his senior project: Play Hard Give Back. Needless to say he received a passing grade. In fact his professor loved the idea so much she became an initial investor and he returned to Sun Valley with what he needed to give his business a start.
Play Hard Give Back was not and is not intended to be a trail mix company. Trail mix was simply the perfect vehicle for a minimally funded start up. It's healthy, easy to make, easy to customize, and a staple for athletes and fit, health-conscious people who would be his market. The business model basically works like this: athletes apply to PHGB, if they are accepted PHGB sits down and through a series of interviews fleshes out the best non-profits to be beneficiaries of a portion of the athlete's product profits. Then they go on and develop their personal trail mix which is distributed within PHGB's target markets. The athlete is incentivized to promote the product as a portion of the sales go to help pay for their expenses as a competitor. Likewise the non-profit is also motivated to promote its availability as they receive a portion as well. The remaining difference of the sale goes to PHGB and the cycle is repeated.
What stands out when you consider the viability of PHGB, is that this is not the era of the Wheaties box athlete. We live in the age of the internet where our heros do not need Madison Avenue marketing campaigns to be close to our hearts and aspirations. The level of athlete in action sports is increasingly on par with traditional American sports. The difference being that even athletes who are not Shawn White or Travis Pastrana can have a very robust fan base of loyal, aspiring followers through social media channels and video/photo content distribution. PHGB is able to capitalize on this and connect the athlete with their fans over a bag of trail mix. Kids can relate to these heros that they see on the mountain or around town. Parents and community members can walk into a store and buy something which is healthy for the body and the community that also benefits the kid down the street.
With target markets of Tahoe, Park City, and Sun Valley to start, PHGB has connected athletes like skiers Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley) and Langley McNeal (Sun Valley) and others with non-profits such as POW (Protect Our Winters), the High 5's Foundation and others. The next step? Well that is where the Girl Scout Cookie model comes in. PHGB is looking to roll out a program for selected non-profits in those same geographic target markets who can sell their custom mix in the community with the same sort of business model as it uses for individual athletes. In terms of products, Brendel has some ideas for other things which people need and appreciate that can further social causes and athlete funding but he is holding that a little closer to his chest. What truly stands out about Play Hard Give Back, is that in the age of the self-centered, chest thumping, "look at me" jock, an entirely alternative world of hard working, humble and compassionate athletes exists which is equally as motivated by the prospect of returning something to the community as it is its own fame and glory.