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Today’s guest is passionate about encouraging families to connect outdoors and has gained over 40,000 social media followers within the outdoor family travel space on her platform Born to be Adventurous. In June 2020, she self-published her first hiking guide “Hikes for Families: A Guide to the Canadian Rockies” by funding the printing of the book through Kickstarter.
She worked as a high school teacher, writer, photographer, social media specialist, and content creator for a variety of brands, and tourism boards.
Annika Mang is the co-founder and CEO of TrailCollectiv, every family’s dream app to plan those summer activities!
Today’s guest is passionate about encouraging families to connect outdoors. And she has gained over 40,000 social media followers just within the outdoor family travel space on her platform, Born to Be adventurous. In June of 2020, she kicked off a self publishing hiking guide called Hikes for Families, A Guide to the Canadian Rockies, and she kicked it off with funding through Kickstarter. This lady has worked at a number of different things. She’s been a high school teacher, a writer, a photographer, a social media specialist, and even a content creator for a number of different brands and tourism boards. So Annika Mang, is now the co-founder and CEO of TrailCollectiv. And she joins us today to talk about the new app and the program she’s launching. Annika, welcome. Thank you for being here.
Thank you so much for having me, Barb.
It is an absolute pleasure. So kick us off. Tell us a little bit about trail collective. What is that?
Yeah, so TrailCollectiv is launching very soon. Actually, it is launched, and you can check it out. But it is an app that is breaking down the barriers for families by giving them detailed trail information and safety information so that you can know where to go. But you can also know what to expect when you get to a trail to start hiking it.
Absolutely. So how did you start pulling that stuff together?
Yeah, so a lot of it is stuff that I’ve gathered a while going out hiking, I’ve done a lot of trails, we actually have over 200 trails in Saskatchewan. And we have a ton across BC and Alberta as well, with struggles going into eastern Canada and into the South. In the US, we actually have done a lot of the trails ourselves, but we have a group of excuse me, um, trail contributors as well that are contributing trails, which is exciting. So from the community, but people who know what families are looking for. So a lot of moms and dads that are you know, they know what families want. They know how to assess the trail, is it stroller friendly? Is it a city stroller, is it all train city stroller friendly, because those are making a difference? We have, you know, my co founder, Jess out NBC and I, we both have experience with working with people who have disabilities and getting them outside. And so we’re able to assess trails to kind of give notes on that, you know, how accessible it will be for someone who maybe has, has a disability. So those are kind of all things that kind of go into how we provide our trails on our platform.
You know, you actually touched on something really interesting to me there. It’s not just a list of trails, it’s, you know, how long is the trail? What amenities are available? On the trail? Is it family friendly? If you’ve got a stroller? Is it wheelchair friendly? There’s so many things that go into, you know, being able to plan outdoor time, how did you start to see the opportunity in the marketplace? Or how did you see the need for something like this? And it’s, you know, I kind of think that’s an obvious answer. But I’m curious what you have to say about that.
Yeah, so it could be a very long answer. But it started kind of back when I had my kids and I was really struggling to find the information that I needed. So my kids are now seven and eight years old. But we found it really hard. And even today to find that information that we want to get out and explore with them. I actually started a very simple blog a long time ago that probably not a lot of people know about called ACE family adventures.
And from that, I started to have family and friends ask me for advice on where to go on how to go OUT out on adventures with their kids, soon with people I didn’t know. And that’s when I decided to start and create, you know, maybe try to pursue it more intentionally. And so I created a platform that’s called Born to Be adventurous. And that’s where I was able to share more of our family stories, share trails to go on, and share, you know, tips on what to do when you go outside. So that’s kind of kind of rolled into that. From there. I started writing a hiking guidebook that took me five years to actually publish, because it’s a lot with two little kids at home.
And then that’s done really well, published in 2020. And I’ve always had this dream to create an app where families can more easily find this information and find more trails because when we publish that book or when I publish that book, I had a lot of families reach out and say, can you write a book around Edmonton? What about Saskatchewan? You move back here? Can you write a book around Saskatchewan? What about Vancouver? Because those are all places that I’ve lived and all places that we’ve explored. And I actually thought about writing books in each of those areas, and maybe down the road I will. But how can we impact more families and help them get upside, because the impact for some families is really big. And so that’s where the app started to be created. And now we’re launched.
Exactly. Well, and just looking at your background, I think your interest in all of this comes very naturally, because you were both a teacher, you have a Bachelor of phys ed, and a Bachelor is education is the other one. Now my notes are under something. So your interest comes really naturally to all of this talk about, you know, the benefits that you see to families? And you know, how, how do you make space in what already feels like such a crazy busy time when your kids are little to get out there and do this kind of stuff?
Yeah, I just from even before I had kids, and just being in the phys ed program, and teaching, you know, students how to be active and how to enjoy being active, was just so incredibly valuable to the students. And you could just see it and get them outside, even just away from their cell phones or on their cell phones constantly. AndI’m not against cell phones. But I do think that we spend too much time and there’s an increase in depression that’s associated with cell phone use.
And so whatever the age of your kids, whether they’re little or whether they’re teens, they need time to be able to escape that. And one of the best ways that I found to do that is through the outdoors, because it automatically makes you more present within your space.
And so that’s partly why I am very passionate about TrailCollectiv is just to help those families, escape the noise of the city, escape the noise of their phones and get outside and start connecting outside. And some of the stories that I’ve heard from families who have either used my book or been impacted by my website by what I share is incredible from one mother who she quit smoking, became more active and started enjoy connecting with our kids all because she realized it was possible to go out and know where to go with her kids. And I think those are the types of stories that are just incredibly impactful.
We don’t realize that because it’s always pushed aside, you know, it’s not seen as valuable. But it reduces stress, anxiety, and improves mental and physical health. And then above all connections, like you can start to actually enjoy hanging out with your kids in that space and being active with them. Instead of sitting on the sidelines all the time watching their sports.
Our kids play soccer, I love watching them, but I like to be active with them too. Because it’s also about my own health and not just my kids.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny when your kids are. I think you said your kids are still under 10. When your kids are smaller, they look to you to say okay, Mom, what are we doing today? Right? Are we going hiking? Do we have to get groceries? What do we have to do? And when they get a little bit older, mine are in their early teens, when they hit those early teens, it’s like, Are you kidding, I am not getting off the couch to go anywhere. And there’s a whole new set of pressures that comes with that age because their friends are online.
And it doesn’t matter what time of the day they try and log in, they’re gonna find someone online to text with or message with and, and so getting them off the couch by the time they hit those years is a lot harder for me to say, Hey, guys, let’s you know, head out do Wacana trails today, they look at me like I just sprouted a third head.
So my point and my story is a start when they’re young, because getting them outside to do something, if you’ve started when they’re young is a heck of a lot easier. And b make it fun. Let them pick the trail, let them pick the level of difficulty, right? Let them start to make some choices. And they’re not always going to choose to want to be with you. But you know, even if you can get them to the trail with friends or something like that, at least they’re active. Meanwhile, you might have to follow behind them because you’re not actually allowed to be with them anymore. They’re not allowed to be seen with you. Right, but at least they’re out there and they’re doing something.
You hit on like three very important things that we always I always try to tell other families because you’re right. Those are such great tips to give people and even if you it does help if you’ve taken them when they’re younger, but as they get older, those are the things I mean my kids are still young but from what I hear from other people is, you know, bring go with another family with kids or go with their friends bring their friends and start you know, giving them those opportunities. And the choice is really huge to like. I noticed that in teaching just how much choice is so important.So I love that you match on those. And those are such bang on. Great tip.
So thank you. That’s how I do it with my kids, but don’t tell them
for those years, you were like, okay, like, I know I’m getting there because I know. Yeah. So
you know, honestly. So for us our son started when he was 10, we started to see that transition. He’s only 13. Right now. He’s just finishing up grade eight. And yeah, you know, he’s kind of at that point, we can still get him to go do things because he really likes hockey, he’s enjoying his rollerblades. And so you know, we’ve had to put limits in place around screen time. And it’s like, other than that, I don’t much care what you do. If you’re outside and you’re doing a sport. I’m all good.
And the one thing that we’ve always had with him is, if there’s a ball in a sport, he’ll do it. Right. So it’s like, oh, look, I bought you a new baseball, I bought a new soccer ball and off he’ll go.
Yeah, I love that. You know, I was like me, I give me a rugby ball, a basketball, give me a baseball, like I just yeah, I didn’t have to battle the phone back when I was young. We didn’t really have them. But it’s different now.
Exactly. It is so different. I we, you know, one of these days, I have to see if I can get someone on the podcast just to talk about the impact of technology on our youth. Because I agree with you. I think it’s huge. You know, it’s tied to so many negative things. But anyway, that’s not why we’re here. So let’s get back to this app. So tell me about the app, I haven’t had a chance to download it yet. And so tell me about it. What does it do?Yeah, tell me all about it.
Yeah, so you can sign up for an account, you go in, and you can search your trails by location, or area or what’s nearby yourself. So you can click a button and check out what’s nearby you. Once you see all your trails, you can go and check out an individual trail, it’ll show you how hard it will be. And you can kind of learn our rating system, it’s a little bit different than other ones that exist. So excuse me, usually people do easy, moderate, hard, we have easiest, easy, moderate, hard and hardest. And because we found that there’s not a big, you know, there’s a big difference between the trails that are, you know, 500 meters to two kilometers, and that they’re shorter. And they might take, you know, an adult, you know, 20 to 30 minutes, but they might take a little toddler 30 minutes to an hour or two, depending on what you’re doing and how you’re exploring.
And those are also often great places to go for a picnic. And so I think those are very valuable just for anyone who wants to explore kind of, but then just be outside without much effort. And then we have a spot, you can see what the adventures are on the trail. So is there a great place to throw rocks? Is there a beautiful mountain to scale or stunning prairie views that you can look at?
And then from accessibility information, as I mentioned before, and then safety information? So are there cliffs on the trail? Is it in an avalanche zone? Is there a fast moving river? Is it uneven? Is it steep? So we really like to hone in on those safety notes so that people can be prepared.
Some trails have a detailed description, there’s a map, and actually, if you open the map and you’re in service, you can follow yourself along the map and see the whole thing on the trail. Yeah, and we’re, our next set of development will add in some offline use so that whether you’re online or offline, you’ll be able to use the app. And then if you contribute a trail so you can contribute a trail you and what you provide is not some good quality information, you can add your Instagram handle, and so that we can then people can find you and say, oh, this person was the one that added that trail that’s so cool. And they’re adding a lot of trails and they can come and find you.
You can get directions to the trail. So there’s lots of can save a trail, you can favorite it. Ie once you’ve completed a trail, it’ll show you how many trails you’ve hiked and elevation and distance and on your profile. So there’s lots to do. Yeah, so there’s a lot to the app and a lot to engage with and a lot that we’re building further. So yeah.
Okay, I don’t expect you to know this off the top of your head, but you have to tell me later. Do you have Klingers trail on there?
Oh, I don’t think so. But maybe you should add it. Yeah, we might have to go look for that when it’s still actually under development. It’s up by Greenwater Provincial Park. So you know, we’ll have to talk afterwards. And we can figure out if it’s for sure. So okay, I’ve got the app, I can do all of these things. I love how, you know, being able to put a heart on it. Get directions to find things like those are huge. How many trails do you think, you know, we know about versus what’s actually out there and let’s think Western Canada, right. I think there’s probably as you said there’s 200 trails here in Saskatchewan alone? So there are probably hundreds, maybe even 1000s, you know, in each province, how were you starting to pull all of this information together? That seems like a huge job.
Yeah, so we have some ourselves, we have a group of trail contributors that are trusted, that are helping us get them. And so if you want to contribute trails, we like to keep track, we give out, you know, stickers and swag and other things, if you are contributing a lot of trails, especially if you become one that gives us that high quality data for the families, because we really want families to know what to expect when they get out.
We’re also working with destination marketing organizations. So we also visited tourism agencies and parks associations as well to fill in the gaps for that data. So my co founder, and I have quite a lot of connections with people across Saskatchewan, Alberta, BC and a few in the States. And so that’s kind of how we’re able to connect with them and help get that information. So there’s a lot of different avenues. And through all of that, we get the information that we need.
Exactly. It’s almost like crowdsourcing trails and,like health and fitness activities for family, right. And so it’s that whole crowdsourcing concept, right, which is really cool.
Exactly. And then just being a little bit more like we approved the trails right now that are going in, because we just want to make sure that we have some of that information that’s missing on some other platforms that do exist. And we want to make sure that we’re kind of being that source that is a little bit more reliable and able to kind of get them out on their adventures and know what to expect.
Yeah. So as a startup, Were you part of the cultivator here in Saskatchewan?
Yeah, I feel so lucky to have been in their Start program back in 2020. And when I had this idea, I got accepted into the program, which was amazing. And I went through the biggest learning curve in my life,
I believe it.
I didn’t know much about tech, I didn’t know much about business, only the stuff that I learned from running Born to Be adventurous. And this was a completely different world to me. And I’m actually still involved with them and still working with them. And they’ve been an incredible amount of support in this journey. And I am not sure I mean, I wouldn’t have done it without them. Because I just honestly didn’t think that it was possible to do this. So as someone who’s not a tech person, so absolutely.
So you’ve been through that startup phase. So talk a little bit about as a startup, how do you find the funding? And where does the funding come in the future so that the business becomes sustainable?
Yeah, so right now we’re completely self funded. We brought on an amazing Regina based developer who’s been working with us, and she’s awesome. And she’s female, which is pretty incredible, because there’s not a ton of female developers. And she’s a full stack developer, if you know much about what that means. But it means that she’s pretty amazing.
That’s awesome. And so we’re clearly self funded, we are actually in the process of trying to raise some funds so we can move forward. So we’re really lucky and thankful we’re in the startup TNT, top five, that’s happening in Saskatoon, which is a pretty large,large scale, funding opportunity, and just a great place to build connections.
So it’s been really good for us and being involved in that process. In the fall, we are going to be part of the global startup Canada pitch competition, which is really exciting. And there’s a number of prizes there. And that mostly, you know, I’d like those would be, you know, it’s wonderful to win those competitions. But those are also the spaces where I find that I’ve been able to build those business connections that I lack, because I’m in the education sector, and I don’t have those connections.
And so this is kind of where it’s been really great for me is to build out, you know, our connections. We also were just in competition, and Banff, it’s called her story, and it’s put on by the 51. And that was amazing as well, I got to hear pitches from amazing women entrepreneurs, that are in the tech industry, you know, everything from people who are, you know, doing life changing stem cell research? No, yeah, it was just incredible to be amongst these amazing women in the so that’s kind of where we are looking for funding. At some point we will be charging for the platform. You know, and we have different models that we’re trying to explore. It won’t be outrageous. But we will have to be able to sustain the business and continue to get the word out. So yeah.
exactly. You know, I think about some of those pitch competitions and as you say, it’s the people you meet and the connections that you’re able to create. But even the unique approaches to the ideas, right, being able to hear how other startups have, you know, found that model outside the box and be able to then retrofit that to your own business, your own organization, the value of that, to me would just be huge. Absolutely huge. Right. And so yeah, those are very cool. Now, is it through the cultivator that you’ve been able to find all of these and find that common thread to these pitch competitions? Or how did that come to be?
I think it’s just a lot of research. So some of it, I’ve learned through them, some of them through different people I’ve met along the way. And I think, connection. So yeah, I just feel like if I and then you can, like I’ve Googled some things just to try to learn about different opportunities. We’ll be looking towards government funding and that kind of thing as well. And hopefully, in the future.
But yeah, I feel like it’s a lot of you know, trying to meet the right people who are going to be able to share the information that you need.
Yeah, absolutely. So do you have some favorite trails? Or does your family have some favorite trails?
Oh, we are near Regina, we love I believe it’s called the Hidden Valley trails, they’re very close. We also love Fairy Hill. It is just such a beautiful little trail to explore.
So those are kind of near what we really love when we went out to Cypress Hills, we really, it’s a little bit more of a challenging trail for some people. But still, you know, able, a lot of people are able to do it. But it’s the hidden conglomerate cliffs and it takes you kind of off a really steep steep trail, and then takes you over to just these hidden cliffs that you just would not expect to find in Saskatchewan. So those are our favorite ones in Saskatchewan.
Yeah, and then we have other I mean, we’ve explored all over from all over Alberta and BC and then all over Utah and California and Idaho. And yeah, so we’ve been all over. But those Oh, I should say, whatever favorite trails you’ve ever completed is last summer, our family did the West Coast Trail together.
We did it with our six and eight year old, which isn’t really recommended.
I know that trail I yeah, I get it.
But it was like we just can’t believe that we did it with our kids and that we had so much fun. Like we had an amazing time and connected in a way like we never expected we would.
Was it hard? Yes. It was extremely hard, especially with two little kids. But it was just an outstanding, amazing experience. So absolutely.
How many days did you take to do the West Coast?
We did it over 10 days instead of how people usually do it in five or six days, and we did a food drop midway. But that was kind of annoying, because we got rid of all of our weight. So not all of our weight but a bunch of the food weight. And then it was like back to a lot more like it’s recommended to have packs on that trail because of the ladders are massive and the amount of climbing, it’s recommended to have a pack that’s like 35 pounds and like my pack was 50 to 55 pounds. And my husband’s was like 60 to 65 which is not really necessarily deemed as safe because you know, if you have a bigger pack, you’re going up ladders and you’re climbing over big boulders.That would happen but
but you had the kids and it’s not like they can carry a 30 pound pack. So it’s just no yeah.
Have lighter packs on that type of trail too.
Exactly. And so when your kids are looking for stuff to do on the weekend, like are they the first ones to be like Hey, Mom, let’s go do this trail. Or, you know, because they do it too much. Are they like Mom, can we just watch TV this Saturday morning?
I think it’s a mix. Like I think sometimes they want to do it and sometimes they don’t. Our oldest is obsessed with reading right now. So sometimes it’s really hard to pull her away from her books. And then they like to play soccer on the weekend. So that’s a lot of what we do. They do love like my youngest always wants to go backcountry camping, but I think it’s because she likes being beside me to be beside I think that’s why she likes then I think they just enjoy the time and then sometimes, you know, they still they go a lot they’ll complain, you know, and then once we’re out there then usually they have fun and explore and it’s fine, but it’s the getting out there. They don’t really love transitions to be honest.
Yeah, and what kid does right?
Like trying to get them in and out of the bath. It’s like they don’t want to go in the bath and then they get in the bath and they don’t want to leave the bath and You’re Yes, yes. Okay.
So, um, so your husband obviously really enjoys being active. Is this? Is this something he was like? Yay, let’s go do this. I can’t wait to hike another trail or see like, okay, yeah, let’s go do another one. How does that work in your house?
He loves it. It was actually his idea to do the West Coast Trail. And I was having anxiety about taking our little kids on it. I was like, I think they can do it. But it was like a little bit nerve wracking, but he was just so confident that we could do it. He’s very avid like, last summer, he loves trail running, and he also runs. So last summer, he ran the boreal trail in a day, which is about 125 kilometers.
And so I just obviously love the trails, and he likes doing hard.
Exactly. Okay, that makes way more sense to me. Because when you have a spouse who’s like, Yeah, I’m gonna do an ultra marathon. Okay, that explains everything.
Yeah, and I also knew about the West Coast Trail, I knew that I’d set a goal, I knew that it would be hard for me and I said, you basically have to be the one like when the kids need that extra story when they need extra, like attention that’s on you. Because you have the energy because you’re an ultra runner. For me, I might be in my head like, this is so hard. And I need to also have time to say things like, this was hard.
Yeah, exactly. That ability to decompress. Exactly. Okay, we are almost at a time.
So tell folks where they can find the app. Let them know where to find them on your, your social channels, your website? How can people connect with you? And yeah, I really look forward to some of the content you’re going to share related to here’s how to get your kids off the couch. So take it away.
Yeah, so you can download track collective, it’s TrailCollectiv without an E on the App Store. So Android and Apple, you can find us at trail collective or trailcollectiv.com. And you can find me personally on the App forum to be adventurous on all the social platforms, as well as my website borntobeadventures.com.
And if you’re in Western Canada, we most likely have a Born to Be adventurous mamas group that you can join. So search born to be adventurous mamas and find the one that you’re nearby and join.
That’s right, because we didn’t even talk about the five Facebook groups that you manage.
Yeah, well, I started with one. And then people asked to create other ones and other places. So if they know, I oversee them. But mostly they’re run by the communities that are running them.
So wow, that is crazy. Awesome.
All right. Well, thank you Annika for joining me today. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you. And you’ve certainly given me some ideas about how I can get my own kids moving. I’m looking forward to downloading the app. Of course, we’ve recorded this episode before the app was actually live. So as you hear this episode, hop into the App Store on Android or Apple and download the trail collective without an E app because you need to check this out.
If you would like to be a guest on the show, you can email me at Barb@abovthefold.live or just reach out on Facebook and Instagram at Abovethefold.ca
I’m your host Barb McGrath, local business owner and Google girl. Remember you work hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.