NOTE: This is an AI transcription, edited as time allowed. It is not perfect 😉
Kathy: Hey, I want to welcome Matthew and Jen Brown to the podcast today. How are you guys doing?
Jen: Doing great.
Matthew: Doing great. Thanks for having us, Kathy. Appreciate it.
Kathy: You are so welcome. Mark met Matthew. I think it’s been over a year ago. And where was it Matthew that you guys met?
Matthew: Was at a Jiffy lube of all places.
Kathy: Yeah. And who initiated this?
Matthew: Well, Mark had a, uh, Mark had his, his, your dog with him. Uh, and, and I was just admiring, uh, I guess it’s a German short haired pointer or something
Matthew: So I was admiring Ellie and, and he was asking me if, if I too had a German short haired pointer and I said, no, but we have a golden retriever.
And we’re looking at getting another dog as well. And, uh, anyway, we just got to talking about dogs and. All sorts of other things. And then he was like, you know what? My wife has this podcast that I think it’d be really great if maybe one day, you know, join her for I of course said yes. And so here we are.
Yeah, you guys are really brave. And I just want to thank you so much because. We’ve never met before. So this is a first to me to interview people that I’ve not met before, but Mark had glowing things to say and he just enjoyed the conversation that you all had that day so much. And told me a little bit about chimney trails.
Kathy:So. A year later. Here we are. So thank you guys so much for the courage to say yes. And talk about your marriage and your businesses. So set the context for us and tell us a little bit about where you live, your family constellation, uh, what, what you’re doing for work currently.
Sure. Uh, so we live in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Uh, Jen and I have been married for 12 years, uh, coming up on 13. I don’t know. We have three, three daughters, uh, all school, age, Ainslie Clark, and Nora. Our youngest is just about to start kindergarten. So we’re, we’re officially at the school age transition though. Babies anymore. No babies. Yeah. And then of course we have, now we have two dogs.
We have a golden retriever named scout, uh, an a, uh, a wire-haired pointing Griff named, uh, NAR pal. So that’s a, that’s our family constellation.
Kathy: Wonderful. And what kind of work are you guys doing? Currently?
Jen: I teach first grade here in Fort Collins at the school where the girls go. So it’s great. We all get to go together.
And now this year we’ll all be able to get in one car with no extra drop-offs. So, um, this is my coming up on my second year there.
Kathy: Oh, wonderful.
Matthew: And for work. I do a few things actually. So I’m a, uh, Reserve Naval officer. I work with our seal teams right now, kind of crafting, uh, like innovation concepts for them.
Uh, and then for another line of work that I’m in, I work with a data engineering firm that helps with. Some of the challenges that heavy trucking industry experiences with maintenance to try and streamline their maintenance requirements a little bit for them. Uh, and then of course, the reason that we’re on this podcast is that we are the co founders and, and a CEO of a, of a company called Chimney Trail, uh, which helps to make it easier for parents to adventure with their children.
Kathy: I love the concept and I can’t wait to hear the story. Tell me a little bit, we just want to back up to the beginning of your marriage and what were your plans for work like when you guys first married? I
Jen: think in the beginning, I’ve wanted to know. I’ve known that I wanted to be a teacher since I was five.
It’s what I always planned on doing. And I had in my mind that I would be the teacher who taught. In one town and then ended up teaching my students, children, and, um, all in one place. And that quickly evolved. Um, when I married Matt, he was obviously already in the Navy and. We thought initially that that would be kind of like the perfect marriage of careers, because you can teach anywhere.
Right. It turned out to be not so easy changing licenses for different States and countries and aligning military moves with school years. Um, it turned out to, you know, not be as easy as we thought, which was convenient because I was able to stay home with our girls when they were a little before they started school.
So that was, um, So just kind of evolved a little bit to, you know, not necessarily teaching in the same town, but still being able to always go back to teaching. Once we were finally settled in each state that we moved and then Matt being in the Navy.
Matthew: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, uh, my jobs now, these are my first grownup jobs.
Uh, I have been so, you know, 18, I. I started my Navy journey. Uh, I went to the Naval Academy and in Annapolis, uh, and of course that, that, uh, kind of sets your career trajectory for definitely the near term and, and kind of the long term. They, uh, as a part of their mission statement, they say, you know, there’s lofty language, like.
Uh, prepare midshipman to assume the highest responsibilities of command citizenship and government. So I think that if you, if you go there, you get a healthy dose of that. And so if you’d asked me, you know, you know, 15 years ago, what are you gonna be doing? I would have said, well, I’ll be the captain of an aircraft carrier or like run for Congress or something
Kathy: President of the United States.
Matthew: Well, yeah, I mean, but you certainly get that, right. There’s you have a, you have a, a faculty of people who are, who are making sure that you feel up to the task, whatever it happens to be. So I felt like it would be something, uh, definitely service related. But as the years have gone on, I think what Jen and I have discovered is that service takes many forms.
So we’ve certainly done, you know, the, the military service and in Jenna certainly served. And of course it’s a, a privilege, but served, you know, equally in the classroom. So there’s a, yeah. So we’ve been able to kind of enjoy that journey. Uh, and now we’re kind of starting our next.
Kathy: Very good. Yeah. How did you decide to go into the Navy?
Did you have a dad, grandfather or somebody in the military?
Matthew: So I grew up just South of Annapolis. And so as a, as a kid, you’d take your fourth grade field trip to the, to the Naval Academy and, and they’re, they’re, you know, really excellent at putting on a good parade. Uh, so, so the seeds are planted early.
Uh, and yes, my, my grandfather, uh, was in the Navy and he was a corpsman, uh, which is like a Navy speak for a medical person. Uh, he, he was an xray technician, uh, during the Korean conflict. So I kind of had, uh, not, not wanting to talk about his military service a lot, but, uh, nevertheless, it was kind of there.
So, uh, all of those things kind of led me in that direction.
Kathy: Yeah, I have two nephews, brothers, uh, one graduated from the Naval Academy. One graduated from the air force Academy. They’re real slackers, you know, and, and we were able to go to, to the Annapolis graduation, uh, three years ago. Very impressive. Oh my goodness.
And it’s just, I’m very proud of those boys. I can’t claim anything and having raised them, but they are fine, fine young men. So how long were you in the Navy?
Matthew: So I think as a reservist, I’m still in, but on active duty, uh, we, we were active duty for 12 years.
Kathy: Okay. Yeah. Alright. And it sounds like your work now, you’re kind of a techie guy, maybe what, and you have to major in something at the Academy.
Matthew: Yeah. The Naval Academy is really interesting. So if you’d asked me back then, you know, I would’ve thought for sure, I would have been doing something needing a humanities degree of some sort. So I majored in history. But the Naval Academy is interesting in that they make you take a lot of math and science while you’re there.
So you get a bachelor of science in history, so,
Kathy: Oh, okay.
Matthew: Which I’m glad for. I certainly used it over the years, you know, being at sea and. Uh, yeah, it was a must.
Kathy: Yeah. So tell us just a snapshot of your career. I know there would be a lot of great stories, but just, um, so what, um, what was your role in the Navy?
Matthew: Sure. So my, my last, uh, my last tour, uh, my last year on active duty was as the captain of the USS scout, which is one of our mine countermeasure ships in San Diego. And before that I was. That was the operations officer on a guided missile destroyer. Uh, and I did various jobs on guided missile, destroyers and cruisers.
Prior to that, a nice thing about the, the last, tour I was on is that we were stationed in Rota, Spain. It was part of the Navy’s kind of forward deployed European force, which was a, which was a really interesting and rewarding experience. Um, and I, in addition to my time at sea, uh, I, I had, I’ve done some strategy work for the Navy and then also, uh, deployed to Baghdad, Iraq with the a hundred first airborne of all things I’ve deployed with an army unit.
So yeah, we’ve, we’ve certainly had the full . The, the full assortment of military experiences in our, in our short time.
Kathy: Okay. And how long were you in the Navy? And I know you said you’re reserve, but when did you, I guess, move to reserves?
Matthew: Not that long ago. So, uh, I graduated from the Naval Academy in 2005.
Uh, my last year on active duty was 2018. Right. So in the reserves just a couple of years.
Kathy: Okay. Alright. And you said you met. Jen you guys met when he was already in the Navy.
Jen: We actually met when we were both still in college. My, one of my sorority sisters was dating and is now married to, um, one of his roommates.
And so we, um, I guess a couple of times, like the group of guys had come down to where I went to school in Virginia and, um, just kind of met that way. We really got to know each other. Online. That was like the beginning of it was before people really online dated, but we got to know each other that way, like talking on the phone and talking online and then we kind of dated a little bit on and off because he was deploying during my first year of teaching.
So it was just crazy for both of us at the time.
Kathy: Gosh. Um,
Jen: and then when he came back from deployment, we were basically getting married. We got to know each other really well while he was on deployment yeah. Just through letters and emailing and.
Matthew: She was utterly unimpressed with my uniform and the Navy and with the Naval Academy experience.
And for some reason that was really special to me like that. So yeah,
Kathy: IShe loved you for who you are.
Jen: Yeah, cause persistence paid off, I guess.
Kathy: Well, there is something to be said for persistence. Absolutely. You know, Jen, uh, being married to someone in the military is, that is a challenging role to that. I think for people that have not been in the military, don’t really stop to think about how lonely it can be when they’re deployed.
And so. I would love to hear what was one of the most challenging times for you while he was in active duty?
Jen: I think when I think about Matt has been on, I feel like maybe more deployments than the average
Jen: person. I think that every time he would go on a deployment, it felt like it was the hardest.
Um, you know, he deployed when we were very first married and that was when he went to Iraq and that felt super challenging because I was, I didn’t have the distraction of children at home. And, um, but I think for sure, when we moved, um, overseas to live in Spain, our middle daughter was just like two weeks old.
She was 12 days. Oh my goodness. And so, um, We moved there when she was 12 days old. And then he deployed almost immediately after we arrived to Spain. And so I was there with a toddler Ainslie, our oldest, and then Clark, who was a newborn. And that was challenging just because like, even though I wasn’t a new mom, I was mom to a new baby.
So that was hard to not really have an established network. So it really taught me a lot about. Just the military community and how you don’t have to know somebody super well to call them in tears and ask for help. Um, so that I think was, was humbling for me just to have people that would show up without any question.
Um, it just really taught me that it’s okay. to, you know, ask for help and to reach out if you’re feeling like you need a second hand. Later in that tour, we also found out that we were expecting our third baby. So that was challenging to, to. Have a baby in a foreign country without your mom there, or, you know, family to rely on.
So the same, when I went into labor with Nora, we relied on friends for the older girls. And so it was just, I think I wasn’t a huge fan of being a military spouse before we moved to Spain. And then when we moved to Spain, I realized. But it really is a special thing. And it, it allowed me to kind of develop an appreciation for, you know, female bonds and, um, making friends outside of your spouse because Matt was deployed and I was making friends with the spouses of who he worked with, but he wasn’t there.
So it wasn’t like we were meeting people together. Right. Um, so it just really gave me a good appreciation for asking for help and realizing that. You can’t can’t do it
Kathy: by yourself. Yeah. And sounds like the power of community is very helpful. I think one of the motivators for me, developing some resources for entrepreneur marriage is for that very reason, I wasn’t finding community for me.
There were resources for Mark and even those he didn’t have access to until. I forget how much income you have to have in your business before you can be on some of these boards. So we both felt pretty challenged and isolated, but I’ve always heard that about military communities that they are very tight, especially when you’re in a foreign country and you have to reach out to the people around you.
Matthew: So, and you know, the other thing that is occurring to me, just kind of like. Listening to it as like an observer, listening to Jen, talk about it is that, you know, the podcast also about marriage. And it really did give us a lot of confidence as, as a married couple, because, you know, if you can have a brand new baby in a foreign country while you’re deployed and you can have a baby while you’re there and all of these things that any sane person would look at and be like, that’s ridiculous.
We did all those things. And. Uh, you know, I don’t know. It means something to us. Like it’s, there’s like some resiliency that you can kind of pull from that, from those experiences.
Kathy: Absolutely. And the ability to really pull on each other and draw on each other, I should say, as the source of encouragement and support family is wonderful and it’s so necessary, but there is something about really setting yourself up as.
an us, you know, the two of us, we are an entity and we’re not going to let these things get the best of us. We’re going to make the best of it. Glad that you guys
Jen: go ahead.
Kathy: I was just gonna say, I’m glad that you guys were able to do that because I think the divorce rate. Similar to entrepreneurs. I don’t know what the divorce rate is in the military, but I just hear stories.
Matthew: Yeah. Very high
Jen: I think it’s hard because, um, when you’re married and you live in the same house and you interact daily, you come to decisions together and we learned. Before we even had kids when not deployed to Iraq, we learned that it was really challenging to like develop an opinion in your own head without being able to communicate with your spouse and then realize that they came to a different conclusion than you did.
So it is thankfully we learned that early on. So we were able to sort of. Try to stay ahead of it once we did have children, but it is it’s challenging when you’re not able to constantly bounce off of each other and you’re, you’re in your own head. And then when you bring, or, you know, talk about it with the other person, you realize, Oh, we didn’t really influence each other’s decisions when we were coming to this.
So now we’re totally on opposite ends. Oh yeah. Um, so thankfully we were able to kind of get ahead of that early and learning the lesson the hard way before we had kids. So that once we were parenting. In separate areas, you know, together, we were able to remember what that was
Kathy: like. Yeah. Communication’s so important.
Right. Did you guys read books or go to, retreats or anything like that to learn some of those early tools? Or did you just learn it in the school of hard knocks?
Jen: Yeah, trial by fire
Matthew: just started agreeing with Jen more.
Kathy: That’s not a bad thing. Yes. Have you guys heard of the Chris Kyle foundation?
I have a good friend that works. I think she’s still working with them, but I love what they’re doing and providing marriage resources for military & first responders. Again, people that tend to, because of their work either be separated a lot, or they deal with a lot of trauma that they carry inside and, and that spills over and influences the marriage.
So yeah, they’re doing really great work. Yeah. So you’ve not been out very long matt. You started to say Matt, Matt. Um, so tell us about Chimney Trail and what that is, how this concept came about.
Matthew: Sure. Yeah. So my last tour, obviously, like we talked about earlier, I was the captain over. One of our Navy ships and we’ve seen our fair share deployment and I took it totally for granted, but as I would come home from deployment, you know, each one of those is like the happiest day of my life.
It was, I I’d be reunited with Jen. I’d be reunited with our children when, when we had, when kids were in the picture and it was just this really helpful, amazing, like life experience. But, uh, there’s something about kind of the charge of command where you’re given. Insight into people’s personal lives that you don’t normally have just in normal jobs.
Uh, and, and I started to discover that that same like beautiful homecoming experience was not consistent across everyone. And I mean, I guess I knew that on an intellectual level, uh, I certainly knew that on an intellectual level, because the Navy has a lot of really tremendous resources to help families through those periods of transition.
But, but I also kind of pieced together that. The resources are kind of clinical in nature. You know, it’s like, Hey, I have to, I have to admit to myself that I’m having an issue with this. And then I have to seek a professional’s assistance with this issue that I’m having. And I just know that, you know, particularly in military circles or first responder circles, or really anybody that’s in a high octane job, they don’t really fancy themselves.
The person that asks for help, they think of themselves as.
Kathy: want to talk about feelings we’re going to armor up and get it done, right?
Matthew: Like, yeah, it’s supposed to be hard. Let’s just go do it, you know? So they kind of press on. And so, you know, they may or may not get the help that they need. So I was experiencing this with some of the sailors on my ship.
And then I started asking, you know, folks that I’m most close with. I mean, certainly Jen, but then kind of in a professional context, you know, the, the folks I went to the Naval Academy with and who are incidentally, my Naval Academy roommates and co-founders of Chimney trail. And I asked, yeah, So I just asked him, I said, look, I’m experiencing this on the ship.
Are you guys seeing the same thing in your respective military units? We have Marines and coast guard, men that are part of the team. And they said yes. And then we were like, well, that’s interesting. I wonder if anybody outside the military is experiencing kind of this, like, uh, this, uh, gingerly process of having to reconnect with family after a stressful period.
And so we just started asking like, okay, you know, police communities, first responder communities of all variety. And then we even went so far as like, uh, professional athletes, like, Hey, you’re gone for an entire season more or less, you know, when you come and reconnect with your family, do you feel like there is like, you could use a hand in that reconnection and of course, across the board, everybody says, yes.
So we partnered with a look. I say, partner, we started like working with Stanford’s Bing nursery, started reading some of their research. And then also the university of South Dakota has a really great program for childhood development. Uh, and, and we were trying to find, okay, what is the, what’s the secret to this reconnection?
What’s gonna make it so that people feel connected on arrival and can kind of make up for lost time. And you would think there’d be like this really big elaborate academic answer to the, to the question, but all of the professionals came back and they were unanimous. Uh, that the, that the secret is to take your kids outside and play with them.
And you’re like, well, that’s ridiculous. Like, how easy is that?
Kathy: Right. It seems so basic.
Matthew: Right. But there’s this, there’s this element it’s, it’s specifically outside. Uh, there’s an element in that outdoor play where you kind of have to plan what it is that you’re going to do. And then you have to explain what you’re going to do to your child.
And so you plan, you explain it and then you actually do the thing that you’re going to do. And then you talk about it after you finish. And there’s something about that kind of continuum that builds in a child, the resiliency that would be necessary in order to deal with a parent going away and coming back again, because they start to associate, they start to associate challenge with something that’s going to help them grow rather than a set of circumstances around which they have no control.
And they’re like falling victim to. So, yeah, so
Kathy: has there ever been a more important time than this time in history, we find ourselves,
Matthew: we couldn’t agree with you more. We’ve been in build mode for the last two years, but one of our partners actually reached out to us as, as COVID-19 was rearing its ugly head. And, and she was like, are you guys going to launch, like, can you just get on the internet because people need these activities that you’re proposing and people need these adventures to do it, their kids and, and all of this resiliency building stuff like let’s make this happen.
So maybe it gave us a little bit of courage to just like, not make perfect the enemy of the great. Uh, and so we just, now we’re up and running.
Kathy: Fantastic. So how long have you guys, how long ago did you launch?
Matthew: So we, we signed the paperwork a few years ago almost to the day we in court. We incorporated. We built the first version of our website, which looked kind of like a high school science project, then something that yeah.
People want to put in front of people, but, but we built it and then we did kind of in-person soft launch. Uh, at the GoPro games in, uh, in Vail 2019 so June 6th, 2019. Okay. Uh, so we did that soft launch. That was a really great event. Uh, and then kind of some of the resources that we were able to gather from that experience, we’ve reinvested into building the curriculum and building the site and establishing partnerships with, with brands that we think are consistent with this idea of adventuring with your children.
To get our customers kind of like, you know, discounts and stuff, make it worth visiting the site. Uh, and then also partnered with Fair Harbor, which is a, uh, a travel booking site, which on account of covid, but is a little bit dormant at the moment. But the idea behind it is all of the adventures are specifically designed to make it right.
Or the adventures are selected to specialize in family adventures. So you never need to worry about, Hey, does this person understand my unique family needs? Like now we’ve done all that research ahead of time. Wow.
Kathy: Fantastic. So, Jen, where, where are you in this process? Well, we
Jen: kind of, I think it’s fair to say that it’s kind of, it’s evolved a lot, you know, Matt has always wanted to serve and he, we talked about, you know, different options for that.
I think, um, as far as Chimney Trail goes. The reason why it was so appealing to us to do something like this is because it’s something that it’s not something that he does by himself. It’s not something that, that, you know, he’s,holed up in an office. It’s definitely is a, a group effort. I think all of the spouses of the co founders would agree that it’s not just, you know, the guys working on this project.
The good thing is, is that. Our kids are kind of our Guinea pigs in it. So we’re able to do all of this stuff with our girls and, and test run things and see, you know, if they’re they care if they’re interested. So I think it’s really just like a. I would say my role in chimney trail is just the yin to the yang.
There are certain things where, you know, I teach, so I know how to, you know, set up a lesson plan and get things moving and, and how to. You know, be prepared and move forward with teaching your kids something and then assess, did they learn anything, you know, was it valuable? So I think that the teacher aspect, for sure, I bring to that, but also just taking the lead with the girls, if Matt can’t or, or offering, you know, the kid perspective to something it’s really just kind of us working.
Like, do you need to do this? Okay. Let me figure out the girl how to manage the girls. Now, I wouldn’t really say that I have an assigned role or really, even that you have an assigned role, as far as Chimney Trail goes in our family, it’s really just kind of a, who’s better for this. And then who’s going to take the girls.
Matthew: Yeah. The title, the title is almost kind of comical because it’s more like there’s just a whole bunch of stuff that needs to get done. And I’m like doing the stuff that’s. Yeah.
Kathy: True of every startup, right? You wear many hats and how many partners are in this?
Matthew: We, we, so there’s four of us. There were four original, uh, co founders of course, roommates at the Naval Academy.
And now we have, uh, two, uh, two additional teammates that are kind of at that co-founder level. They’ve been with us since very early on and had really moved the needle for us. So there’s a team of, uh, a team of six. And then we have three other people that are kind of helping us out with content and technical stuff and that sort of thing.
So we’re growing. I mean, it’s, you know, started yeah. Picking up steam.
Kathy: So if I’m counting correctly, Matthew, this is three jobs you have currently. Is that
Matthew: correct? I S I suppose if you want to like count W2’s then yeah. There’s, there’s three jobs. Yeah. They kind of like one informs the other. Uh, and yeah.
Kathy: Yeah. So how do you, how do you approach that from a time management perspective and balancing that with your family?
Matthew: Well, I would, I guess the first thing to say is that when we decided to move on from active duty, it was a, it was, was a very deliberate decision. It wasn’t the only decision only like deciding factor, but a huge chunk of the reason why we decided to move on from active duty is because we wanted our personal and professional lives to be kind of more joined so that we weren’t like essentially leading like, Oh, this is my professional life.
And this is my personal, we wanted to kind of. Just have a life and everything to be integrated with one another. Uh, so number one was that we wanted to make sure there was enough time to really engage with our kids and to, to, to not need to like ask them if they’re feeling blue, but to be able to just assess that because we spend enough time with them and you know, like really enjoy their childhood with them.
So step one was like making sure that no matter what we did professionally, it wasn’t going to like infringe on that, but was instead going to be kind of interwoven with it. Uh, and then the, the Navy piece, I I’ve been around it for so long now that. It’s a part of our ethos. It’s kind of like, even if I wasn’t getting paid by the Navy, the stuff that I do for them, I would be doing anyway, just because of like contacts that I now have.
And so it’s not like a job that you have to clock in and out of necessarily. And then for, for my work, with the data engineering firm in my work with chimney trail, there are just so many, like if you, if you drew like a Venn diagram of both of those, the overlapping period, like portion of it would be so huge.
That it’s more manageable than you might think. I mean, it makes for some, it makes for some long hours, but, uh, I don’t know it every time I start feeling sorry for myself, I’ve figure Elon Musk is running like six businesses or whatever. So
Kathy: exactly. I wish I had his mental bandwidth.
Matthew: Yeah, me too.
Kathy: So amazing. What is the significance of chimney trail?
What. Is there a significance to that name?
Matthew: Uh, yeah. Yeah. So, um, yeah.
Kathy: Sorry, go ahead.
Matthew: There’s two there’s two stories. The one that, the one that we’ll we’ll like put on our pamphlets and stuff, is that. The chimney represents kind of the archetypal cornerstone of the home. It’s like, if you build a home, that’s the first thing that’s built.
And the trail is like finding your way back home to that, which is essential. And, and we love that too. Yeah. But the, but the real reason is that at the Naval Academy, if you get in trouble well, and they make you do pushups and stuff, they call that. They say you’re getting smoked.
Kathy: Oh, okay.
Matthew: The four founders of chimney trail were roommates. And we were constantly getting in trouble. So our upperclassmen nicknamed our room, the chimney, because someone was always getting smoked. That’s kind of, that’s the Genesis there,
Kathy: a little disappointed as a military person that you don’t have a TLA. Three letter acronym. My nephews are always throwing out, you know, these TLAs.
And I was like, what is that? I mean, and they’re like, Oh, sorry, aunt Kathy it’s this or that. You know? So anyway, you ended up with two. Well, I love the meaning of that. Had, had you ever started anything before Matthew?
Matthew: No, as far as businesses are concerned, no. Uh, you know, oddly enough, the Navy for is as hierarchical as it is.
And like, you know, you might assume that it’s rigidly structured. It, it gave us, I mean, Jen and I both like a really, maybe like a charmed path. I don’t know how you would describe it, but we really were able to kind of. Build things and influence things. We had neat jobs that allowed us to create stuff inside the department of defense that never was.
So I guess you would like the buzz word for that these days, I guess is like intrapreneurship. Um, but we’ve never done anything, uh, you know, in a corporate type way before, but I am finding that there’s a lot more overlap than you might think.
Kathy: Yeah. Yeah. The bug has bitten.
Matthew: Yes. That’s fair to say
Kathy: for those that may not be familiar with that term, but intrapreneur would be like somebody working within the safety of a company or in your case, the military where you’re given some latitude and.
Freedom to create, but you’re not having to go raise money or pay payroll, that sort of thing. But this project is truly an entrepreneur project, right.
Matthew: Certainly is.
Kathy: Yep. Have you guys raised money for it or is this just bringing your own contributions?
Matthew: So, uh, so far it’s been bootstrapped, uh, and, and we’re.
Pretty happy with that right now. Uh we’re um, we are absolutely not like closed off to the idea of, of angel investment. And in fact, uh, as we first started the company, we thought, in fact, probably the reason that we’re incorporated as a C Corp in the state of Delaware, was to make ourselves more marketable as a company that you could invest in.
Uh, but as we’ve, as we’ve gone on. We’ve just, we’ve just kind of learned some things and being bootstrapped provides a level of freedom that, uh, we’re really enjoying right now. And also kind of allows us to continue being our own boss. There are enough demands and starting a, uh, a scalable startup like this.
Uh, there were enough demands that like, we don’t have any problem filling up our own to do list. So we’ve just decided, you know, as we’re, as we’re really picking up steam and kind of getting our legs so to speak, we’ll kind of stay bootstrapped. And then, you know, we’re, we’re positioned for investment, right. That sort of thing.
And perhaps sooner than we think that will become the reality. But, but for right now we haven’t taken any, uh, any angel investment and we’re okay. Kind of. Alone.
Kathy: Okay. So you’re pretty early in the process you’ve been hit with COVID or that has limited some of the options. Um, can you speak a little more about what a family might find in coming to chimney trail?
What, what offerings are there?
Matthew: So you’ll find, you’ll find a project in progress and it’s really, it’s, it’s rocking and rolling. So when you visit chimney trail, The reason chimney trail exists is to provide parents a resource, to do little activities that we have verified will build resiliency in your children.
So you go there and they’re the most simple things that you would ever imagine, stuff that totally take for granted, but in kind of like the busy-ness of everyday life, you just forget to do them. And then at the end of the week, you’re like, Oh my gosh. Right. You know, my kid knows like five or six new name brands and they’ve watched three or four new TV shows, but we forgot to like talk about like, we forgot to go on a hike together.
So this is just like a gentle nudge. Uh, to go build a Fort out of couch cushions with your kids, or, you know, learn how to pack properly, pack a cooler so that you can go on a camping trip that some of the stuff that you might see in like a scouting, merit badge, you’ll find on chimney trail and we call those way points.
So like on a trail, you have way points to tell you where you’re going. We call each of these little activities way points. Uh, what you’ll also find there is things to make that easier. So we’re totally allergic to the idea of like fast fashion and all of these things where it’s like a planned obsolescence.
Uh, what we really are trying to focus on is providing goods that you could buy on the site that, you know, you might use with your kids while you’re doing the Waypoint, and then they could turn around and use it with their kids. 30 years later. We, so we sell disc discounted for our members, a selection of discounted goods.
Uh, and then also as a way of kind of cementing core positive memories, when we first started the project, a lot of people were asking, Hey, it would be really great if you could find a good adventure to go on with our kids, because like, yeah, we can do all these fun activities every week, but then we want something like a capstone.
Uh, so we’ve, you know, we’ve done some homework, uh, and if, and if a creative relationships to make it so that you can go on really unique adventures. Uh, with your family. So it was kind of like a tripod of things that you experienced when you go to the site, but they all. Are like the, the focus, like the laser focus of effort is building resiliency in your children and kind of the family unit as a whole.
Kathy: Fantastic. So it’s um, is it a membership site?
Matthew: It is. So the, the way points are free, they’ll always be free until the end of time, whoever needs them can go do it. And I would submit that maybe all of us need them, but they’ll always be free. Uh, the, the reason that we have kind of that membership model is because we do a lot of hard work to create the relationships with different brands that we’re passionate about to, to get discounts for our members.
And then also, so vetting different travel opportunities. It, it, you know, there’s a lot of a, there’s a lot of effort involved in that. So, uh, we make. We make those discounts and those adventures, uh, accessible to our members. It’s I mean, we’re, we’re not talking something extravagant. It’s like, it’s 40 bucks a year,
Kathy: but that’s why we
Yeah. I love that concept of, of the way points. And especially right now where, uh, our kids are grown and adults, but, um, so many parents have found themselves as the educator when that’s not their background and they’re trying to work. They’re trying to finish up education. Fortunately, most of them, I think it finished by now.
We’re recording this and June, we’re still in June. Um, so what a great resource for families and just to give them ideas and simple things, like you said, that they can do. What is one of the most memorable family adventures that you guys have done?
Matthew: You wanna take this one?
Jen: I think you have to let us have two.
Jen: Yeah, so we took a trip together. Well, so Matt took a trip before we were married to Peru, um, with his best friend and one of the co founders I’m thankful because I think it like eliminated a lot of the traveling anxiety because we ended up going back to Peru together once we were married. And that was incredible.
It was nice to have a seamless adventure because it was, I didn’t grow up. You know, going on extravagant trips or even, I didn’t even have a passport before I married Matt. Um, so it, it really, I think was nice to have him as a guide. And he had so many connections from his previous trips. So it was almost a seamless trip as far as, um, you know, going to a foreign country and doing things totally out of my element.
You know, we hiked Machu Picchu, which is.
hard. And, you know, altitude is crazy high there. And so it was just a lot of unknown that was that Matt had kind of already experienced a little bit of, so it made me feel safe. And I think gave me a lot of confidence moving forward to be able to travel with our own kids.
Once we had them just knowing that. We’re never going to go on a trip that he hasn’t done so much research and homework on. So that kind of just, I think it just laid the foundation kind of for the trips that we have decided to take as a family. But we plan on going back there with our girls when they’re at a non-complaining age to make that hike.
Kathy: What age would that be
Jen: we’re not there yet. I don’t know what age that is. We’re not there yet, but then also, you know, Matt in between his. It wasn’t between before you took the command after your exit, before he took command, um, we took a month and went on a national park trip. We went to several national parks.
Yes. With the girls. Um, Nora was still a baby, but we went to Yosemite and Kings Canyon and Sequoia national park. And. We had a whole month to just really do whatever we wanted and if we wanted to stay for longer, but nobody was waiting for us to come back. And so it was just nice to have a little bit of freedom and to really like, just let our girls, if they were loving it one day, we just decided to like, hang out by a rock where there was water and we spent all day there because loving it.
So I think those two kind of, you know, the first really informed our. Mindset as far as traveling. And then the second was, it just felt so free to have that time. It’s not very often that you have, you know, a month with no commitment and nobody looking for you or asking for. We’re going to do something.
So it was nice to just kind of take that month to really let the girls lead the trip and, you know, just kind of do what was working for them. If we were doing something that they weren’t loving aborted and do the next thing. So most of those really kind of
Kathy: how old were the girls at that time, Jen,
Jen: they were, so Nora was just barely walking.
So she must’ve been like. 15 months. And then, um, there Clark & Nora are very close in age, so she was just the next year older. So she was, I think she was almost three about to turn three and then Ainslie was five. So Ainsley had just finished or maybe she was six. She had just finished kindergarten.
Matthew: Yeah, that trip gave us some street credit.
I mean, with chimney, chimney trail, parents will reach out and be like, uh, we have friends, that’ll contact you. Like, it’s easy for you to say, like, you know, your kids can walk in and we’re like, Hey, we did it when they, you know, when we had to carry him. And, Oh, by the way, we’ve got a really great recommendation for a kid carrier that you should buy.
Kathy: There you go. Yeah, we love the national parks and spend a lot of time in the outdoors. I backpacked the summer after my freshman year and sophomore year in college. And that’s kind of how Mark and I met. He heard about this curly haired girl that was backpacking and he thought he should check it out. So we had great plans to take our kids backpacking, but.
It never worked out except for one trip when the boys were say, Ryan was fourth grade, no, he had to be older than that. Fourth or fifth grade. Jeremy was probably sixth or seventh, I guess. So they were. Pretty young. Hannah was still too little to do backpacking. And so they did that with Mark’s dad and, um, really treasure that memory because it’s the only one that his dad got to do with them.
So we would take them fishing and hiking and go to the beach. We’re just very outdoor people. And I can remember when we lived in California for several years. And there was a place called Oak Glen. We would drive up there. It was about an hour. We lived in Rancho Cucamonga outside of LA, and we’d find just little streams that they could fish on.
And Jeremy would just fish and fish and fish. And it was just, they were the most delightful days because there was no agenda. You still might get some fussy times or meltdown if they were too tired, but. Like you said you adjust or you’re bored or you make a plan B, but there is something about being in the outdoors that has created such a bond in our family.
And I love seeing what you guys are doing. That is awesome. What, what would you say has been one of the biggest challenges since launching the business?
Matthew: Well, let’s see. Um,
Kathy: where did you begin?
Matthew: Yeah, there’s a, there’s a lot of challenges, you know? Right. This is the biggest challenge starting this. It is a seed planted in the ground, but that’s all it is.
You can’t see it. So you have to come back to the seed every day and just water it. And, and like, along the way, you may even forget like where you planted the seed. So you’re like, I’m wondering like, am I watering the right spot? But you just gotta keep making sure that the soil is good and that the water is good and you just have to have like almost a foolish level of faith we’re not successful yet.
So I think. Most of the people that you would interview are probably on the other side of this, where their business has kind of like taken root and is flourishing and they can look back on it with like fond memories. We don’t have any fond memories. Yeah. Still in, you know, we’re, we’re still tilling soil and like really, uh, having like, just maintaining that almost foolish level of faith has been, has been a huge challenge because people like a winner.
And, and we don’t have, I have like a lot of wins to advertise yet to where people can kind of like really latch onto it and then really build the community. Uh, and I know that that’s the case because lately we’ve had kind of internally, like within our team, we started to feel some wins and it, it’s just the most lovely feeling to be like, Oh my gosh, look at this.
It’s coming to life. There’s its first sign of breath. Like you can really. Feel it, and, but here has been really difficult, uh, because of that level of like the almost grace that you need to extend your fellow co-founders and they need to, and they need to extend to you. I’m like perennially the most, like.
Um, I’m really hard on us. Uh, they always joke, like, you know, it could be like we could be having something really good and I’m always fussing about like, what’s the Delta between good and perfect. And so, so like that being patient with me and kind of like my, you know, obstinate approach to achieving what it is that we’re trying to do.
And then. Like our understanding of what, like, wow, there’s a lot of adults with real responsibilities that are involved in this project. We need to like extend each other, a measure of like latitude, because reality is gonna have a vote. Um, yeah. That’s and then just keeping the faith that I that’s the biggest challenge.
Um, Somehow, we haven’t been turned off to it yet though.
Kathy: Well, that’s good. And it’s encouraging and, and I love interviewing people at all stages of the process. Really? It is great to be on the other side, but we’ve been doing it 21 years and we’re not on the other side yet. We’re a lot farther than we were, but, uh, I think it’s helpful.
And I want this to be an encouragement to other entrepreneurs who are in the early stage to know, you know, we’ve had people say to us, Like when we started spending more time in Colorado well, it must be nice. And it was like, um, where were you when Mark was up all night? Because he couldn’t make payroll or we went without payroll multiple times so that everyone else got paid.
We never had a time when employees did not get paid, but there were several times when we didn’t. So that’s just. Part of it and, and you have to be willing to take all of it, but I think it’s helpful to hear the backstory so that you don’t get discouraged when it’s slower than you thought are any of the other cofounders, local, or are all of you spread out all over?
Matthew: We’re spread out. One of, so two of us are here in Colorado. One is in Boulder. I’m of course, Jen and I are up here in Fort Collins. Uh, we, we have one, uh, that was living in North Carolina recently, but is going to be moving to Southern California here soon. And then, uh, our other is in Northern California.
Matthew: yeah, it’s near Sacramento.
Kathy: So that that’s a challenge as well, just that you’re not in the same place to be able to process all of the time. I have found too, that couples have different degrees of talking about the business. What. What do you guys, how do you approach it? Do you separate, like, we’re not going to talk about business tonight or what’s that like for you guys?
Jen: I don’t think that’s possible. I think actually what works for us is that, you know, it’s a seed, but it’s not Matt’s seed and it’s not chimney trail seed it’s everybody’s. And so for us, we kind of just look at it as another part of our like household domestic responsibilities. And so that has helped. A lot in that grace it’s home.
I think, you know, the tamper out a lot of resentment that can happen, but it hasn’t with us just yet, because it’s the same as like, Oh, he is, you know, if you were at an office doing a job where he was getting paid a ton of money, I wouldn’t be like, why aren’t you home? Because he, you know, is making money.
So I feel like it just looking at it as just another part of our family responsibility has made it so that. There really is no resentment. I mean, he works long hours sometimes, and sometimes we’re, um, you know, stretching to make a day. Not feel crazy, but it’s our seed. And so it’s, if he’s not doing something or if there’s something that I can do to help, or I know other families are the same, it’s I feel like it’s just, it has to just be part of the whole circle that, you know, is your house.
If he’s working on chimney trail and it’s, it feels frustrating more for him really than even for me, just that he’s, you know, missing out here. He’s working on something and he’s missing out. It’s just like, I wouldn’t get mad if he was, you know, not doing something with us because he was taking out the trash or because he was doing a different household duty.
So it’s just part of our, it’s the fabric of everything. And so that helps I think, with the grace.
Matthew: Yeah. And I, I also think that we kind of have a different philosophy overall. I’ve heard a lot growing up, you know, don’t go into business with your friends, don’t go into business with your family. And I think there is a lot of wisdom in that at some, in some respect, but I knew that at least for me, the people that I wanted to go in business with were firstly, people that I trusted the most.
And rather than worrying about like who is going to get like, you know, swindled on a business deal or something like that. I kind of always like my litmus test for who I wanted to go in business with would be like, If we made, you know, a hundred million dollars and it was all in $20 bills and we had to light it on fire.
Who would, I want to be at that bonfire with me and whoever, you know, whoever I’d want around the bonfire, like, you know, listen to music and having fun and that sort of thing that would be who I would want to go into business with because the likelihood of success is like essentially negligible that you’re not going to be successful.
Right. Uh, so, so you might as well do it with people that you love.
Kathy: Yeah. And being together,
Jen: it’s like the, the families that we are working with. We know it’s not easy. And so I know that if it’s sometimes not easy for us, that it’s also sometimes not easy for them. So I feel like that also allows us to give them a lot of grace too, because not that we’re constantly sharing, you know, struggles that we’re having as far as chimney trails impact on our families.
But I know if it’s affecting our family that it’s impacting their’s too. So if somebody is not pulling the weight that they promised. You know, it’s because there’s, they have a family and it’s part of their family too. And so I feel like it has been in business with friends who are basically like family to us at this point has made it so that like the grace that I would extend to Matt, if he were working late on chemtrail I also extend to them.
So. I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to go into business with people that we didn’t know just cause I feel like it would be so easy to be hard and, and, and get mad and, and like, just be that, but as far as this goes, they’re our family too. So they deserve the same grace that I’m giving or I’m receiving.
Kathy: Absolutely. And it strikes me that some of your experiences, especially when you were in Spain and Matthew, you were deployed and having to rely on other people and also becoming independent, um, being able to think for yourself and. Take care of the garbage disposal, if it breaks, because Matthew has gone, you just learned how to do that.
And again, not having resentments. So it sounds like that was kind of some good training ground for this project. Sure.
Jen: I guess I never really thought about it that way,
Matthew: but totally.
Jen: And I mean, military spouses hear all the time, like, I don’t know how you do it. I would never be able to do that. Um, But you don’t have a choice.
So I think like, just push on and it’s fine on the other end. So, so I think, yeah, yeah, you’re right. I didn’t even really thought about it that way, but I guess that is true. That it kind of, in me, I guess, built some resiliency. I may not know how to fix the garbage disposal, but I know who to call.
Kathy: Yeah, exactly.
My hands not going down there. Right. Good marriages, we know don’t just happen. i used to tell Hannah our youngest, we have two boys and a girl. And when she was little, I would read the fairytales to her and they always lived happily ever after. And I would look at her and say, sweetie, you know, that’s not the case.
Right. They worked very hard at their relationship. Funny thing is she got married two and a half years ago and she didn’t really remember that story. But I would like to think that somewhere in her subconscious, she knew and knows that good marriages, great marriages. Take some work. What are some things that you guys do to keep the fun friendship and intimacy in your relationship?
Jen: I think for us, well, first of all, this is a family project, so it is nice to have, um, something to work on that involves the girls and that we can do together and we can make a big deal in production. Out of that, I think is. It’s I think it’s huge for the girls too, because then they’re not gonna think, well, dad’s in the office doing this crazy thing.
We’re doing it together. And so it’s, it’s part of our, you know, family atmosphere, I guess, that we’ve kind of created. So nobody really feels like, Oh, this is work. It’s fun for us. And so,
Matthew: so are we talking about. How do we maintain intimacy and fun? Like in our, in our marriage?
Jen: Yeah. Oh, not our family. I see what you’re
That’s okay. The family is, I mean, that is fantastic, but the marriage kind of sets the tone for the family also. Right. And it is hard when you have young children and you’re building businesses to carve out time for, to be. Lovers to be that intimate partnership and not just mom and dad. Right?
Matthew: Yeah. I don’t have a problem with that.
No, I don’t know. Um, yeah. I, to a certain extent, like I really think. I do. I agree with you a hundred percent, like it’s particularly like a marriage, a longterm relationship of any kind, but particularly a marriage. Like it requires a level of work, but it’s like the happiest kind of labor and, and, and it shouldn’t, I really believe it just shouldn’t have to be that hard.
I, you know, I don’t think about, like when I think about being married to Jen, I don’t think about like, Oh, I need to remain married to Jen because I took a vow when I was 25 years old to be, you know, I don’t like put much stock in anything that I thought as a 25 year old, but I, but I do like now I wake up and I’m like our marriage.
I feel like transcends our vows. I, you know, I’m, we’re married every day. Not like executing a contract that we made in our mind is 25 year olds. So I, I like to think that the sparks live, I hope she feels
Jen: the same. Something like a task. It doesn’t feel like it’s something that we really need to think about or plan for.
I know it’s not that way with everybody, but I think it, part of it is because we’re doing it together that. We don’t feel like we’re working in isolation ever. So we did feel like that, you know, A lot in the Navy because Matt had jobs where he couldn’t talk about what he was doing at work and, or he was gone and we couldn’t talk to him.
So I feel like it’s okay. It doesn’t feel hard for us because we’re, it’s not separated. It is like one big, huge bowl. And sometimes he’s doing something from the bowl and sometimes I am. So it doesn’t feel like we’re spending our days separate and then having to make time to come together. Because especially now we don’t even leave our house and I was teaching from home and he works from home.
So we always together,
Matthew: that’s a new litmus test. Like who are you willing to spend the rest of your life in a house with,
Kathy: Yep. Choose wisely. Right. I’m struck sometimes with couples. Um, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this term unconsciously competent, like, um, Jen, let’s say you make the best cupcakes in the world and somebody says, how do you do it?
And you’re like, I don’t know. I just. I just throw stuff together and I throw them in and I decorate them and it’s like, no, really? What are you doing? And sometimes people are good. Yeah. The things that they just assume, everybody, is good at that. And I get that sense in your answer here is that you’re maybe unconsciously competent about the health of your marriage, because it’s clear you have a real easiness with each other and a friendship and you appreciate each other, but it’s like, how do we do that?
I don’t know, we haven’t really thought about it. So we just won’t analyze it. We’ll just celebrate it and say, yay. What is something you would say to your maybe, 25 year old self Matthew, either of, you would say to that younger self about marriage or business, knowing what you know now.
Matthew: What would I say?
Jen: I don’t know.
I don’t know. I feel like the path has been like, maybe not what we planned back then, but
Matthew: I know.
Jen: Okay. Thanks for the rescue.
Matthew: So I think early, I had, in my mind that. Success had benchmarks associated with it. So is it a rank in the military? Is it a certain financial goal that you might set and achieve?
Is it this new, like whatever it is, there are these benchmarks and now. I mean, particularly now with the project that we’re working on, I feel like we have discovered that success is when you’re doing something that you would be willing to do in complete obscurity. If nobody ever knew that you were ever working on it ever, you would be as happy as can be just doing it every day.
And. That’s the, that’s a big deal. I like you never ask a bird. Why it’s building a nest. You never ask a river while it’s flowing downhill. You never need to worry about asking Jen and I, why we’re working on chimney trail. It’s just how it’s supposed to be. But what would I say to the younger version of myself before getting here, which is anywhere but a finish line we’re like right in the middle of it.
I w I wouldn’t say anything. Because I would just want it to kind of play out like it has. I wouldn’t, I would just let her, let her ride.
Kathy: So there’s a process and, um, we don’t have control over that process always, but we make choices and it informs the future. And it’s pretty cool to see how your life experiences so far have folded into what you’re doing now.
Jen: I think on this end of it, it’s like. It would be easy to say, don’t worry about a timeline, or, but nobody’s gonna listen to that because you need a timeline when you’re 20 and you don’t know what you’re doing with your life, but yeah. Yeah. On this end, I feel like a timeline, I guess, did help inform our decisions, but we certainly didn’t stick to that, like at all.
And so I feel like. But I wouldn’t want somebody to tell me not to plan to a timeline because I feel like that would be kind of foolish to
Matthew: deadlines. Yeah. I think Walt Disney said that.
Jen: Oh yeah,
Kathy: sure, sir. Yeah. Well, it has been a joy talking with you guys. Is there anything else that you would like to share before we
I would like to shamelessly plug chimney trail again.
Kathy: I’d love to hear it.
Matthew: I have to imagine
Kathy: I’ll put the, the contact information in the show notes, but go ahead and please give us that information too. If people are just
Matthew: listening. Yeah. I was going to say that Kathy, I think that people that would be listening this show are entrepreneurs.
That’s a fair assumption. And we started the project to help military families reconnect because that’s a stressful job. And it’s that connection stressful. I think over the course of our talking, like we’ve discovered that there’s a whole lot of commonality between the stresses that are involved in launching like a new project, like an entrepreneurial project and that sort of service.
And, and we really believe like deep in our core that these way points. As simple as they might seem to be are, are like the parenting supplement that a lot of people could really benefit from. And by people, I mean, really kids, uh, we are not in the business of changing grownup people’s minds. Uh, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to do that before, but I haven’t had any luck.
So we want, we want parents to be like guides on this journey for their kids. And we don’t know how to, we don’t have any like secrets or anything like that, but we know clinically that the stuff that we’re putting on the site is to help parents do just that and to build the kind of resiliency that their kids will need to really navigate all of life’s adventures.
So, yeah, we’re www.chimneytrail.com. And the phone number that’s on the site is my personal phone number, which is the stupidest business decision we could ever make, but it’s there for the time being, uh, and, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for on the site, and you’re like, Hey, I need help reach out. Like, that’s what we’re here for.
And thank you for having us on Kathy. Thanks for giving us a place to talk about this and like our life’s work.
Kathy: I’m so glad to hear it. And I am so happy that you guys joined us today. I wish you all the best in this venture. And I hope there are lots of families that make great memories because you don’t get that time back with your kids.
Matthew: That’s right.
Kathy: Awesome. Awesome. Well, you guys take care and I hope to meet in person very soon.
Matthew: care. Take care.