Author Jack Kerouac, in addition to defining the Beat Generation and adventuring across the continent, managed to leave behind a few nuggets of wisdom. Among them, he cautioned readers: “… in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” Drawing from sentiments such as these, apparel brand Mount Inspiration has been making its mark in the outdoors scene by creating nature-inspired designs infused with inspiration from our greatest philosophers, naturalists, and all-around adventurers.
Behind Mount Inspiration is its founder, Evans Prater, a Florida native who now calls the mountains of North Carolina home. Tall, with a runner’s build, Prater has the look of a man who has a million things on his mind (he does). It’s clear from a few minutes with him that he has those traits that are emblematic of entrepreneurs: a perpetually whirring mind focusing to improve his company.
During his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (covering over 2,100 miles), Prater developed the motto “Everything you carry should be light.” Such a figurative and literal motto transitioned easily from the Appalachian Trail back into the real world. After completing this hike, Prater moved to Asheville, NC where he finalized the vision for Mount Inspiration. The company began with a few sticker designs, which Prater peddled to retailers in the local area. It caught on quickly, and Mount Inspiration soon grew into a full t-shirt line, with Prater designing each piece himself. The shirt illustrations draw inspiration from a life spent outdoors as well as quotes from some of our most famous adventurers.
Prater first gained interest in graphic design while interning for a non-profit in Florida– a job where he also learned the power of hustling. When Prater queried his boss as to what he could do to fulfill his duties, the boss – rather sardonically – replied that his job was to get the non-profit’s message out to everyone in the world. Without missing a beat, Prater began cold-emailing prominent national publications with his pitch for a story. To the disbelief of most of his co-workers, Prater received replies from top national news publications– many eventually ran stories on the non-profit.
As Mount Inspiration has grown, Prater has had his share of growing pains and learning experiences. On his first delivery of shirts to a retail store, the hang tags were so small that the Mount Inspiration logo was completely obscured by the store’s pricing stickers. (Don’t worry– he’s since increased the size of hang tags).
“The first eight months were completely by myself – folding and tagging all of the shirts,” says Prater. He recalls an instance in which, after picking up shirts from the local screen printer, he drove straight to the customer store and placed the tags on the shirts in the parking lot before delivering them to the store. In the process, he’s also learned that he loves working with people who love the outdoors.
As the orders picked up, Prater needed help with tasks that had previously been strictly in Prater’s purview. For that, Prater hired his first employee, a local rafting guide named Tosh Blosser. With the affability of an old friend and the wit of a Bill Murray character, Tosh is both a natural salesman for the company (at his previous retail job, he was “trained to make everyone your best friend,”) but has also assumed a jack-of-all-trades role–ranging from order picker to package courier. Prater notes that finding “good help” is key … as he finishes the sentence, the unmistakable sound of a beer can falling over can be heard from the other side of the room. “That. Is. My. Bad.” says Tosh, assuring us that the spill is nowhere near Mount Inspiration product.
Tosh hiked the Appalachian trail after high school, spent a year and a half in college (before realizing it wasn’t for him), and then headed west to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. When asked to recall when Tosh first began at Mount Inspiration, Prater takes a long pause … before being interrupted by Tosh, who chimes in that he began “whenever Pokemon Go came out.” Everyone burst into laughter.
After hiring Tosh, Prater purchased a used screen printing press to bring a portion of his printing in-house. After deciding – perhaps wisely – that doing the screen printing himself was perhaps a bridge too far, Prater posted his need for an experienced screen printer to Facebook. Minutes later, a friend recommended someone that was in the process of moving to Asheville. That someone, Tressa Linzy, is a former screen printer as well as a former designer for Columbia Sportswear in Portland, Oregon. A few days later, she became the company’s in-house screen printer. As Prater says, “it’s the universe” that brings these things together.
Originally from Florida, Linzy began feeling to urge to move back closer to family in the Southeast. After returning to Portland from a road trip, she decided that as long as her car was already packed, she might as well “just keep going.” This journey ultimately landed her in Asheville– a spot “as far south as I wanna go.”
Since Linzy joined the team, Mount Inspiration has been increasingly moving its screen printing in-house. Today’s project: install the screen printing press on a new, sturdy wood table, replacing the previous plastic folding table. “This is going to change my life when we get this in here,” exclaims Tressa as the table is assembled and moved into the studio.
With so much on his plate, one might be concerned about burnout. Prater says it’s not a worry. “Of course I want to get back to waking up, doing designs, going on a run, working on prospects, doing social media, and working events,” says Prater, comparing his early days to his now-nonstop pace. But ultimately, he’s doing what he loves: introducing people to a new brand and “telling a story that resonates.” “The number one lesson is that it’s just gonna take time. If I stay focused on that, burnout is not really an option.”
“Again, it’s the universe,” he says. During Mount Inspiration’s infancy, Prater was working two different jobs as a waiter to make ends meet. “Now, I’m only working [as a waiter] one night a week and I have two employees.” So is he there yet? No. . . But he’s that many steps closer to living his dream. And that’s inspiration for all of us.