Living His Dream
Young alum builds successful businesses while doing what he loves
Forget cubicles and conference rooms
— employees at Seattle-based Evo
take a different approach to nine to
five. They may head to the lake for
some morning wakeboarding or cut out early
to hit the slopes midweek. And on a sunny
Thursday afternoon? Expect to find them outside,
tending to the barbecue. After all, that’s
how the company’s founder, Bryce Phillips ’03,
likes to do business.
Twenty-eight-year-old Phillips is the
founder of Evogear.com, an e-commerce site
specializing in ski and snowboard equipment
and apparel. In 2005, he opened his first
brick-and-mortar storefront, Evo, a 10,000-
square-foot loft space in the heart of Fremont.
And earlier this year, he launched Evo Properties,
a real estate investment company, making
his knack for buying and selling real estate
an official venture.
Phillips says “evolution and innovation” are
at the heart of his business model. And he
named his companies accordingly: “evo” comes
from evolución, the Spanish word for evolution.
“I think there is always a better way to do
things,” he says.
At first glance, Phillips is a typical outdoorsy,
laid-back, environmentally minded
Northwest 20-something — except that there
is nothing typical about him. A businessman
at heart, he has been “making deals” since
he was young. “I learned early on that I loved
to ski, and I loved to travel,” he says. “I knew I
was going to have to figure out a way to pay
In high school in Roseburg, Oregon, Phillips
bought and sold anything he could get his
hands on — from skis to stereo equipment.
“At one point, I had three old cars, and basically
my parents thought I was crazy,” he says.
Phillips brought his love for the outdoors
— and buying and selling — to Seattle Pacific
University in 1995. The young business and
finance major perfected the art of selling (used
skis and snowboards, to be exact) to his classmates.
And, like most things in his life, he did
college his own way. “It took me seven years to
get my degree,” Phillips laughs, “but I always
had my own things going on the side.”
While a Seattle Pacific student, he made a
few daring moves: He bought a house in Seattle’s
Magnolia neighborhood without knowing
anything about real estate. Still, he figured,
with rent from several of his SPU friends,
it could be a smart financial move, and it was.
Then in 1997, after completing his sophomore
year, Phillips began an internship at K2,
a ski and snowboard manufacturer on Vashon
Island. Ignoring conventional wisdom, he
postponed school to pursue the opportunity.
“It was one of the best things I ever did,” he
says. “The right internship is invaluable and,
for me, that was the right internship.” Phillips
says he built important relationships within
the ski/snowboard community and was able
to observe the inner workings of a business.
As a result, he now offers internship
opportunities to Seattle Pacific students each
year in his own business. Junior Lindsay
Phelan, an apparel design major, is one such
intern. “I feel pretty involved,” says Phelan,
who works in Evo’s buying department. “Since
it is a small company, the work I do gets
noticed. It’s really fun watching them grow
and being a part of the process.”
Evo employs more than 30 people, many
of whom are SPU alumni. “I don’t think of
myself as a boss,” says Phillips. “We’re a team.
I work with friends.”
As important as the business’ bottom line
is — Evo grossed $3.5 million last year —
Phillips says his venture is about something
bigger. “I advocate that we all work to achieve
a high quality of life, which doesn’t just mean
more money — it means a work-life balance,”
he explains. “I work very hard, but I value fun
and pursuing the things that I’m passionate
about. I want the same things for my team.
I believe that we’ve attracted great people
because of this environment.”
Kirk Wimberly ’02 is one of those people.
Wimberly first met Phillips in his SPU
“Organizational Behavior” class. Now a marketing
coordinator for Evo, Wimberly says
that, with Phillips at the helm, the company’s
philosophy is “anything can happen, and we’re
going to make big things happen.”
Phillips says he considers it important that
he and Evo “reach out to the rest of the world.”
Last year, 15 Evo staff members worked with
New Horizons, a local nonprofit organization,
to treat homeless and underprivileged
youth to a day of skiing and snowboarding.
And, most recently, the entire company closed
its doors for a day to help clean up roadside
trash in the Fremont area. “We offer our
employees five days of paid time off per year
to volunteer,” says the company’s founder.
“We think that’s important.”
Phillips describes himself as grateful for
Evo’s success: “I consider myself lucky — I
earn a living doing the things that I truly love.”
And that, he explains, is what propels him to
keep improving, keep innovating. Phillips and
his team have plans for “massive growth,” and
you can almost see the wheels turning as he
talks about it. Whatever the future holds, you
can be sure of one thing: This young entrepreneur
will enjoy the ride.
— By Lindsey Bickel
— Photo by John Keatley
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