by Jessica Kirby. Photo credit: Sydney Munk. Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Business Class magazine.
Nature has a knack of imparting valuable life lessons. Sydney Munk, BCom ’21, discovered her passion for sustainability and the environment through travel and the outdoors. This in turn inspired her to pursue a career that would allow her to make a positive impact on the planet, and she did so in one of the more wasteful sectors: retail.
Specifically, Munk has for the past year owned and operated Grove Outdoors in Victoria—an outdoor sports gear consignment store that helps nature and sport lovers explore their environs more sustainably and economically.
Calgary-born Munk spent much of her childhood in four African countries, France and Colombia. “The experience made me grateful for how we live in Canada,” she says. “In one place we lived, we would buy bottled water and then filter it. Having access to clean spaces and ways to effectively deal with our waste is something we take for granted.”
She graduated high school in Texas, but while in the United States, she attended summer camps in Alberta and visited her grandparents regularly on Salt Spring Island. That she would attend post-secondary studies in Canada seemed inevitable.
“Going to high school in Texas, sustainable practices were not a part of the culture at all,” she says. “It was through a summer camp in the Rockies and my time at UVic that sustainability really became a passion.”
Munk pursued business studies, and at Gustavson she was inspired by the curriculum’s focus on sustainability. She learned that although sustainability could be approached from two angles—as an environmentally beneficial endeavour and as a strategy for building an enduring business—incorporating environmental practices and values into business strategy made companies more successful in the long term.
“Gustavson was really good at tying those things together,” she says. “I learned how to make better environmentally conscious decisions with longer-lasting implications. For example, the business and sustainability course in my core year explored how environmentally sustainable goals impact every aspect of a company, from choosing materials to board meetings and how to hire and retain staff.”
This newfound understanding set her on a path to make a positive impact through business, and in 2022, with the launch of Grove Outdoors, she made headway in achieving that objective.
Munk’s rationale for the company was simple: people have too much stuff. Moreover, an interest-spike in outdoor sports during the wake of COVID would result in an overabundance of gear and valuable clothing gathering dust when interests of would wane. “It was the perfect time to start a business that gave gear an extended, full life,” Munk says.
Besides giving lightly used gear new life, the consignment model also puts money back into consignors’ pockets. “Having one place to bring everything means people who love the outdoors know their gear won’t end up in a landfill, but will be in use for its entire life span,” she says. “It also helps make sports and activities more financially accessible to everyone.”
Consignment stores are nothing new, but Munk is also exploring the possibility of using materials from items not sold to make custom gear. Additionally, she’s looking to create a database of outdoor groups in Victoria in order to help people connect with others of similar interests and experience.
“Community events plus partnering with clubs and other outdoor stores to host events, trips and workshops are also in the pipeline,” she says. “I can’t imagine being an outdoor enthusiast without having sustainability as a core value. Every purchase we make is impacting nature, and how the next generation will be able to experience the outdoors.”
Her advice for other students and budding entrepreneurs who want to enter the sustainability field is to believe in the cause, and dive in. “You’re never going to know enough,” she says. “You just have to start. You’ll learn on the job, I guarantee it.”
Sydney Munk was a 2021 recipient of the Coast Capital Savings Entrepreneurship Scholarship.