How Our Digital Art Director is Changing Lives and Empowering Moms

It’s been almost a year since we last officially checked in with Adventure Mamas, a personal project of our digital art director, Stephanie Feller. At the time, Steph described it as an online community for authentic adventure mamas like herself. Confident women—also mothers—living intentionally and fully, outdoors and in the wild, and using their outdoor experiences to “grow, reflect, find peace, and sustain overall fulfillment.”

Since then, the organization has grown by leaps and bounds. And it’s gained renewed focus. This week, Adventure Mamas Initiative officially launches as a nonprofit aimed at “redefining motherhood.”

As a nonprofit, Adventure Mamas Initiative aims to offer adventure and support to mothers of diverse backgrounds and situations. While maintaining a thriving online community, it seeks to connect and support adventure mamas from just about anywhere, with programs and resources that spark real-life outdoor connections.

It has also embarked on its first fundraising campaign. Money raised will fund expeditions, clinics, and workshops, as well as the “Collabs” that foster collaboration and support among kindred spirits all over the country—including mamas near you. There’s some pretty sweet swag to reward generous donors, some of it designed by Steph herself. If you’ve seen her award-winning web design (for example this very site), you know that’s something you will want to get your hands on.

Since so much has happened since we last talked to Steph about her project, we managed to snag a few minutes of her time to get an update.

What’s changed since we last talked to you about Adventure Mamas?

Forester Pass: 13,200 feet

We started in January of 2016 positioning ourselves as a social community and a way to meet moms who loved the outdoors as much as we do. Women quickly resonated with what we were doing and wanted to get involved. That’s when we knew there was an obvious need for this.

Moms have kind of been left behind. There are so many groups out there for families and kids, for hiking and being outdoors—and those things are great—but there’s nothing that’s just about the mom. Something strictly dedicated to a woman’s self-care and her passion for adventure.

After a few months of functioning as this social platform, we realized this was something even more powerful than building community, so we headed down the route of becoming a nonprofit organization. We have built a community of about 12,000 people between our Instagram, Facebook, Collab groups, and e-newsletter. We have 10 regional collabs that span the country, where members can connect with and support one another on a grassroots level.

We’ve created real, authentic connections with so many of these women. It’s important to us that we don’t just push out content—we start real conversations.

We’re hosting our first expedition at the end of July, consisting of a 10-woman team that will summit fourteeners [mountain peaks with elevations of at least 14,000 feet] and be in the backcountry for almost a week.  

That sounds pretty intense!

The concept of the first expedition is to create a powerhouse team of women—moms—to take on a three- or four-day backpacking trip, do two summit attempts, and then end by rafting down the Arkansas River to a beautiful, retreat-style home. This is where they’ll stay for two days participating in workshops with us. We’ll talk about self-care and talk honestly about motherhood, to help all of us explore and grow within our roles as mothers.

We’ve been interviewing the women who want to come; you don’t just buy a ticket and show up. We’re talking each interested woman through the expedition and doing whatever we can to make it possible for them to take part. Whether that means that they need a payment plan, or maybe they need support about how to physically prepare themselves; we want to be here for them. We’re having what we call a digital expedition team—with mountain athlete coach Brittany Aäe of Magnetic North—to help train and support the women before they even show up. This is also an opportunity for the full team to connect with each other.

The money we earn from the expedition will go toward hosting a two-day climbing clinic for teen moms in the Salt Lake City area. Our workshops and clinics are opportunities to help diverse and potentially under-resourced women in our community, such as survivors of domestic violence, women with postpartum anxiety, moms with kids with special or unique needs, moms who have lots of children, single mothers, and more.

We have a lot of nonprofit clients, and you’ve worked on most of their projects. What insights have you taken away now that you’re starting your own nonprofit?

To start a nonprofit, you have to be so passionate and scrappy and willing to put so much of yourself into it. You can’t half-ass it. You have to be ready to do the work. We started from zero, and it kind of blows our mind where we are now. Our first expedition is basically full after minimal marketing, and our audience is growing everyday. It’s like seeing another one of our babies being born.

When you started this program, you were a very new mom. How has Adventure Mamas grown along with that?

Moms can do headstands in the backcountry, too!

Before I had my son George, I did lots of backpacking and hiking, and started climbing. It was probably the week after I had him…I remember folding laundry with him asleep next to me, and I started crying because the thought hit me: I never get to go backpacking again. I can’t adventure because I’m a mom now. I can’t leave my kid, I can’t participate in these “risky activities.”

I had George in May, and my friend and co-founder Justine had her son in October. We were together in December for the holidays and started talking about how our lives have changed and it hit us: No. Just because we’re moms now doesn’t mean life is over. We can be just as great, if not more powerful than we were before we had kids. And that’s where the idea came from. We didn’t want motherhood to limit us; we wanted it to empower us.

Adventure Mamas has grown just as our kiddos have grown. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve had sleepless nights. And it’s all been so worth it. What we’ve created has empowered and challenged both of us as women and mothers to a level we never thought possible. Every day we find another challenge to take on, either with our children or AMI. We tackle each obstacle in stride and then move onto the next thing. To us, the challenges are fun adventures.  

I have another kid on the way (due in August) and I’m not worried about it limiting my personal adventuring or the growth of AMI. This time around, I know that being a mom doesn’t limit me—it’s only going to make me that much stronger.

Bouldering with babies.

What’s your dream for Adventure Mamas, say, five years from now?

We want to be a nonprofit that’s focused on building community, educating, inspiring, and facilitating adventure. We want to continue growing the number of expeditions, workshops, and clinics we’re providing in our community. It’s also important to us to reach women outside of the outdoor realm and show them what being out in wild places can do for your growth.

Our big dream—not even five years away, but hopefully next year—is to have four expeditions a year, to have constant workshops on motherhood and self-care for expecting moms and postpartum women, and to provide adventure-based (climbing, backpacking, skiing, etc.) clinics for our community. We want to be a place where women all over the country and all over the world can connect and feel empowered as women and as mothers.

We want to build an organization that can sustain and grow with the needs of all the adventure mamas out there. We want everyone to know that being outside is about more than just “being outside.” The challenges we face in the outdoors translate to the rest of our lives. They make us more powerful, brave, and confident. It’s our goal to keep bringing that message into the world.  

Learn more about Adventure Mamas Initiative and how you can get involved and lend support.