Life Enrichment
My Journey: James “Bubba” Sloan

My Journey: James “Bubba” Sloan

Outdoor adventure expert and entrepreneur

As a nature lover, co-founder and owner of High Country Outfitters Bubba Sloan is always looking for new adventure. Whether it’s rafting on the Ocoee River or spending quality time with friends and family, he enjoys sharing his passion for the great outdoors. Sloan admits he is inspired when he meets customers and hears about their plans and adventures. “That always makes me want to get outside, travel, play, seek adventure and make sure we really do have the gear, clothing and advice they need,” he says.

How did the idea to open High Country Outfitters come about? 
The store where my roommate worked went out of business and it was an easy call to open within the existing location. 

Why did you feel there was a void in the market for this 
type of store?
Actually, all the existing stores at that time were good, but they did not offer outdoor excursions, clinics, rentals, and most did not have people working on the retail floor who knew a lot about the gear. We could be the pros and still are today! 

Are all of the four original owners still involved in the company? 
Ned Buxton sold his interest back to the company early the first year, Denny Mays died from a brain tumor almost 20 years ago (I miss that guy—he was the best storyteller!), Gerald Marshall is operating High Country Adventure’s Ocoee River location and I’m in Atlanta operating the retail division, instructional and Chattahoochee River operations.

In what way does High Country Outfitters help inspire people to get outside? 
We train our staff to sell our gear in a relaxed, educational way—that’s the most important thing we do. High Country can really help people stay warm, well fed, clean, dry and safe in the outdoors. We travel a lot, so we can relate to their adventures—or at least have some ideas about what they may need. We can explain how to use a hiking pole, stoves, properly wear clothing that will keep them warm, etc. I can go on for hours about the fun safe ways to enjoy the outdoors.

We also have a rafting operation on the Ocoee River in Tennessee with campgrounds, cabins, conference rooms and the finest guides in the industry to get you down the river safely and have fun!  We rent rafts, tubes, stand-up paddle (SUP) boards on the Chattahoochee River - a great river flowing right through Atlanta. We sponsor guest speakers and films to help create excitement and acknowledge their adventures. We have guides who teach rock climbing, yoga, kayaking and, soon, SUP. We also spearhead community projects like our recent clean up on the Chattahoochee River.

james-sloanHow do you maintain a healthy lifestyle? 
I paddle, climb, hike, or do something else outside almost every day. My new sport, which is fun, is SUP—I must say it is really challenging. I’m getting pretty good! I just finished my first race on Lake Blue Ridge and came in second and also finished second in the Battle of the Paddle in California. I was in the old-guy class, but it was fun!

What are some business challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them? 
Listen to your customer, work hard and most things will get better! We have seen a lot of other stores come and go so we feel lucky to be here. Our customers and vendors see we are trustworthy and that makes a huge difference. 

You’ve traveled all over – what has been your favorite outdoor adventure so far? 
Back in the day, throwing all four kids and my wife in the van and traveling out west was just about as much fun as anything. Paddling, biking, hiking and climbing was fun, but the best part was just spending time with the family. The stories are passed around the dinner table each time we gather. Amazing!

What is the best piece of advice you received? 
Surround yourself with good people and let them do their job.

What motivates you? 
Family, friends and my fellow associates. And, of course, the desire to go on that next trip.