Profile: Heather Call

Heather Call, owner, stands outside Outdoor Experience at 124 E. Broad St. in Cookeville.
Photo by Shelby Campbell.

Heather Call is the owner of Outdoor Experience, a small business which specializes in high-quality products for backpacking, climbing, hiking and paddlesports. Outdoor Experience also sells clothing and footwear and provides rental gear to customers on a daily and weekend basis. Outdoor Experience is located at 124 E. Broad St. in Cookeville and is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 


How did Outdoor Experience begin?

"I went to Tennessee Tech and ended up staying. I met my ex-husband there and got a bachelor's in sociology and a master's in psychology. I worked as a therapist for about 2 1/2 years, but I was on-call five days a week, 24 hours a day. At the time I had a young son, so we thought we might open a restaurant. Wrote a business plan for that, and the more we thought about it, we're like 'let's do something a little more fun that may not require such late nights.' We both love the outdoors, so we decided an outdoor retail store would be it."


How did you become experienced with the outdoors?

"I've learned along the way. I grew up on a farm since I was about five years old. I spent my days playing outside, walking up the creek and exploring the woods. My main organized outdoor experiences didn't happen until I went to college and then…different groups of people that I would hang out with would be going on a camping trip. Then we started backpacking, and I got into a women's rock climbing group for a while, then I got into kayaking for a while. Currently, I bicycle a lot…mountain bike, road bike."


What is your most significant success with Outdoor Experience?

"We were in a smaller white house…for the first 10 years of business, then my ex-husband and I got divorced, so he moved on to other things, and I continued with the business. After a few years with that, I was able to move it here to my current location, which is about three times larger than what I was used to…now this is our 21st year in business, so maintaining and continuing to thrive as a small business."


What is your biggest failure with Outdoor Experience?

"Something that I am constantly challenged at is inventory management and picking out the right things and not having too much or too little of it. It's not necessarily a failure, but it's something that I continue to work on to try to improve."


What is the best part about owning a small business in Cookeville?

"I do like how much a small business contributes to the community. I try to do all that I can, whether it's giving donations to Tech sororities or fraternities or giving a donation to someone's funeral expenses, who can't afford a funeral, or Cookeville Regional Hospital. It's been nice to watch how much Cookeville is growing and how the progressive movement of seeing coffee shops and seeing breweries and new restaurants coming into town. I love how Cookeville is so welcoming to small businesses and will support a small business."


Do you have any advice for your younger self?

"I guess I would tell myself that it's gonna take many years and to just hang in there. When starting a business, it takes a while before you start seeing a profit and even when you see a profit there is so many extra expenses like employees, taxes, electricity and rent. So learning to pay really close attention to budgeting and learning how to budget."


What is your favorite part about Outdoor Experience?

"Personally, my favorite part is I love my job, and I love my staff, and I like coming to work every day. So just enjoying being around people that have similar interests and then the same with the customers that come in."