Sending Out Our Envoys
We all need inspiration: People who set examples, push the limits of the possible, and encourage us to attempt what we otherwise wouldn’t dare. At MEC, those people are our Envoys. This team of 20 and counting includes outstanding climbers, runners, skiers, cyclists and adventurers. We’re proud to sponsor them as they pioneer new places and fresh achievements, and to have them share their trials and triumphs with us.
John Irvine, MEC’s Director of Sports Marketing and Public Relations, is the lucky staffer who gets to recruit and manage our Envoys. I asked John to tell us a bit about himself and the vision for the MEC Envoy program.
John, where does your cred with our Envoys come from?
I’ve been into the outdoors since my university days. What really set me on fire was whitewater kayaking. From 1990 to 1995, I was on the Canadian Slalom National Team. It was a fantastic experience. I got to see the world, and I gained a real appreciation of the time and commitment it takes to compete at a world class level.
For the past 14 years, I’ve been into competitive riding in a big way. In 2001, I was a BC Masters champ in the XC mountain category.
I also do a lot of ski and kayak touring. And I devote a great deal of energy to capturing all these activities with my Nikon.
So if you weren’t finding our Envoys, you could be one yourself. How’d you get such a great job?
I’d worked for MEC before, starting back when both our store and Head Office were squeezed into an undersized location on West 8th in Vancouver. I eventually became Merchandise Manager [retailer jargon meaning “buyer”] for our Snowsports and Paddlesports departments.
More recently, I’d worked for a company named after an extinct proto-bird as their sports marketer. So my work and play gave me a huge network of contacts among leading-edge practitioners in a wide range of outdoor activities.
What’s your vision for our Envoy program?
For our Envoys, we look for people who are exceptional in their fields. People like Frank Wolf, who canoed across Canada in a single season. Or Sébastien Lazure, who began climbing at 12, and has been representing for Canada globally ever since. Or Marilyn Arsenault, who only started running at an age when many runners retire, and who’s now setting records.
One thing our Envoys do is field test our gear. They often put equipment through more abuse in a season than many users would in years, so they detect anything that needs improvement pretty quick.
Envoys are also on-the-ground resources for our members. They come to manyevents so people can hear them speak and ask them questions in person.
Most importantly, our Envoys inspire. MEC is all about inspiring Canadians to lead active outdoor lifestyles and our Envoys are long-term partners in that effort. By sharing their accomplishments, our Envoys show our members what’s possible. In other cases, they create an implicit challenge: Some member may read about an Envoy’s epic adventure and think, “I can do that faster, or higher, or in winter, or via the north route, or backwards, or on a unicycle.”
So Janick Lemieux and Pierre Bouchard’s decade-long, 60,000km bike trip might inspire someone to pedal around the world. Or maybe just to take a long weekend tour to their local provincial park. Either way, the Envoys and I know we’ve succeeded if we motivate members to dream and to pursue those dreams. That’s a great feeling, to know you can make such a positive difference in people’s lives.
To find out more – and maybe even get a dose of inspiration – meet our MEC Envoys.