Episode 2 of AMERICAN DOERS, a new 12-part video series featuring original thinkers, innovators, craftspeople, risk-takers and artisans across the United States.
Jimmy Funkhouser thought he had achieved the American Dream.
The 34-year-old from Elberfeld, Indiana, had a steady job with Toys R Us and had climbed the corporate ladder for 10 years from store manager to running several stores.
“I thought at that time I had the American Dream — or at least my version of the American Dream — chasing money and chasing financial freedom and security,” he tells PEOPLE.
In PEOPLE’s American Doers—a new series that features extraordinary people across the U.S. overcoming adversity to achieve their dreams—Funkhouser reveals how his life took a drastic turn this year when he abandoned his 10-year-career at the mega corporation and decided to follow his dream of opening an outdoor gear shop amid the green and mountainous spaces of Denver, Colorado.
His dream began nine years ago when Funkhouser did a three-day hike through the Appalachian Mountains that inspired him to relocate to the red mountains and rocky trails of Denver.
“I think the last three years out here in Colorado kind of solidified it,” he says. “It slowly start chipping away at my distaste for the corporate environment and I connected stronger and stronger with the outdoor community.”
So on New Year’s Eve, he made the decision to quit his job.
“One of my buddies who knows that I don’t like resolutions asked, ‘What do you want to do this year?’ ” shares Funkhouser. “I thought about it and the very first thought that entered my mind was, if I could do anything this year, I just want to live a year without fear.
“The very next thought that entered my mind was I would leave my job immediately.”
And just like that, he began to dedicate weekends to creating his dream of opening an outdoor gear shop for backpacking and hiking, while retaining his corporation position.
On March 4 — just three months after making that New Year’s wish — he held the grand opening for his new shop, Feral Mountain Co.
And Feral Mountain Co. is exactly what Funkhouser is about — escaping corporate America and entering the wild and unknown. He started with a sum of $90,000 from his savings and a mighty dose of determination to manifest his ethos into a backpacker’s dream store.
Feral is packed with clothes and backpacking gear and even houses one of Denver’s largest trail map and guide collections, all under the roof of a renovated home. It’s a place to buy new gear, a place to connect —”we’re a community-driven shop,” says Funkhouser.
The new storeowner says that when creating a small business, it’s hard to make a profit the first year, but that doesn’t deter him.
“I am not taking a salary in the first 12 months,” he says. “If I have to eat mac and cheese every day for us to grow, I’ll do that.”
In contast to working for a big corporation, Funkhouser says his new gig is a “roller coaster.”
“When I do something stupid, it hurts because it’s personal. It’s my vision, it’s my hope for my life and that’s hard — it happens every day,” he says.
One of those frantic roller coaster moments was trying to convince brands to sell their products in the new shop.
“There was actually a point where I thought, ‘We’re not going to have enough to actually build a shop,’ ” he says. “It’s gone from basically six months ago, me almost like a door-to-door salesman, begging people to buy my kitchen knives, to big brands coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, we love your vibe, we love your mission, we want to work together.’ “
It’s this hardline mentality, combined with a bit of luck that has brought Feral dedicated regulars, with about 100 to 150 people passing through the gear shop boutique’s doors during its busiest days. The nine-month-old store was even voted Best Outdoor Gear Shop in Denver by 5280 Magazine.
And even with all his successes, Funkhouser says, “I don’t think I’ve accomplished anything.”
“I think for anyone who wants to chase their dream, there’s nothing better at the end of the day than knowing and feeling like you’ve earned it with the work that you’ve done,” he says. “I want to look at this when I’m 65 and say I built something the right way.”
For more American Doers, click here.