Project description

Business Operator: Willis Knapp
Business: The Quarry
Location: Provo, Utah

Meet Willis
Whether you see him at The Quarry, or run into him somewhere in the local mountains, you will recognize Willis when you see him. His excitement for all things adventure really shows. He loves running The Quarry and loves the people he works with. He is an adventurer at heart and loves spending his time in the mountains. Whether it’s mountain biking, skiing, mountaineering, climbing, or his personal favorite— ice climbing, Willis feels a pull to the mountains.

“I couldn’t have invented a better scenario for me. Now on my day off when I go outside climbing, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s not what I do at work, even though at work it’s all about climbing, it’s different so I feel very blessed in that situation. The win-win is that I’m doing what I love, but not to the point that when I do it on my own for the love of climbing, that it at all feels like my job.”

About the Quarry
The Quarry was founded in 2000, and was built to fulfill the owners’ ideas of creating a bigger and cleaner climbing gym that would be family friendly and a better fit for, “people that didn’t see themselves as hardcore climbers. That was the vision behind the quarry.”

Willis’ Climb
When Willis was in college he worked as an intern at Mountain Works and when the idea to build The Quarry came along, Willis found himself investing money in it. “I don’t even know if we had blueprints yet,” said Willis, but still something drew him to the business. Whether it was simply his excitement for climbing, or the fact that he would have a lifetime membership to the gym, something influenced him to invest in the place he would later operate. “I came here to manage in 2006,” said Willis, “and I have been running the gym ever since.”

While attending college to obtain his outdoor recreation degree, Willis felt “disillusioned” because his professors that did outdoors things; kayak instructors, climbers, skiers, none of them were doing it any more because they had become burnt out, “it had become their job” as Willis put it. Their free time that was once used to do those activities, was used doing something else. Willis’s big win stems from that, because he works in a gym, “it really frightened me, I thought, I don’t want to go be a guide if I end up not liking those things. I am an avid skier, mountain biker, and ice climber. I just thought of the day I would hate climbing because it’s my job… and that steered me from wanting to be involved.” Lucky for Willis, as he expressed it, he can work and train in the climbing gym, and then go out to the mountains during his free time and it doesn’t feel like he is at work at all. While at the same time, they are related enough that he really enjoys his job. “The fact that I’m in climbing, but running an indoor center… I couldn’t have invented a better scenario for myself.”

Willis’ advice to future business owners is that they should be passionate about what they do.  Why do something and not be passionate about it? Why not really make it your own? “Surround yourself with people and employees with the same amount of passion. The more psyched everyone is about whatever the venture is, obviously the more success. When you have happy employees your business goes a lot better.”

Last Words
“Something interesting I have found, specifically regarding climbing. I started climbing before climbing gyms, and you hear a lot of people say, ‘Id rather climb outside’, well duh, climbers want to climb outside. It’s kind of interesting because a lot of people say it in a manner of they’re ‘too cool for a gym’, or they are ‘real climbers’ so they climb outside. I don’t get into that, that doesn’t matter to me, climbing gyms are the best thing that have happened to climbing, not only because of the accessibility for children, especially if their parents aren’t climbers, but for you and I to train. When I first got into climbing, I was told that I would never be a real climber, and that really bothered me. But further questioning with that person, they were climbing 4 days a week, outside, all day and that’s what real climbers did. I had a wife and a child, yeah, that wasn’t going to happen for me. It’s one of the reasons I wasn’t one of the people in there developing climbing, I just had other responsibilities. I didn’t have the same amount of time, but now with the gym I can get a days worth of climbing in The Quarry in 3 hours. So if I climb in the gym twice a week and outdoor once a week, I still have the opportunity to really progress and keep my fitness, whereas if I climbed outside once a week that wouldn’t happen for me.”