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Summer 2006 | Volume 29, Number 3 | Alumni

Living His Dream

Young alum builds successful businesses while doing what he loves

Forget cubicles and conference rooms — employees at Seattle-based Evo take a different approach to nine to five. They may head to the lake for some morning wakeboarding or cut out early to hit the slopes midweek. And on a sunny Thursday afternoon? Expect to find them outside, tending to the barbecue. After all, that’s how the company’s founder, Bryce Phillips ’03, likes to do business.

Twenty-eight-year-old Phillips is the founder of, an e-commerce site specializing in ski and snowboard equipment and apparel. In 2005, he opened his first brick-and-mortar storefront, Evo, a 10,000- square-foot loft space in the heart of Fremont. And earlier this year, he launched Evo Properties, a real estate investment company, making his knack for buying and selling real estate an official venture.

Phillips says “evolution and innovation” are at the heart of his business model. And he named his companies accordingly: “evo” comes from evolución, the Spanish word for evolution. “I think there is always a better way to do things,” he says.

At first glance, Phillips is a typical outdoorsy, laid-back, environmentally minded Northwest 20-something — except that there is nothing typical about him. A businessman at heart, he has been “making deals” since he was young. “I learned early on that I loved to ski, and I loved to travel,” he says. “I knew I was going to have to figure out a way to pay for it.”

In high school in Roseburg, Oregon, Phillips bought and sold anything he could get his hands on — from skis to stereo equipment. “At one point, I had three old cars, and basically my parents thought I was crazy,” he says.

Phillips brought his love for the outdoors — and buying and selling — to Seattle Pacific University in 1995. The young business and finance major perfected the art of selling (used skis and snowboards, to be exact) to his classmates. And, like most things in his life, he did college his own way. “It took me seven years to get my degree,” Phillips laughs, “but I always had my own things going on the side.”

While a Seattle Pacific student, he made a few daring moves: He bought a house in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood without knowing anything about real estate. Still, he figured, with rent from several of his SPU friends, it could be a smart financial move, and it was.

Then in 1997, after completing his sophomore year, Phillips began an internship at K2, a ski and snowboard manufacturer on Vashon Island. Ignoring conventional wisdom, he postponed school to pursue the opportunity. “It was one of the best things I ever did,” he says. “The right internship is invaluable and, for me, that was the right internship.” Phillips says he built important relationships within the ski/snowboard community and was able to observe the inner workings of a business.

As a result, he now offers internship opportunities to Seattle Pacific students each year in his own business. Junior Lindsay Phelan, an apparel design major, is one such intern. “I feel pretty involved,” says Phelan, who works in Evo’s buying department. “Since it is a small company, the work I do gets noticed. It’s really fun watching them grow and being a part of the process.”

Evo employs more than 30 people, many of whom are SPU alumni. “I don’t think of myself as a boss,” says Phillips. “We’re a team. I work with friends.”

As important as the business’ bottom line is — Evo grossed $3.5 million last year — Phillips says his venture is about something bigger. “I advocate that we all work to achieve a high quality of life, which doesn’t just mean more money — it means a work-life balance,” he explains. “I work very hard, but I value fun and pursuing the things that I’m passionate about. I want the same things for my team. I believe that we’ve attracted great people because of this environment.”

Kirk Wimberly ’02 is one of those people. Wimberly first met Phillips in his SPU “Organizational Behavior” class. Now a marketing coordinator for Evo, Wimberly says that, with Phillips at the helm, the company’s philosophy is “anything can happen, and we’re going to make big things happen.”

Phillips says he considers it important that he and Evo “reach out to the rest of the world.” Last year, 15 Evo staff members worked with New Horizons, a local nonprofit organization, to treat homeless and underprivileged youth to a day of skiing and snowboarding. And, most recently, the entire company closed its doors for a day to help clean up roadside trash in the Fremont area. “We offer our employees five days of paid time off per year to volunteer,” says the company’s founder. “We think that’s important.”

Phillips describes himself as grateful for Evo’s success: “I consider myself lucky — I earn a living doing the things that I truly love.” And that, he explains, is what propels him to keep improving, keep innovating. Phillips and his team have plans for “massive growth,” and you can almost see the wheels turning as he talks about it. Whatever the future holds, you can be sure of one thing: This young entrepreneur will enjoy the ride.

— By Lindsey Bickel
— Photo by John Keatley


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