Kayleen Tomas at her store on Lakelse Ave. ( Binny Paul/ Terrace Standard)

Kayleen Tomas at her store on Lakelse Ave. ( Binny Paul/ Terrace Standard)

Skeena Voices | Turning a love for the outdoors into a business

Terrace business owner, Kayleen Tomas, talks about how Unbound Gear Apparel on Lakelse Ave came to be

As a young girl growing up in Terrace, Kayleen Tomas loved the ample opportunities for outdoor activities that the region provides. She took that love for being out in nature and invested in a business when she started Unbound Gear & Apparel on Lakelse Ave.

“It makes me feel amazing that I get to do what I love every day,” said 26-year-old Tomas, and added, “I love when people come in and tell me stories about their adventures or I can help them find the gear for their adventures, it’s great.”

Tomas was 25 years-old when she started her own business last August, in the middle of the pandemic. While businesses everywhere else were facing a tough time staying afloat, Tomas had a very different experience as people started spending more time outdoors.

“With COVID-19, the only thing people could do was go outside and explore and a lot of people gained a new interest in all the different recreational activities,” said the entrepreneur.

For Tomas, setting up shop was an organic process, through and through. Growing up she always dreamed of having her own store but she didn’t have an exact idea of what it would be.

She then worked at Ruins Board Shop (at the same location where Unbound is now), for eight years and when they were closing the store Tomas took it as an opportunity to stick with what she already knew and opened up a new similar store – “but kind of more leaning towards the outdoors,” she said.

“We’re pretty lucky around here to have such a beautiful area to explore at all times but we have limited resources in town to provide the camping, climbing, skiing and snowboarding gear,” she said.

Working at Ruins taught her a lot and she was able to build many relations within the industry. She took that knowledge and experience and combined it with her appreciation for the outdoors to turn it into a business model.

Tomas was born and raised in Terrace and finished her schooling here. After which she travelled to Southeast Asia and then to Central America on a one way ticket. “But Terrace has a certain pull,” said the 26-year-old, about the pristine nature and environment that the northwestern town has to offer.

“In my free time when I was growing up, we always went camping a lot which was really awesome and I think that was definitely the kick starter for my love for the outdoors,” she said.

Tomas said her parents and family were also a catalyst for her and her brother to be active in dirt biking and skiing. So naturally when she told them of her decision to start her business they were excited for her.

“My grandpa was quite an entrepreneur himself so when I told my dad, he pretty much just said that I definitely have my grandpa’s blood in me. My friends and family were super amazing and as soon as it was announced on Facebook I was just being flooded with very inspiring and loving messages from people.”

But being an entrepreneur is not without its challenges and Tomas said that there are stressful and uncomfortable days.

“But the good days always outweigh the bad ones,” she said.

Her message for young people looking at setting up their own businesses is to find a good balance and not let the stress of running your business take over life.

“I don’t want to say it’s not tough but I also don’t want to say it’s super tough.”