JanSport founder speaks to crowd of students

Travis Perry

For some people, starting a business means gathering funds, sitting behind a desk and making tedious phone calls.

But not for Skip Yowell.

The co-founder of JanSport Inc., one of the world’s foremost backpack outfitters, has spent more time on the hiking trail than in the board room. It’s the real-life testing of its products to which he credits the success of the company.

“We wanted to build a business that fit the idea of what we loved doing, which was backpacking,” said Yowell.

Sponsored by the Washburn University Bookstore and the Washburn Student Government Association, Yowell spoke to students on the experiences he had in the early years of the company and the multiple hikes and climbs he has experienced in his lifetime.

Yowell was contacted to speak at Washburn by Kay Farley, bookstore director and longtime friend of Yowell. Farley said she has been in the business of university bookstores all her life and was around when JanSport first began marketing itself to colleges and universities. It was through this business relationship that she met Yowell.

“I think that one of the things that I walk away with whenever I hear Skip tell his stories is that you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it,” said Farley.

After speaking, Yowell and Vince Bowhay, WSGA president, raffled off several prizes to students, including several JanSport backpacks and an overnight trip to Kansas City.

Meredith Fry, freshman business major, was the student who received the grand prize of a paid weekend in Kansas City. Fry said she came to see Yowell because she loves the outdoors and considers herself a regular hiker.