Lake Zurich brothers launch adventure filmmaking business
Brothers Kyler and Kody McCormick have a recipe for people to achieve their ideal life: Get out of your comfort zone, leverage your personal story and connect with mentors who can help you succeed.
Kyler, 20, and Kody, 23, are Lake Zurich entrepreneurs who founded an adventure filmmaking business, The Outbound Life, and whose resume includes speaking before a crowd of about 1,000 at a TEDxMemphis event in August.
"We think of The Outbound Life as a mindset and a movement," Kyler said. "Beyond just a filmmaking company, we want to inspire as many people, and young people in particular, around the world to really chase out their passions and live out something that they really love."
Their success, they say, is proof that the approach works.
Their nearly three-year-old business has produced videos for companies such as Southwest Airlines, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and the Silicon Valley tech firm HGST. They have garnered multiple sponsors that give them free products, such as backpacks and photography drones, to be featured in their videos.
"You document the experience and build a bunch of social reach around it, because eyeballs on social reach is worth every penny," Kody said.
The Outbound Life is the result of combining their dreams -- Kody's to own a business and Kyler's to become a filmmaker. And their personalities, in a way, encompass the concept.
Kyler describes himself as "looser" than his brother but also says he's perfectly happy writing blogs in urban coffee shops. Kody calls himself "the responsible one" but would rather hang out in the mountains and film adventures.
Kody and Kyler decided early on that the traditional education model wasn't for them and took online classes to finish college and high school, respectively. With more free time, Kody learned about filmmaking while Kyler delved into the business side. They developed a plan: Save money to travel to conferences and trade shows and make connections with people who could serve as mentors.
"From a business standpoint, we've been very focused on networking and being very intentional on who we are connecting with, and how we are connecting with people," Kody said.
One of their mentors is Devin Graham, an adventure and extreme sports videographer known as Devin Supertramp. The brothers drove to Ohio and volunteered to help with one of his videos, and later stayed in touch to forge a bond.
Kyler and Kody are "insane hard workers," Graham said.
"They are always networking, never passing up an opportunity to sincerely meet someone and leave a positive mark on them," he said. "I feel their business is great. They give a lot to companies, and in return I see that they keep on getting bigger opportunities with that. They are also always giving to the people they run into, leaving all those inspired by the way they run their business."
Anna Mullins, executive director of TEDxMemphis, agreed. The brothers' main concept -- "build the life you want to live" -- is relatively simple, but they deliver it effectively, she said.
"Kyler and Kody are obviously fueled by an authentic passion for their work, and that really shows in their talk," she said. "Their personal story comes to life in their TED talk, and it's hard not to be inspired to live your own dreams."
The brothers landed their first job -- creating a new business' launch commercial -- after Kody went to a business seminar in Chicago and met the company's founder in early 2014.
The second job came about two months later, after they walked up to Max Andes of Florida-based G-Technology at a trade show in Las Vegas.
"They laid it out for me, not just what they were doing but who they were," Andes said. "They were well-spoken, mature, passionate, very excited. It's a quality that is very rare in just everyday life, much less in our industry (sales) -- people who just love what they do."
That's not to say the McCormicks haven't had their share of disappointments.
"We hear 'no' all the time, but we really hear 'next opportunity,'" Kyler said. "I don't want to give the illusion this is easy by any means. We learn from every opportunity and we move forward."
Once, they spent months creating a video in Colorado for a YouTube channel that ended up pulling the plug.
"For that to fall was devastating to us," Kyler said.
It's all about persistence, Kody said. "We believe in ourselves 100 percent, and that is the only reason that we continue to go. We are having such impact with work we are doing."
The brothers live at home with their parents, whose support has been crucial to their success, Kody and Kyler acknowledge. But they also point out that after their parents bought them their first digital camera, they purchased the rest of their video equipment on their own. Their company has been steadily profitable, and they plan to move out next year, they said.
Because they believe in the power of mentorship, the brothers created "Outbound Thinking," which they call a "think tank" for young entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs. They meet weekly at a Starbucks in Hoffman Estates.
Member Marcos Marquez, who owns a window-cleaning business in St. Charles, said it's all about the brothers' personality. "They give off a feeling of passion and security and not judging, which brings everyone's guard down," he said.
The think tank is great source of encouragement and advice, Marquez said. For example, he got help with an idea to implement a bonus system to find and retain workers.
Kyler and Kody said their goal is to develop a think tank curriculum available to the general public. They also want to write a book.
Later this month, they will present a seminar titled "How to Live the Outbound Life" at the 2016 PhotoPlus International Conference and Expo in New York City.
"We want to get our content out," Kody said, "so that people can apply it to their life."
• If you know of a young person whose story wows you, please send a note including name, town, email and phone contacts for you and the nominee to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adventurous brothersKyler McCormick Age: 20
Hometown: Lake Zurich
School: Graduated high school via online courses
Who inspires you? Photographer Chris Burkard and entrepreneur and public speaker Gary Vaynerchuk
What book are you reading? "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change Paperback," by Stephen R. Covey
What music are you listening to? The Lumineers and The Head and the Heart
The three words that best describe you? Curious. Optimistic. Encouraging.
Kody McCormickAge: 23
Hometown: Lake Zurich
School: Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia
Who inspires you? Extreme filmmaker Devin Supertramp, or Devin Graham, and photographer Chris Burkard
What book are you reading? "The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won't Learn in College About How to Be Successful," by Michael Ellsberg
What music are you listening to? Typically soundtracks by composers like Hans Zimmer and Tony Anderson
The three words that best describe you? Adventurous. Driven. Inspirational.