Fred Boos was surprised when he attended his first house party in Bend. In the Bay Area, where he previously lived, Boos remembered being the only former athlete at a gathering.
Not here. He recalled meeting Olympians, world champion rock climbers and professional bike racers at the Bend event.
“Everyone is a former athlete here,” Boos said. “It’s like, ‘Which Olympics did you go to?’”
Boos — a cycling silver medal winner in the 1992 Olympic trials in Minnesota and a member of the U.S. National Team in road and track cycling for 10 years — moved to Bend in 2000. He relocated to raise a family and enjoy the outdoor recreation that Central Oregon offers.
Boos is among numerous athletes who moved to the region for its quality of life and extended their passion for competition into the business world.
“Bend is an entrepreneurial place and people have that pioneering spirit here,” said Boos, 41.
Boos founded the concept for RocketBux Inc. in 2003. The company offers technology that advertises and markets on cell phones, sending coupons and mobile bar codes to phones that can be scanned at stores for immediate discounts. The company has just opened its fourth office in Richmond, Va.
“People I run into here tend to be very highly motivated persons because they are choosing what they want in life,” Boos said. “They move her to embrace life and not just grind out a job.”
Boos continues to keep a strong leg in cycling. He teaches spin classes at the Athletic Club of Bend and competes in a race every year in Hawaii.
April Lawyer, 33, was a professional snowboarder and mountain biker. She moved to Bend in 2004 and opened Vanilla Urban Threads the following year.
“I love living in Bend,” she said. “I think it’s such an awesome place, but what I have recognized is that it is hard to make a good living here if you’re not an athlete, or own your business, or have an extensive college education.”
After receiving a silver medal in the X Games and competing for 10 years in national and World Cup mountain biking events, Lawyer witnessed a crash that left her friend with a broken neck.
“I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years and I have been very successful, but someday I might get injured,’” she said.
Looking toward her future, Lawyer retired from professional athletics and opened the store in The Old Mill District.
“Now I have the best of both worlds,” Lawyer said. “I can go hop on my bike and play with the boys and go be in the store and talk with the girls.”
There are many business owners with athletic backgrounds in Central Oregon, Lawyer said, and she thinks the trend will increase in the future.
“I think it’s going to continue to grow because people have moved here for the lifestyle,” she said.
For Lawyer, one challenge of opening a business was establishing herself as a business owner and not relying on her background as an athlete. “I wanted it to be successful because I was a successful businessperson and not a successful athlete,” she said.
Steve Larsen, 38, owner and principal broker of Steve Larsen Properties, experienced a similar desire when he started his real estate brokerage business last year.
“I was relatively well-known in the community with my sports background, but one of the things I wanted to do right from the start was to establish my credibility in this arena,” he said.
Larsen competed professionally for 15 years in cycling, mountain biking and triathlons. He placed first in the Ironman triathlon in 2001 at Lake Placid, N.Y., and placed ninth in the Ironman World Championship the same year in Kona, Hawaii.
Like other athletes, Larsen moved here to raise his children and continue to participate in the biking and skiing community.
“It was a good professional choice and it was a long-term lifestyle choice as well,” he said.
Adam Bledsoe, co-owner of The Loft of Bend with his brother, Drew Bledsoe, moved to town in 2005. The new private wine and social club is located in the 919 Bond building downtown. Drew Bledsoe also is a partner in 11 Roasters Coffee Co. in Bend.
“Athletes in general have so much in common and network amongst themselves,” he said. “The majority of people I’ve met in Bend I have met on the basketball court or the golf course. I think it’s a common thread that people here share,” he said.
Adam Bledsoe, 30, played five years as a quarterback at the University of Colorado and Western Oregon University and one year in Europe with the Ancona Dolphins. Drew Bledsoe, 36, played in the NFL for 14 seasons with the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys.
Adam Bledsoe, like other athletes, thinks there are many similarities between the world of sports and operating a business.
“A lot of athletes, especially ones that have made it to a high level, are ultra-competitive,” he said. “When they can no longer play their sport, they find other avenues to compete, and business is a very natural environment for competition.”
Boos, of RocketBux, said athletes have the commitment that business requires.
“Athletes have a dedication and work ethic that crosses right over into business,” he said.
Kiki Cutter, 59, was born in Bend and competed on the 1968 Olympic alpine ski team and was the first American to win a slalom World Cup event in Oslo, Norway, the same year. She moved back to Bend in 2001 and, in 2003, founded Cutter Communications Inc., publisher of Bend Living, Bend Business Review and Bend Living Home magazines.
She credits her success as a businesswoman to what she learned in athletics.
“Business and athletics are very much the same,” Cutter said. “You get beaten up and you get right back up and try again. You learn so much from athletics and apply that to the business world. You learn how to win and lose, and you learn to keep striving for what you want.”
Cutter, like the other athletes, had previous entrepreneurial experience before opening her Central Oregon business. She previously owned Ski Events Associates in Aspen, Colo., before returning to Bend.
Lawyer, of Vanilla, said that as a child she operated a ministore outside her bedroom window.
“My parents reminded me of this when I opened Vanilla. They said, ‘I knew you would do something like this after you stopped racing,’” Lawyer said.
Before opening her store in Bend, Lawyer started her own clothing company and managed a sports shop in Big Bear, Calif.
Larsen operated various retail stores before he joined the commercial brokerage industry after he retired from professional sports in 2003.
“Primarily, first and foremost, as a pro athlete, you develop a wide-ranging skill set,” he said. “You have to understand marketing and sales. You have to understand how to set goals and obtain them.”
For Boos, who raced with Larsen as a teenager, having a desire to overcome obstacles is a trait he embraces in sports and business.
“As an athlete, for me, I always look for a difficult challenge,” Boos said, “and having your own business and doing something great with it is a big challenge.”