A Sheboygan transplant and product of the Midwest, Kevin Sander comes to Aventuron as the new Chief Operating Officer and official ‘builder of things.’ With a penchant for the ‘big picture,’ this systems guru will be helping to curate a master plan that’s designed to provide the ultimate retail experience for consumers.
An accountant by trade, but serial entrepreneur at heart, his ability to strategize and execute even the wildest of ideas makes him the perfect wingman for a visionary company like Aventuron and it's CEO, Carl Martens. His fresh blueprint will help to blaze new trails in the world of outdoor adventuring and his ‘take life as it comes’ mantra will keep each new idea bold, relevant and exciting.
Kevin values integrity above all things and lives each day with a ‘your word is your bond’ approach. He believes whole-heartedly that we’re each responsible for committing to far more than we believe possible in order to find the best version of ourselves, both personally and professionally, and he brings that same passion to the table at Aventuron.
Kevin is a dedicated husband, father of four, globetrotter extraordinaire and he finds no greater inspiration than that of the divine.
A little-known fact about Kevin is that he has survived two military coups.
Here’s a little more about the guy responsible for keeping the wheels on the bus.
Q: How did you come to work with Kate & Carl?
We relocated to Sheboygan about 2 years ago and when we moved into our new house, Carl’s parents were about the first folks that we met. One day, when I was wearing a University of Illinois sweatshirt, Carl’s dad, who went to U of I, noticed and we immediately struck up a fast friendship. A short while later, when I started talking to him about wanting to do something different, he connected me to Carl. As Carl and I talked about my background and my skill set, it just became immediately apparent that this was exactly what Carl needed for that next step in his business development…help with the internal controls and putting some structure around this crazy-fast growth that we’re having.
Q: What did you do before you came to Aventuron?
I have somewhat of a different background. I got out of college and became a Peace Corps volunteer. I went to live in the Fiji Islands as a volunteer, where I taught accounting and mathematics in the secondary schools.
Then, I met my wife and decided to stay in Fiji. I was there for about 14 years total. We ran a few different businesses, mostly in office equipment and business systems. Then we moved to Naperville, Illinois in 2007 and started over.
I initially took a job with Canon but started a consulting practice after a few years. Six years into the consulting gig, I decided that I wanted to go back to running small businesses and took a job with a private equity group, which eventually found me relocating to Sheboygan. That was 2 years ago. Although it’s been interesting and we’ve grown the company substantially, I’m looking for a different challenge and Aventuron is an exciting company. What they’re doing is impressive….so that’s what I’m going to do!
Q: Tell me about your experience in Fiji.
Fiji is a magical place, no doubt. The people are very warm. It’s got a very international feel to it because it’s the hub of the Pacific. We had people from all over the world coming through there on a regular basis. My business was largely rooted in tourism, giving me the opportunity to visit just about every resort there.
Q: Tell me about your family.
I’m married with 4 kids. We’ve got one in college who’ll be 21 this year. We’ve also got a senior, a sophomore and a freshman in high school.
Q: What are you looking forward to about empty nesting? That’s not too far away.
It seems like it’s not too far off! What I’m looking forward to the least is THREE kids in college at the same time. My wife and I love to travel we’ve been all over the world together. We’ve visited places like Australia, New Zealand and Japan. We’d love to travel more eventually, and I’ve even considered doing the Peace Corps again. I’d like to go to Africa and spend a few years there, but my wife hasn’t really bought into that idea yet.
I also recently bought a motorcycle, so that’s a new hobby. I’ve got this idea that we’re going to go tour around the states a bit, it just hasn’t happened yet.
Q: Tell me more about the Peace Corps.
After getting a degree in accounting, I realized that I didn’t really want to be an accountant. One day, while on campus at Indiana University, I met a Peace Corps recruiter in the quad. They weren’t looking for accountants, but teachers. I had never traveled outside the United States and the adventurer in me was intrigued. This seemed like what I wanted to do.
I didn’t get to choose where they sent me, though volunteers do have that ability sometimes. I got sent to Fiji, and I felt like I had won the lottery.
I had no running water. No electricity. And there was one stoplight on the entire island. It was very rural.
I came home to U.S. after a year or so and I can remember thinking that I generated more garbage in my airplane seat than I had in an entire year I had lived in Fiji. I grew everything there. There’s no rubbish.
Q: What’s your background in the outdoor world like?
I like to bike, but just for fun. I love to fish but I’m terrible at it, so I’m looking forward to learning more. We purchased a SUP last year and we’ve really started to enjoy that. Wisconsin is kind of like Colorado. It’s a pretty magical place for outdoorsmen and I’m sure we’ve just scratched the surface.
Q: What are your 1-year and 5-year goals in your new role at Aventuron?
My 1-year goal is to put enough infrastructure in place so that we can continue the growth, but with a little more control so that we know the impact of the decisions we’re making. We’re growing so fast that I think 5 years out is too far. I think a 3-year plan post-Covid is more realistic. That’ll help us identify the truly sustainable portion of growth. We’re working on that plan now.
Q: What do you think makes Aventuron different?
The true value that Aventuron brings is in the personal touch they put on everything. The idea that there’s a live expert willing and waiting to chat with you is awesome. We have big-box competitors but we’re NOT big-box. Aventuron is family owned and operated in every sense of the word and I think that customers can feel that.
Q: What would you list as your top 2-3 strengths?
Haha. You’re not supposed to ask that question. 😊
I have the ability to see the big picture, to strategize and to execute ideas.
Q: What makes you tick and keeps you inspired?
Connecting with people. I love watching someone reach their potential and continuing to grow beyond that. There’s also a great satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve done a great job for a customer, or the fear that you won’t, and that drives me to get up in the morning.
Q: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self if you could go back?
Always keep an adventurous spirit. Don’t be afraid to take risks. I don’t know that I’d do much different, although I made a ton of mistakes. Do what you do and live with the consequences.
Q: Who was your hero growing up?
We’re all flawed, so it’d have to be Jesus or nobody, right? It doesn’t really get any better than that.