Entrepreneur finds perfect work/life balance
Article and photos by Chris Michlewicz
Mike Gentile’s lifelong entrepreneurial spirit has brought him to the place he loves the most – the great outdoors with his family.
Gentile, a Castle Pines resident since 2014 and owner of an adventure gear outfitter called The Spirit of 1876, started his first business washing cars when he was just 12 years old. After seeing success, he started his own deck staining company in high school and continued with that venture through college, before jumping into digital sales for a large agency after graduation. He then worked for a startup that specialized in human resources software systems, and when that company was sold, Gentile found himself in a position to decide where to go next.
“I had to figure out ‘What’s the plan?’ Do I go back into what I know, try another awesome startup, or hit the reset button and figure out what I want to do?” he said.
Gentile bought and flipped a few investment properties, and when rising housing prices made that more difficult, he did indeed hit the reset button and followed a personal passion. Gentile had stopped camping when he and his wife, Desiree, had their three girls, now ages 4, 6 and 9. Their longing to get back into the outdoors led to their current role as owners of The Spirit of 1876; the name is a nod to the year Colorado was founded, and it was chosen on the state’s birthday, August 1.
Located east of Wilcox Street and S. Perry Street in an industrial area on the south end of Castle Rock, The Spirit of 1876 sells overland and outdoor gear like rooftop tents, racks, awnings, power, lights, cooking equipment and general camping accessories. Rooftop tents are increasing in popularity and are ideal for those who don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a trailer or RV. The company also rents out “turnkey” trailers for families that want to camp on the weekend but don’t want the hassle of owning or packing any of the gear.
The Gentile family participates in youth sports, stand-up paddleboarding and enjoying the outdoors, especially with their dog. The business they founded helps other families do the exact same, with ease.
This summer, the Gentiles themselves will bring their van and rooftop tent on a road trip to the Midwest, stopping in Indiana and Wisconsin to see family. A few weeks back, Mike Gentile took an impromptu camping trip to a gorgeous lake in the Steamboat Springs area.
“I had no idea I was going until Saturday. That’s the beauty of it: the vehicle is just ready to go,” he said.