Thinking outside the box — and outside in general — is what took Cory Tholl from a mechanical engineering graduate at Brigham Young University in 2004, to the president of Klymit, a multimillion-dollar camping gear company 15 years later.
Tholl was set to be the fourth in a long line of engineers. He broke from family tradition when he was bit by the “entrepreneurship bug.” Tholl received his Master of Business Administration degree in 2006 and joined Klymit in 2008, pursuing the product design aspect of engineering that he fell in love with.
Some time after Klymit won the BYU business plan competition, Tholl helped them develop their first products and get the company off the ground. He was appointed to be its CEO in 2011. He tackled product development and helped to make the new company successful with the skills he developed at BYU — skills he is still using as its president.
“I learned how to break down problems into small, biteable, solvable solutions, then go out and attack them,” Tholl said. “That's how I survived engineering at BYU, and that is the same approach I've taken every day. The skills that I developed there really set me up to be successful for what I do now.”
Though it’s very different from the job of a typical mechanical engineering graduate, a passion for the outdoors made Klymit a perfect fit for Tholl.
“What I love about working at and being part of Klymit is that we get to work out in the industry,” Tholl said. “Our whole vision is to get people outdoors because we really, truly, passionately believe that life is better when you're outdoors.”
The businessman is also an outdoors man himself — Tholl and his wife, along with their five children, are avid boaters who visit Lake Powell as much as possible. He also enjoys playing sports with his kids.
“All the problems that you're going through get put in the proper perspective when you're out there hiking or on the boat or doing whatever… it doesn't matter what you’re doing...your perspective gets reset,” Tholl said.
This passion for the outdoors has motivated Tholl and kept him moving constantly through his career, and that movement is something he feels is critical to success.
“Luck favors the man in motion,” Tholl said. "I say that often, but there's just so much opportunity out there to be had; success favors just staying in motion and not giving up.”
Tholl credits much of his success during his time at BYU to getting exposure. He recommends participating and doing as many things that seem as intimidating as possible, including challenges such as Student Innovator of the Year.
Exciting new changes are still happening for Tholl and Klymit — his responsibilities grew and changed when the company got acquired in July 2021. According to Tholl, an attitude of seizing opportunities such as this is super important for both college and life in general.
“As you go through the engineering program and start looking at your career, there's so much opportunity, so don’t be pigeon-holed in something that you don't enjoy doing. This is the time and place to be learning and really applying and finding the things that you love to do.”