Mark Boles inside Intrinsic Provisions
Running a business

Mark Boles is sharing the power of the great outdoors

In honor of Black History Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting Black-owned businesses, their stories of courage, and celebrating their success. Find more resources for Black business owners here.

Name: Mark Boles

Location: Hingham, MA

Business: Intrinsic Provisions

Intrinsic Provisions gear

Photo credit: Instagram/@intrinsicprovisions

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?

This wasn’t my first foray into the world of entrepreneurship. I had tried my hand at building a consulting practice within the disciplines of my career at the time. I used to work in the advertising, marketing, and brand strategy arena. I went back to the corporate world, but at that point I’d probably gotten enough of the “bug” that I think you find it a little more challenging to work for other people. 

Agencies are going to be agencies and I got let go from a shop that I’d been working for, and it was probably the biggest blessing of my life. I started consulting again and I’d written a white paper for a friend. He mentioned that he thought there was a business there and I told him that I’d already written a concept paper. I shared that concept paper with one of my closest and most trusted mentors and he looked at me and said… “This. Do this.” I started then trying to take a vision and make it a reality. Operationalizing a vision is very different from whatever you might have in your head. Figuring out how to get there was hard. I was really fortunate that I had a little bit of seed capital presented to me from a very generous angel investor. I knew just enough about retail to be dangerous. I’ll never forget a friend walking through this empty space not even built out yet and he said, “You did it.” I replied, “Did what, I haven’t done anything.” He said, “You started.”

Intrinsic Provisions website

Photo credit: Instagram/@intrinsicprovisions

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

Well, given that my second year of business was during COVID, the biggest thing that I learned was being able to pivot. It’s something that some pretty accomplished entrepreneurs had told me. I’d already recognized within the first year that I had to learn to be malleable and not entirely fixated on the “how” but rather the end goal. 

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

I’ve managed teams before. I’ve built careers for people. But I’ve never signed someone’s check. And by that I mean that I’m solely responsible. I’ve had people that have worked for me in a part-time capacity but I’ve heard from others that it’s different when you have your first salaried employee. I can say that they were 100% right. It’s like your own children. You’re now responsible for someone else, their well-being, and subsequently, the well-being of their families. It’s kind of terrifying when you know that you’re responsible for payroll and benefits—the idea of not failing takes on a whole new meaning. 

Mark Boles skiing.

Photo credit: Instagram/@intrinsicprovisions

How does running your own business make you feel? 

I’m building a company where we and the companies we represent are directly tied to social impact. I love the business that I’m building and working to build a culture that’s meaningful. It’s highly rewarding. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome?

The biggest challenge far and away was surviving COVID. The next set of challenges are around raising capital. 

What is your best advice to other small business owners for hiring and retaining staff?  

Hiring is extraordinarily nuanced, and in my opinion, it’s more feel than it is science. You have to hire people you’re willing to work long hours with, willing to defend, that you trust that also believe in your mission and vision. And also people who put in the work. But it’s on you to have them believe in your mission and vision. People want to feel valued and they have to believe there’s a path to something better. Understand what people’s best strengths are and put them in positions to succeed. If something isn’t working or isn’t a right fit, don’t try to force it, move on quickly. 

Mark Boles at the firepit

Photo credit: Instagram/@intrinsicprovisions

What challenges do you feel are unique to Black small business owners? 

Access to capital is probably the biggest one, being treated as inherently “less than” is another, and making sure that others in your workforce—especially if they’re not of color—are respectful of traditionally disenfranchised groups of people. 

What advice would you give to other Black business owners just starting out? 

Take care of your financial house and make sure you pay your bills. 

How do you engage with the community?

We’re most active via email and social media. We host events that are meaningful to the respective communities that we’re in. Our goal is always to be of the community, as opposed to just in the community.

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Our goal is to always be of the community, as opposed to just in the community.

What is a moment in your small business career where you had to be courageous? What happened? 

The moment where we had to be most courageous was having to acknowledge that we’re a Black-owned business in an industry where we’re the second ever (of five total) Black-owned outdoor lifestyle shops in the country (about 4700+) and then deciding to specifically tie ourselves to social impact. Selling stuff is easy. Holding steady and staying true to your values is hard. 

What are your proudest moments? 

On a personal front, being a dad of three amazing daughters and watching them blossom will always be first and foremost. As it relates to my business, being selected by Outside magazine, as one of the top 20 most influential people in the outdoor industry, especially having been a complete outsider, felt pretty good. It was initially crowd-sourced and then some 50 people all voted on the list. I’m on a list with Jimmy Chin. That dude won an Oscar for a film I watched and loved.

Intrinsic Provisions wrap

Photo credit: Instagram/@intrinsicprovisions

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

We have some pretty big plans. Aside from the operational growth we’re planning, which will mean some key hires and whatnot, there are a few marketing programs that we’re undertaking this year that are pretty significant in scale and presence. We have some big collabs in the works. And the big thing is that we’ll start working towards a Series A round in late 2023. 

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

I try to start my morning with meditation. I’m not as consistent as I should be, but if I’m on my game it’s a pretty awesome superpower for managing the day-to-day. If I have a truly crappy day and I don’t have much time, I’ll try to take the dog to the beach near my house to just decompress. I like riding bikes so a ride in the woods or a road ride are pretty great. When all else fails, my personal Instagram page is pretty much just for me. I keep it private and I call it the place “where I count my blessings.” I keep it free of anything toxic. No politics. No opinions. It’s mostly pics of my favorite people or places or things. All of which make me realize how insanely fortunate I am. I’ve found that whenever I sit and scroll through it, it makes me feel better even if I didn’t know I wasn’t feeling great. 

Mark Boles with his dog

Photo credit: Instagram/@intrinsicprovisions

How do you maintain a work/life balance as a small business owner? 

I think the key is perspective. I used to work in an industry where we literally manufactured stress and the reality is that none of it really matters. The nature of my business is centered around health and well-being from the outdoors. Of course I have a responsibility to the people that work for me and to our customers, but the real obligation is to my wife, kids, family, and dear friends. The hardest thing to manage is time. But I find that when I’m managing my own well-being, meditation, and fitness, everything becomes easier and calmer to manage. 

What’s your “power song” and why? 

I love music and my interests are wildly eclectic. I definitely don’t have one “power song” as my mood changes a lot, but as of late, probably “Thank You” by Busta Rhymes.

Intrinsic Provisions coffee mug

Photo credit: Instagram/@intrinsicprovisions

To learn more about Intrinsic Provisions and support the business, visit their website or check out their adventures on Instagram.

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