Life at VF
Jul 29, 2019

Challenge: Bring It On

  • Laura Fryer, Director of International Business Development for Smartwool®, helped grow the brand’s business by 31 percent in the last three years.
  • A single mom of two young children, Fryer credits the flexible schedule offered by Smartwooland VF Corporation for helping her meet the demands of work and family.
  • Fryer believes that part of success comes from knowing your strengths, acknowledging your weaknesses and being willing to ask for help.

Laura Fryer is water adverse.

In fact, she wouldn’t dare jump into a swimming pool without first plugging her nose. But that doesn’t stop her from pursing a water sport.

“I don’t know how to swim but I can kite surf,” Fryer, 41, said with a laugh.  “That is my newest passion.” 

This ability to tackle uncomfortable challenges head-on is how Fryer approaches much of her life as a single mom and as Director of International Business Development for Smartwool, the performance apparel company based in Steamboat Springs, Colo..

 VF Corporation, is highlighting working women throughout the company who are like so many women worldwide juggling the demands of a flourishing career and family. Fryer exemplifies VF’s mission to be a purpose-led company that values inclusion and diversity.

In 2016, Fryer made a career shift from the brand’s marketing department to business development. She now travels the world working with distributors in multiple time zones to build Smartwool’sbusiness in the South and Central Americas as well as Asia. 

Smartwool’s APAC and CASA business has grown 31 percent as a result. Fryer believes collaboration across departments at VF Corporation is key to this success.

“The other piece is that VF really did trust me to stretch myself in this new role and has given me the tools to be successful,” said Fryer. “Most companies would say — she’s done well in marketing for 14 years, so she’s a marketer. Instead, VF identified my potential and approached me with the opportunity to round out my skillset and expose me to the other side of the business. That is really unique.”

After earning a Bachelor of Science in natural resources from Colorado State University, Fryer went to work as a wilderness ranger, immersed in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness and California’s Eastern Sierra Nevadas.

“I thought I would work for the Forest Service and hug trees forever,” she said. “But eventually I realized that I wanted to eat more than just trail mix and avocados.”

Fryer went to work for Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics before moving on to La Sportiva and Black Diamond Equipment. She joined Smartwoolin 2015 as Director of Wholesale Marketing. 

“I’ve been wearing Smartwoolsince I first started to explore the outdoors and once you actually learn about the culture, essentially it is a community of coworkers,” Fryer said of coming full circle to represent a brand she loves. “It is the best brand I have ever experienced in the industry.”

Mother to a 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, Fryer admits to struggling to balance the demands of work and family. Now, she credits VF’s flexible scheduling with helping her manage life’s demands.

“I remember getting a speeding ticket driving across town to pick up my sick kiddo — your child has a fever, you grab your laptop and power cords as you rush out,” Fryer said. “You find yourself at home trying to keep up with your work emails with a sleeping child on your lap. But you are where you really need to be.”

In all of this, the single mom has learned self-acceptance. “I’ve realized it’s Ok to be OK — to say these are the things that I’m good at and these are the things I’m not good at. It’s OK to reach out to people whose strengths are my weaknesses. You can’t be all things to all people. But you can be you.”

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