Sam Schwartz is the definition of a self-starter. At just 13 years old, he decided to make a career out of skiing, inspired by Teton Gravity Research films and his youth spent on the mountains of Jackson Hole.
Instead of the traditional route of joining a freeride or race program, he worked on his own to emulate the pros he saw in his backyard, and spent his free time cold calling and emailing companies looking for sponsorships.
Sam will be the first to admit that he wasn’t technically the best skier, and when he began competing, his rugged cowboy style didn’t quite fit in with the rest of his peers. But all the hard work over his teen years had paid off, and by 17, he had two sponsorships and a Junior World Freeski Champion win, kickstarting his career as a professional big mountain athlete. Over the next decade, he traveled the world, jumped off 150-foot cliffs, and did a double-backflip into the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s Competition.
His entrepreneurial spirit hit the ground running in his teens — he had convinced people to pay him to ski. But always one to push himself, he added an accounting degree to his repertoire while skiing professionally, graduating in three years. Now, 10 years later and recently retired from pro skiing, he’s pursuing a more intimidating challenge than hucking himself off cliffs: starting his own business.
“I remember in the early days standing on top of cliffs and being really scared,” Sam says. “My brain works differently these days. … I don’t feel that fight or flight emotion on top of those same cliffs. … But in this new career, I’m terrified every day.”
A passion for the environment and the rise of grocery delivery services during the height of the pandemic was the catalyst behind the idea for Avant Delivery. “Being able to travel to the most amazing places in the world really allowed me to feel that what we have here is worth protecting,” he says.
A membership-based service, its core concept is zero-waste grocery delivery in reusable packaging, helping households trim waste with its circular model. Basic home goods are purchased online and delivered to homes once a week in reusable containers. Empties are then picked up, washed and sanitized, and put back into the system.
What sets Avant Delivery apart from competitors is true convenience. While most consumers would rather choose more sustainable options, it’s hard with busy lives to go out of the way to be green. Adding the delivery and home pickup option takes the onus off the consumer.
“We have to care enough to fight for it, but convenience is also a part of our lives. How do we make it so the eco-conscious people can participate, and not just the eco-warriors?” Sam says. ”We need to have sustainability handed to us, and that’s the gap that we fill.”
Just as Sam likes to get extreme on the mountain — like his most recent venture skiing naked down Grand Teton — his aspirations for Avant are nothing less. He looks at Jackson as a test market, to set an example of sustainability to the 3 million plus visitors a year — and to the world. He has set his sights on expanding the business to Salt Lake City next, and hopes to continue to bring the concept to more and more cities and replace a recycling system that isn’t working.
“We can do something better, something that adds more value to the community and to the American economy as a whole,” he says. “There are plenty of hurdles in the way, but I can’t think of a more important use of my time.”