Ian and Lindsey Colton: Climbing Their Own Mountain

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By Jennifer Rader, Contributing Writer

Vertical Rock owners Ian and Lindsey Colton at their Manassas facility.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Lehto

As the cooler days of fall start to limit outdoor activity, retreating indoors shouldn’t be a signal of sedentary life. Maintaining your level of activity, or perhaps planning for a new spring adventure, can be found at Vertical Rock Climbing and Fitness Center, located at 10225 Nokesville Road in Manassas.

Open since 2010, Vertical Rock started out as a nine-year vision and goal of two rock-climbing aficionados: owners Ian and Lindsey Colton. Prior to opening, the center was constantly in development in their minds while they both worked full-time jobs, they said.

They now offer indoor climbing and rappelling lessons and an outdoor school that hosts guided climbing trips, as well as safety, body development and yoga classes at the center.

Prince William Living caught up via email with this busy entrepreneurial couple to find out how they brought a passion of theirs into business practice and created a community health asset.

PWL: What are the story, motivation and inspiration behind your start?

Coltons: Rock climbing and outdoor life have always been our family’s passion. Climbing creates a strong bond and builds trust that we wanted everyone to have the opportunity to experience. Building a climbing gym was our vision and lifetime passion.

However, we first had to locate a unique space in a place where our climbing community would be able to grow and thrive.

PWL: How did you choose the City of Manassas as your location? What factors went into this decision?

Coltons: After a significant amount of research, we found that Prince William County and Manassas are home to a huge number of families and individuals that live an active lifestyle.

Creating Vertical Rock was a natural fit for the area, and a perfect home for the facility. Our location is close to some of the most beautiful climbing and hiking areas in the country. The City of Manassas and its development team provided us with treme support and made us feel very welcome to the community as new small business owners.

PWL: How do you keep operations new and innovative to positively impact your business?

Coltons: Rock climbing is a niche field. Being on the forefront of our field is paramount. We are frequently called upon to provide consultation and expertise to schools, organizations and government agencies. Vertical Rock provides instruction and certification to individuals and families ranging from beginner to advanced skills. We are continually learning by exploring new ideas and investing in employee experiences, training and education.

PWL: Did you ever think you would become entrepreneurs?

Coltons: Absolutely. Once we decided to build Vertical Rock and establish a climbing community, nothing could hold us back.

PWL: What challenges had to be overcome?

Coltons: There were a great number of challenges in opening a climbing gym. One challenge was in the construction phase of Vertical Rock, which was a massive undertaking. The construction alone took well over a year, and multiple engineers were engaged in designing and building the rock walls and entire facility. Safety is integrated into everything we do.

PWL: What has been the most effective way to get Vertical Rock in front of potential consumers?

Coltons: Word of mouth [has]been the most effective form of advertising. A safe, clean, friendly and hospitable community environment make for great experiences. A great experience leads to return visits and positive feedback.

PWL: What is your future vision for your company?

Coltons: Vertical Rock is advocating the sport of climbing as an [alternative]to anyone that is looking for a new, exciting and community-oriented sport that can be performed year round, indoors and outdoors. We have and will continue to make climbing a more accessible sport for people of all ages to enjoy. We strongly encourage youth and senior participation through instruction and team events.

PWL: What advice would you give to others considering starting a business?

Coltons: Passion is contagious. Find passion in everything you do for your company and your employees, and clients will thank you for it. Work then becomes fun and the long hours and tremendous effort that [are]required leads to great personal satisfaction.

A former nonprofit development director for more than 10 years, Jennifer Rader is a freelance writer who is also studying nutrition and preparing for her massage therapy certification. She lives with her son and husband in Manassas and can be reached at [email protected].

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