Exclusive Interview with Matt K. Ward, Founder of the Alpha Initiative and Host of The Conservation Journal
NY Glam: Tell us about The Alpha Initiative and its beginnings.
Matt K. Ward: The Alpha Initiative began as a local recreational guiding company with the mission to inspire community through Conservation, Education, and Expedition. These humble beginnings brought together a team of likeminded, highly skilled individuals who worked as a unit and family to create the multi-faceted empire that Alpha is today. Our primary focus is still the same: inspiring community through the outdoors.
We operate a for-profit guiding company, Alpha Expeditions, that provides recreational adventure trips and outdoor education in the US and soon to be abroad, as well as highly strategic support to scientific research expeditions. Additionally, we have an entirely volunteer component of the initiative called Alpha Conservation. This department works with regional and national organizations and non-profits to support the conservation effort. One of our major channels for doing so is The Conservation Journal, found on our website, an entertaining and informing video journal that highlights and explores the impactful projects of a variety of conservation non-profits.
NY Glam: What inspired you to create your company?
Matt K. Ward: The wisdom of my teachers led me to a path that would eventually bring me to a book called Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. Within those pages I discovered that my “why” or “purpose” was to bring a community together. Combining my passions for the outdoors, my training as a search and rescue wilderness medic and, the immaculate skills of my team, we created a platform on which a community centered on conservation, education, and expedition could be born and expand.
NY Glam: Who is on your team? Tell us about you and your team.
Matt K. Ward: My team is the best in the world. While there is an extraordinary amount of people to mention, including mentors, accountants, investors, and more, I have to turn to the people who are by my side day in and day out, the Alpha Field Team. Our longest standing team member, a guide and photographer named Brooks MacIlveen, has been with us since the beginning. He has had my back on every trip, workshop, or event we have held. He emulates what it means to be a partner and true friend.
Our Senior Guides, Kate Gribbin and Emily Warner, bring their wilderness medical training, expeditionary skills, and heart for community to the table as leaders on our trips. It doesn’t end there; each one brings their own expertise as Kate’s background in forestry allows us to expand our scientific education and Emily’s experience in climbing and rappelling opens doors to both recreational opportunities and complex environment navigation for scientific research projects.
Following their lead, Gabrielle Fisher and Daniel Warden support the teams adventure and expedition programs tremendously. Gabrielle brings not only her medical training and experience in back country expeditions to the table, but additionally supports our scientific research programs by utilizing her skills and resources as a PhD candidate in Molecular Biology. Daniel, who is also an investor in the company, specializes in planning and executing our nationwide and upcoming international trips.
The final two members of the team were saved for last as they embody so many different and important roles in the company. Hayley Nedbalski and Zoe Nye operate in the field team for the expeditionary expertise; the scientific team for their knowledge, skills, and passion; and the administrative team where they actively support the company’s operations from all perspectives. Hayley’s diversity and strengths bring the company unmeasurable value, as the chief design engineer for our gear department, a branch of Alpha that is still under development, Hayley brings leadership, insight, and unbridled experience to the table to design and distribute quality outdoor products. Additionally, Hayley operates as the teams Paleontologist and specializes in the ethical exploration of our planets history. Don’t let the brains fool you, she’s just as strong and valuable in the field as well.
Zoe has not only shown the team that she can keep up and “run with the pack” in the field, she has also shown that she can be trusted for leadership and camaraderie in the field. Additionally, Zoe is my administrative assistant and balances public relations, team care, and logistics aide with taking a lead role in forwarding Alpha’s conservation work. She also brings science to the table, in pursuit of a degree in conservation Biology, she specializes in aquatics and can hold her own in that field.
NY Glam: What has been going well and where have you seen growth within the company and the community?
Matt K. Ward: Our team has had an incredible journey, and our major successes have been bringing people together. Our most growth has been internal. Every day the team is developing their skills and cultivating the community that we share with the world around us. Additionally, our conservation projects have been a wonderful success.
NY Glam: What is the most popular outdoor activity that people enjoy with Alpha?
Matt K. Ward: We are most well-known for our Walls of Jericho Hike. The Walls of Jericho is an iconic and beautiful location at the Alabama/Tennessee state boarder. Recognized as one of the most difficult trails in the area, we are one of the most well-known and trusted guiding companies for that area.
NY Glam: Who or what has shaped who you are?
Matt K. Ward: I began with Martial Arts. That is where I learned the Way. The Way, means the right way to live. It is how to be healthy and strong, how to have a clear mind and clean spirit. It is how we interact with ourselves and the world around us. We can learn the Way from any tool, mine was martial arts. It was in the art of Shinsei Hapkido that I developed discipline, self-awareness, tenacity, courage, and compassion.
NY Glam: How would you describe yourself in one word?
Matt K. Ward: Ready.
NY Glam: What are you passionate about?
Matt K. Ward: Community
NY Glam: What do you consider your accomplishments?
Matt K. Ward: There is a list of accomplishments I could name, from receiving my black belt to starting a company. The only true accomplishment, for me, is being able to help others find the Way.
NY Glam: You recently received a congressional award “Outstanding Achievement in Leadership in the Outdoor Industry”. How do you feel about that?
Matt K. Ward: It was a great honor for the entire team to receive the congressional award. I could never have done it without my mentors, the team, and their dedication to me and to the mission.
NY Glam: What is your favorite part about your current job?
Matt K. Ward: The team. The relationship and camaraderie we have is the best part of my life.
NY Glam: What is your favorite quote?
Matt K. Ward: “Love God, love your neighbor, the rest is commentary” – Joseph Lumpkin
NY Glam: Where can others connect with you?
Matt K. Ward: For our latest projects you can visit the Alpha Initiative website www.thealphainitiative.com or on Facebook and Instagram: Matt K. Ward, @mattkward.
*Cover Photo: Matt K. Ward (Photo by Brooks MacIlveen)