Austin Albers has increased revenues 150% for the Buffalo Outdoor Center since taking over for his father-in-law, founder Mike Mills, eight years ago.
The $10 million river outfitter offers a 5,000-square-foot retail store, 28 rental units and zip lines. A mountain bike trail system that descends more than 1,500 feet in elevation is in development.
Albers was raised on a horse ranch in Newton County. “People thought we were Amish,” he said. “We mowed and logged with horses, gave trail rides and took our horses across the country working on movie sets, including movies with Tom Cruise and for Civil War reenactments.”
Albers had a severe childhood speech impediment. “In ninth grade, we gave five-minute speeches, and mine was five to six words long,” he said.
When he was 16, his mom saw a “60 Minutes” segment about the Hollins Communications Research Institute and sent Albers to Virginia, where he relearned how to breathe and pronounce syllables.
“The handicap was a blessing. I spent 16 years learning how to listen,” Albers said. “I can observe a conversation and tell if someone’s receiving what is being said.”
When Albers began dating Hailey (then Mills) in 2008, he worked for J.B. Hunt in partnership development, using a financial management degree from the University of Arkansas.