Former MP entrepreneur receives U.S. Chamber award for ‘dreaming big’

Photo: Ryan Kunkel (left) the master of monkey business or vice president, and President and Owner, also known as architect of adventure, Joe Reynolds with the staff of Red Frog Events. Courtesy Photo

by Sandy Kaczmarski
MAPLE PARK—Imagine a tree house with a slide at your workplace, a rock climbing wall, and foosball. It’s a work-hard, play-hard environment that Red Frog Events Founder Joe Reynolds hopes will foster creativity, innovation and empowerment.

“That mentality plays a big role in our office culture and shows why we all love working here as much as we do,” said Reynolds, who hails from Maple Park. “And c’mon, who can complain about having a tree house and regular foosball tournaments in the office?”

Red Frog Events recently was named the DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recognizing that creative atmosphere.

“It feels great to be the DREAM BIG award winner,” he said. “We are extremely proud of the unique culture we have built at Camp Red Frog, and it is a great honor to be recognized.”

The Chicago company produces three races: Warrior Dash, Great Urban Race and Beach Palooza, which are scavenger hunts in 26 cities including Sydney, Australia, and Toronto, Ontario.

Reynolds had just sold his painting company in 2007 when he thought of the idea for Great Urban Race, inspired, he says, by the TV show “The Amazing Race.” The website (greaturbanrace.com) explains it as a “wild urban adventure.” Teams solve 12 clues for a chance to win money and a championship entry which pays $10,000 to the winner.

“I was on vacation in Red Frog Beach, Panama, when I realized that Great Urban Race was only the beginning,” Reynolds said. “I brought in my awesome brother-in-law Ryan Kunkel to help develop a second race, Warrior Dash. Shortly after, Red Frog Events was born.”

Warrior Dash is an extreme 5K running race with obstacles, and its success prompted the team to launch Beach Palooza, which he describes as “a gnarly obstacle course on the beach.”

Reynolds said the races have been such a success because people have fun participating in them.

“We’re in the business of having fun, and that comes across at all our races,” he said.

Several other race companies have since cropped up, but Reynolds isn’t worried.

“We like to think of ourselves as the industry pioneers,” he said.

At the office, dubbed Camp Red Frog, employees are expected to play hard and work just as hard.

The “bennies” aren’t bad either. Their website (redfrogevents.com) calls it the “world’s best benefits package,” and includes unlimited vacation days; 100 percent health insurance for the employee and family; vision, life and dental insurance; and, cell phone reimbursement.

If that wasn’t enough, after being employed five years, Red Froggers can take a fully paid four-week trip with a significant other to South America, Europe, Africa or Asia.

And they get a birthday massage.

Reynolds said with three years behind them, he sees the company continuing to build on the events and making them bigger and better every year.

“We don’t plan to stop creating and producing new experiences, new events, and new ways to appeal to fans of Red Frog Events,” he said.

And, he said he’s got a few new fun ideas up his sleeve.

“We believe you’re only as good as your next idea,” he said.