Our CEO and Co-Founder talked to Shoutout Colorado for their Decision Makers Series
Hi Robin, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
10+ years into an incredibly fulfilling and passionate career at Smartwool in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, I received a phone call that I didn’t expect. Our parent company was moving our darling little mountain town brand to Denver. Faced with the decision of safely following my career to the big city or keeping our family with two young sons in Steamboat, we chose the latter. I didn’t know what to do with my career and an entrepreneurial friend (and now business partner) got two of us from Smartwool together and we started thinking. We weren’t leaving this magical place and we must do something to give back to northwest Colorado, a beautiful community that has given us all so much.
The answer came in the form of a Venn Diagram. We asked ourselves: Why are we staying in Steamboat? It is because of this community and our kids. We just can’t move them away from this incredible town and life. What are we good at? With over 25 years combined in the outdoor industry, we know how to make outdoor apparel pretty darn well and we love this industry. What are we passionate about? The planet. We can’t just create stuff to create more stuff. Those three met in the middle and Town Hall was born – a sustainable kids outdoor apparel brand. Town Hall exists to build community and be planet positive and we want every kid to love outside.
What should our readers know about your business?
Town Hall designs and creates sustainable kids outdoor apparel, but does so much more. We are 100% focused on kids and what will keep them warm, dry and comfy to ensure that they can play outside longer. Our brand was born and will forever stay in the small mountain town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. From creating rural jobs to developing deep, local nonprofit partnerships to inspiring kids to love outside and the planet, we couldn’t be more excited to give back to this community that has given us so much over the years. We are legally filed as a Public Benefit Corporation, ensuring that we uphold our core values of planet and community, no matter what.
My career started out of college at the Gap Inc headquarters in San Francisco, working in Finance. Growing up in the Bay Area with my husband, we quickly realized that if we didn’t try something new, we might never leave. So I got a job at Vail Resorts in Avon in Finance and we moved to Breckenridge. After a few years there, I realized that I needed to get back to seeing and touching products and loved the outdoor industry. So, I took a job at Smartwool and we moved to Steamboat.
My path could not have been more circuitous. I went from Finance to Strategy to Consumer Insights to IT. And completed my time there with two jobs that really laid the foundation for my current work – Director of Retail and Director of Sustainability. In those roles, I learned how to elevate myself, be accountable and have ownership and find and follow my passions. Deciding what roles to take and where my career was headed was always tough for me. But, my common thread and strength was project management. Managing wide and deep projects allowed to me to learn all corners of the business and industry. I found myself in executive strategy meetings, on a re-branding/purpose/values project and in the weeds at the desks of associates working on business processes. I had no idea if or how it would all come together for me in the end and where I would land after I let Smartwool. But, when Town Hall started coming together, it just felt so right.
I am the first one to raise my hand and admit when I don’t know something, which is often in this new role of Co-Founder. I lean in deeply to my industry pals that have blazed the trail so beautifully before me. And Town Hall and I are remarkably transparent about what we are learning, when we are winning and where we are failing. It all makes for a pretty neat ride that we couldn’t feel luckier to be on.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, is it summer or winter in Steamboat? And you can’t choose September, because that is the local’s delight. If it is summer, we will get up and head to Smell That Bread downtown for a ham and gruyere croissant or grab a quick avocado toast at Yampa Valley Kitchen. We’ll throw a Honey Stinger waffle in our packs and mountain bike up Morning Gloria on Emerald Mountain downtown in Steamboat. Then up and over to Wild Rose and back down to where we started. That lap should take about 2 hours, but will take us about 3 because of all of the photos we stop to take and that sweet moose on NPR that we let gently pass us. We’ll wave to the tubers on the Yampa as we come back into town and head straight to Mountain Tap for a Picking Hops IPA. We have to walk by Ohana downtown and pick out some of the best souvenirs and curated, local home goods. We’ll stop and wave to the locals, who are friendly as ever and grab a Steamboat Pilot newspaper to do the daily crossword. A nap is in order before we head to Salt and Lime for dinner and sit on the rooftop deck with their signature marg and the bison fundito and guac with everything. Watch the sun set over Sleeping Giant and share stories of ‘brown pow’ from the mountain bike ride. To bed early for the next day’s jaunt!
A trail run on the ditch loop, a hike in Sarvis Creek or a walk up Fish Creek falls are all in the running. If we have the energy, we’ll have a friend shuttle us to mountain bike the Divide Ride. In winter, it is a whole different story! Breakfast at Paramount at the base of the resort, fresh tracks in the Twilight trees or on the Buddy’s corduroy. Mid-morning bloodies at Four Points and watching kids train for ski racing on the Venue at the front of the mountain. Speaking of training, we will walk by Off the Beaten Path in the afternoon and grab a coffee to walk across the bridge to the base of Howelsen Ski Area and watch the ski jumpers take flight. An evening at The Laundry tops it all off – get the Cheeks, the Pow Pow and a Kentucky Fall. Nighty night!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout goes to all of the big-thinkers, fear-sharers, community-builders, give-backers, high-fivers and naysayers in my life. I somehow have the incredible luck to be surrounded by a network of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances that simply care and want to help me on this journey to create a new brand and give back to community and planet with purpose. Over the last 18 months, I have received detailed marketing plans from sage industry experts, offers to collaborate with women leaders, realistic feedback from longtime friends and have hiked many a’ mountain town trail with rural entrepreneurs who share their experiences in the trenches. I am where I am today because of you. I am listening to your advice, sponging your knowledge and taking your opinions to heart. And I am honored to pass it on to the next phase of budding leaders behind me. Thank you to everyone who has helped me get this far. I never could have done it without you.
Image Credits: Alex Johnson, Tim Murphy, Dave Epperson
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