Step 1: The What
As you read about in our last post, we've got our north star - our Venn Diagram. Reminder: it combines kids and community (our reason for being), outdoor apparel (what we're good at) and the planet (what we are passionate about). Now what do we do? We know where we are headed, but how do we start? How do we bring to market our sustainable kids outdoor apparel?
The proper first step was to create a business plan to vet and assess all angles of our vision. This was daunting and a bit overwhelming at times, but we knew that it was going to be integral to developing a strategy for how to get started and how to operate. Through months of thinking and writing, our business plan helped us bucket the work, forced us to dot i's and cross t's and truly ensured that we had a viable business ahead of us.
The first major step, as part of the plan, was the product.
- What should we make?
- Who should design it?
- Where should we make it?
Above all, we had to hold ourselves accountable to our values of community and planet. We needed to develop deep partnerships in the product space and ensure that we are making the most durable, high quality products that will last incredibly long with planet-friendly materials.
WHAT TO MAKE?
- First, we saw a gap in the market for made-for-kids only apparel. There are a lot of brands out there where kids' apparel is an afterthought. The old moniker for women's outdoor gear of 'shrink it and pink it' holds true for kids' gear as well - produce adult styles and shrink them down to fit on a kiddo. But what about pocket sizes and angles for little hands, zipper functions for uncoordinated fingers and extra warmth and dryness to ensure that they can play outside all day? We saw some nice white space there to bring high-quality, kid-focused, attention-to-detail clothes to market.
- Second, let's not go a mile wide and an inch deep in our early years with our product line. Let's create purpose-built and fresh apparel through a tight line that we feel really confident in. We will make sure that we get it right before we expand.
- Lastly, what do our kids need? The community of Steamboat has a strong foundation of families and kiddos that thrive in and love being outside. What better place to build a kids' brand? We went straight to the source and ran dozens of consumer insight sessions with parents and kiddos to find out what they needed, how they shopped and what they cared about. We listened and built some keen recommendations into our line.
WHO SHOULD DESIGN IT?
Thanks to over 25 years combined in the outdoor industry, our team's network is vast and proven. We inquired, researched and met with many amazing folks who brought ideas, concepts and leads for designing and developing kids' apparel. Through that process, we learned that we should partner with a savvy designer who could assess trends, put pen to paper and create tech packs and bills of materials for a factory. And iterate. And evolve. And learn. And repeat. We were elated to find an incredible partner with years of history in designing kids' outdoor gear for some of the biggest brands in the industry.
WHERE SHOULD WE MAKE IT?
Early on, one of our founders said 'we're making our goods in Steamboat right?' We love this idea and these are the type of questions that we must ask ourselves everyday. Producing in our backyard would further give back to our community, improve efficiency and significantly help our impact on the planet - all things that align with our community+planet values.
After some deep industry research and expertise from our head of supply chain, we found that the ability to make the type of apparel that we need is quite limited in the US. There is a significant lack of machinery, recycled materials, skilled labor and expertise in the outdoor cut-and-sew industry in the US. That gap led us to look overseas. With our focus being durability and quality, we tapped our network again to find a strong factory partner - one with whom we could listen, build trust, have a strategic mindset and drive mutual profitability.
We were introduced to a few manufacturers in Asia and were pleasantly greeted by one group that seemed like a great fit. They have strong experience and resources in the sustainable materials space, they understand our purpose and vision and they were graciously willing to take a risk with a new, small brand out of Northwest Colorado. The cherry on top was the factory's WRAP Gold Certification, which certifies that they obey the laws of their country, treat their workers with dignity and respect and are conscious of the impact their operation has on the environment.
And so, in mid-2020 an agreement was made, a partnership commenced and we were off to the races. And we couldn't be more excited or proud of our efforts to date.
Stay tuned for what transpired next in our journey to build this brand.