By Chris Meehan | Jul 25, 2018
Outdoor clothing and equipment
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Outdoor clothing and equipment
"Sometimes brands have to chase a trend in the market. We felt like we could actually define a market," says Olden.
"When we started Mountain Standard we were purposefully focusing on a younger customer. Between 23 and 33 is our target customer," explains Olden, pointing out that this demographic doesn't have an iconic brand like North Face or Patagonia.
Another piece of the strategy is a catalog that appeals to a broad market. "The reason we call it Mountain Standard is we're not sport-specific," he says. "There are a lot of ski companies, a lot of mountain bike companies, a lot of sport-specific companies, but [their gear is] not super versatile."
Olden and co-founder Eric Lyon also own SIDFACTOR, a firm they launched in 2002 that provides strategy, design, development, and sourcing for a variety of sports and outdoors companies, including big names like Black Diamond, Nike, and Cabela's.
"We've been in the industry for a long time, we know the history of it," says Olden. "But where is it going? That's what we've trying to be part of, that movement. It's more important to move forward and understand the needs of the consumers."
SIDFACTOR has launched other brands in the past. "In 2007, we actually created a brand called Scapegoat. It was the advent of tech casual," says Olden. prAna acquired the brand shortly after its inception.
"A lot of times when we start a brand, it's to educate ourselves," notes Olden. Mountain Standard "was an education about digitally native, direct-to-consumer brand. What does that mean? A lot of our clients are trying to figure what that means."
The company has already launched into multiple fields, designing everything from cups to camp chairs to food products to gloves, and selling direct-to-consumer, wholesale, and at its retail flagship store in Boulder.
It's also kept a laser focus on its customers. "From a gender standpoint, we're about 48 percent women and 52 percent men. You'd never guess it would be that balanced, but it feels really good," Olden explains.
"I think good retail is going to win because people still like to come in and touch, they still like to try it on," Olden says. "The store's really taught us a lot in marrying up the e-commerce and the retail business to get a really good understanding of our customers. . . . I have my design staff in the store, they can talk with customers when they come in. They can explain the technology and more importantly the feedback that they get from the customer influences what we do next."
Mountain Standard is also creating unique partnerships with other companies, like Boulder's Backpacker's Pantry, California's Project One Apparel, and New York's Gear Patrol. "Backpacking is a trend for the older group and Mountain Standard was definitely focused more on localized car camping and getting outdoor but not always in the most strenuous way," explains Olden.
With Backpacker's Pantry, Mountain Standard created Scramblers; the products are Mountain Standard-branded, he explains, but copy on the back explains the collaboration. "They were buddies first, they mentored us and over time we circled back around to see how Mountain Standard and Backpacker's can work together," Olden says. "One thing when you're out in the woods that you come up short on is vegetables. These scramblers are built in a way that you put a little water in, let it sit for about five minutes you can drop anywhere from three to six eggs in the cup, put the lid back on, shake it up and you have more or less an omelette right on your skillet."
They also developed high-protein pancakes using hemp and quinoa as the protein base. "We wanted to make sure everything was organic and paying attention to what our customers, the 23- to 33-year-olds, wanted: high-quality ingredients in new and interesting meals," Olden says. "It's been such a success that REI is now carrying the product in 35 of its stores."
While Mountain Standard is producing much of its soft goods overseas, it's also creating more partnerships in the U.S. The partnership with Project One in Los Angeles is developing cotton-based apparel. "It's engineered in a way that outdoor apparel is engineered, but it's made out of cotton and we're doing it all L.A.," Olden explains.
Challenges: Olden points to the limitations of a direct-to-consumer strategy. "Why not do the traditional wholesale model? I don't think we've even settled on if we will or won't in the future. It's a sustainable business, at some point it's going to have to get on a trajectory to grow. It's one of the challenges."
Opportunities: "I think because of the group behind it is a factor, we could get into any product category that we want to in the soft goods space," says Olden. "It really comes down to what type of investment we want to put into production."
Needs: The right capital. "I think we're at the stage or scale where If it was the right partner with smart money, not just cash, but some level of knowhow that helps balance what we already know," says Olden. "That could be an interest. It's not an urgent need, but it's an interest."