Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Sleeping bags
Few products get abused as much as a well-loved sleeping bag. People cram their bodies into them after a day of hiking, hunting, or fishing and expect to be quickly cocooned in a breathable, warm, comfortable bag that's been compressed in a backpack. It doesn't always work out, but Wigutow (a.k.a. Wiggy) contends that his company makes the best sleeping bags and other cold-weather products in the world.
"My Antarctic parka is the warmest single parka on the planet," touts Wigutow. "If it's good enough Alaska police departments and it's good enough for use in Antarctica at McMurdo Station, it's good enough for every place in between."
"When people say a Wiggy's bag is a bit heavier than everybody else, but it keeps me warm, that's the reality, you want to stay warm," he adds. "When I say zero degrees I mean zero degrees."
Wigutow attributes it to the construction of the bags and the use of Lamilite, a Climashield-based insulation that the company laminates through an exclusive process that maintains its loft and insulating properties even after extreme compression.
However, you won't find Wiggy's in the nearest REI or outfitter -- unless you're in Anchorage, Alaska, where the company has a store. "We sell 2,300 to 3,000 bags a year in Alaska," Wigutow says. His other products are designed for extreme environments as well.
Wigutow says he won't sell through retailers without an exclusive deal, and notes that it's partly an education issue. "If you into the store and you tell the kid working on the floor that you want a zero-degree bag, he's going to show you a variety of brands," he says. "He's not going to be schooled enough to say to you, 'Of all the brands here, this is the best one there is because it has all of these wonderful features.' He's going to leave it up to you."
Nor does the company advertise. "I've advertised in Backpacker, in Outside. It's never been cost-effective," Wigutow says. Instead the company relies on direct-to-consumer sales and good old-fashioned word of mouth.
Wigutow offers the story of a customer from Ontario who came to the Grand Junction facility specifically to buy Wiggy's products. The customer bought Wiggy's two-bag flexible temperature range sleep system, or FTRSS, after freezing during a camping trip while his friend was warm in a Wiggy's bag.
Wiggy's also makes clothing and boots, and has no plans to move any production overseas. "In order to go offshore, the laminating machine that I have would have to go offshore," explains Wigutow. "Then you lose control over it."
While Wigutow is committed to domestic manufacturing, he doesn't anticipate that other companies -- particularly large companies like Columbia or VF Corporation -- will bring manufacturing back to the U.S. anytime soon. "It's not a favorable environment for manufacturers to come back here at this time."
However, he muses, "If we get a bunch of companies in the textile business and they're doing a million to $3 million and they're buying from domestic sources, there might be enough development of production that would make it logical for some of these big operations to come back here. But I wouldn't count on it too soon. It's unfortunate."
Challenges: Market awareness, says Wigutow. "The most pressing challenge for me is educating people about the products I make. When they get an education, then they buy my products."
Opportunities: "We're selling more and more of our Lamilite socks to people that have cold feet. They may have diabetes," says Wigutow. "That would be phasing into the medical market in a way."
Needs: "We have no needs other than continued sales," Wigutow says.